RIVERSIDE COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT
Sheriff Chad Bianco
|Press Release:||Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Grants|
|Written Date:||March 7, 2022||Time:||1:00 PM|
|Incident Date:||March 7, 2022||Time:||1:00 PM|
|Incident Location:||Hemet Station Area|
|Reporting Officer:||Corporal M. Curtis|
On behalf of the County of Riverside, Sheriff Chad Bianco is applying for a total of $264,107 from the California State Parks Off-Highway Motor Vehicle (OHV) Recreation Division Grants & Cooperative Agreements Program funding for Law Enforcement projects.
The Hemet station area is approximately 750 square miles. Most of the area patrolled is accessible to OHV style vehicles. The area is comprised of both state and federal wildlife areas, BLM land areas and Riverside County Open Space Habitat Conservation Land. Hemet Station's area has several OHV approved riding areas such as Bee Canyon and Hixon Canyon riding area in Anza. The approved riding areas are approximately 20 to 30 miles. The issue at the Hemet Station is OHV riders riding all the unapproved areas which encompasses several hundred miles. The patrol area covers the unincorporated areas of Aguanga, Anza, Cahuilla Tribal Nation, East Hemet, Garner Valley, Gilman Hot Springs, Green Acres, Idyllwild, Lake Riverside, Mountain Center, Pine Cove, Pine Meadow, Ramona Tribal Nation, Sage, San Jacinto and San Jacinto Riverbed area, Santa Rosa Tribal Nation, Soboba Hot Springs and Valle Vista.
Riverside County Sheriff's Department Hemet Station is experiencing an increase in illegal OHV activity, along with illegal marijuana growers using OHV style vehicles to travel to their grow sites. The Hemet Sheriff’s Station area is comprised of mountain, valley, desert and wilderness areas. The area has hundreds of miles of open space and contains all types of weather, such as several feet of snow, torrential rain, high winds, extreme heat, and debris flow issues after two large wildland fires in our area. Hemet Station area has multiple open space habitat protected areas which have seen multiple issues of fencing being cut and OHV tracks in the protected area. The Sage area has had specific incidents of trespassing in protected areas and OHV tracks have been discovered and recorded by Riverside County Park Rangers and Riverside County Biologists.
Hemet Station has 2000-3000 Illegal marijuana grows. In 2021, Hemet Station personnel have served over 200 search warrants and have recovered over 85 tons of illegal marijuana. Hemet Station has recovered several illegal OHV style vehicles and have seen proof that the growers use these vehicles to travel from grow site to grow site. Over 100 firearms have also been recovered and has become a serious officer safety issue for anyone patrolling OHV areas.
Within the jurisdiction of the Hemet station, many areas exist where endangered species are being directly negatively impacted by Illegal OHV activities on the lands that have been acquired for their protection. In the San Jacinto River wash, which sees daily OHV trespassing, San Bernardino Kangaroo Rats and least Bell's Vireo regularly have their burrows collapsed or nesting behavior disturbed. Further south, In the Sage and Aguanga areas the same can be said for Stephen's and Aguanga kangaroo rats and coastal California gnatcatcher. And to the east in the Anza area OHVs frequent prime quino checkerspot butterfly habitat, where OHVs have been implicated as being a major cause of mortality of young caterpillars who enjoy sunning themselves on open trials. The Southwestern Willow Flycatcher is an endangered bird and OHV activity in closed areas could disturb their nesting areas. The Arroyo Toad is an endangered toad and can have their burrows collapsed by OHV operation in closed areas.
Due to this destructive potential, Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP) Ranger staff spends a great deal of time addressing the Issue of OHV trespassing. In 2021, Rangers contacted 121 OHVs on conserved land. However, MSHCP Rangers do not possess citation authority and have little recourse in these interactions other than a verbal warning and an escort off property. Many more contacts were attempted but were unsuccessful as the individuals fled the area. During the same time period Rangers discovered and repaired 101 cut fences and 19 damaged gates that were associated with illegal OHV activity. In 2020, The United States Forest Service had to cut most of their program related to OHV enforcement and education. This increases the burden and need for The Riverside County Sheriff’s Departments involvement in OHV matters. To address the issue, The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Hemet OHV Team was formed to actively patrol no-go areas within Hemet’s jurisdiction. The OHV Team will cite illegal OHV operators and guide OHV riders to legal riding areas. The Hemet OHV Team educates OHV riders on where to ride and provides maps to show legal riding areas within the Hemet jurisdictional area.
This Press Release is to ensure the public is aware of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department-Hemet Station’s intent to apply for OHV funding as outlined above. Any comments or questions may be directed to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Hemet Station at 951-791-3400 or via electronic mail at firstname.lastname@example.org The period for application review and public comment will be from 3/8/22-5/2/22, see the California State Parks Off-Highway Motor Vehicle website.
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