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The original item was published from 3/6/2023 8:55:27 AM to 5/7/2023 12:00:00 AM.

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Hemet Station

Posted on: March 6, 2023

[ARCHIVED] Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Grants - Hemet

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Riverside County Sheriff-Press Release

Reporting Deputy: Corporal M. Curtis

File # N/A

Details:

The Riverside County Sheriff's Office is applying for a total of $265,157 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, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) areas and Riverside County Wildlife 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 Hemet Station is experiencing issues with 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 Office 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 various 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 and has recovered several illegal OHV style vehicles. The Station has seen proof that the growers use these vehicles to travel from grow site to grow site. Over 100 firearms have also been recovered. This 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 Aguanga Kangaroo rats and Coastal California gnatcatcher. 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 trails. 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 spend a great deal of time addressing the issue of OHV trespassing. In 2022, Rangers contacted numerous OHVs on or approaching 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 the property. Many more contacts were attempted but were unsuccessful as the individuals fled the area. During the same time, Rangers discovered and repaired cut fences and damaged gates or locks 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 Office’s involvement in OHV matters. To address the issue, The Riverside County Sheriff’s Office 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 Office- 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 Office Hemet Station at 951-791-3400. The period for application review and public comment will be from March 7, 2023 to May 1, 2023, see the California State Parks Off-Highway Motor Vehicle website.

For media inquiries regarding this incident please contact the Media Information Bureau.


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