AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer Ed Waldheim has been a tireless advocate for off-highway motorcyclists nearly all his life.
Starting as an off-road racer, Waldheim later began organizing races before moving into advocacy roles, working with various levels of government on behalf of motorcycling organizations.
Waldheim is president of the Friends of Jawbone and was appointed to the California Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Commission by two governors, where he served multiple terms.
He won numerous awards for his advocacy on behalf of all off-road enthusiasts, including the prestigious AMA Motorcycling Advocate Award.
Today, Waldheim is slowed by cancer and the effects of chemotherapy. But he maintains a full schedule of activity on behalf of riders.
“I always thought my days would end sometime in a motorcycle accident, but in June I was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer,” says Waldheim, adding that he has never smoked. “So, plans have changed now. I am getting treatment at The City of Hope in Duarte, Calif. These chemo treatments drain me of all energy. I know there are so many of our friends and riders who are going through cancer treatments. It is very sad.”
Despite his illness, Waldheim took time to provide an update on his current advocacy efforts.
American Motorcyclist: What’s the most significant project you are working on now?
Ed Waldheim: There are many fronts I am working on. The main one is working with 60 active grants for Friends of Jawbone, Friends of El Mirage, and California Trail Users Coalition. The grants are from state off-highway vehicle funding and the federal Recreational Trails Program. All have to do with keeping our trails open.
We do that by hiring staff to do the work to assist the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which does not have funding to do everything we do. At FOJ, we have 15 full-time staff working. At FOEM, we have 10 full-time staff. And at CTUC, each division has its own grants, and they are working with some volunteers, some hired staff.
A long time ago, I realized that you cannot expect volunteers to do a full-time job, so we have paid staff.
At Jawbone, we maintain 1,200 miles of trails for BLM, covering a million acres. At El Mirage, we do everything in the 25,000-acre OHV area and work on restoration on outside boundaries of the park.
AM: What strategies are you using?
EW: Having full time employees is the only way for us to assist the federal government in order to keep our trails open. That means coming up with agreements to work on federal lands and have staff fully committed to partnerships. This is a hard one for federal employees to sometimes understand, but those who do get the full benefit of having staff without having to pay for it, since we get our own money from grants. They can take the credit. All we want to do is keep our trails.
AM: What is the major off-road issue has been occupying your time?
EW: The state park green sticker program has taken a lot of time for of all of us involved in it. We are fighting to keep the OHV Division as a division and keep it from being absorbed by the Department of Parks and Recreation, as it was prior to 1981.
We took it away from DPR by legislation, and now they want to take it back. At least, they are trying [to take it back].
AM: What other issues are you tracking?
EW: We are also continuing to attend meetings with the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan and the West Mojave (WEMO) Route Network Project that is driving the route designation in the Mojave Desert.
The DAC [Desert Advisory Council] meetings continue to be attended, because they advise the BLM on issues. I am also part of the Dumont Dunes BLM subgroup.
I also schedule and set agendas and run meetings on quarterly basis with the Angeles, San Bernardino, Sequoia, Inyo, and Los Padres national forests, where we have leadership meetings with district rangers and forest supervisors.
In addition, I organize leadership meetings with all five BLM managers of the California Desert. At these meetings the public is invited, and leaders meet to discuss issues from each field office.
For more than 20 years, I have had monthly meetings with Friends of El Mirage and Friends of Jawbone. At those meetings, all agencies and interested parties attend, including law enforcement officers, cities and county staff and property owners.
AM: What else would you like to tell AMA members?
EW: The most important thing AMA members can do is get involved with their local agency in a place where they recreate.
Make sure you are always at the table. No matter what subject, be there. Let agencies know you are interested. If you are not there, you do not exist!
I used to go to 200 meetings a year, now fewer.
It is because of the involvement of the El Mirage and Jawbone Friends and how they have grown that we do make a difference.
Elected officials always need to be involved. Don't only go see your elected official when you have a problem. Meet with them before that happens. Know them. Tell them your story, so when you do have a need, they are your friends.
The most important thing members can do is meet those leaders that who are responsible for your recreation as their job.
I have done this for more than 35 years and have friends all over the country. I know that because of all the cards and greetings I get now that I am in trouble with cancer. They are there.