Keeping Trails Open

at-trail-ridingOutdoors motorsports maniacs know that behind the scenes of all that fun, there is often an underlying political and environmental battle brewing in an effort to reduce or eliminate access to many public lands.

The issues being used as a foundation for arguments to reduce public off-road access are many. As off-road access went unchecked for decades, an array of public lands suffered from basic harassment and disrespect. Sensitive environmental areas received major damage from rogue four wheelers who refused to stay on the trail, while broken parts, beer cans and broken taillights littered the path. On the other side of the fence, responsible four wheel, ATV and snowmobile enthusiasts have begun to battle for access to lands that extreme environmental groups and mandated Federal environmental review threaten to close.

Fortunately, a number of groups dedicated to maintaining recreational motorsports access to public lands have stepped up to the plate in defense of the right to ride responsibly. The National Blue Ribbon Coalition is a United States non-profit organization dedicated to protecting land and waterway access throughout the country. Through strategic legal filings, advocacy, public education and a large membership, the National Blue Ribbon Coalition seeks to make lawmakers aware that recreational enthusiasts are a major force in the political arena.  Anyone can join the organization and receive ongoing updates on actions being taken in your area to protect public lands access.

On a smaller scale, four wheel and snowmobile clubs throughout the United States are taking their image as outdoors enthusiasts seriously. Motorsports clubs aren’t simply about getting together for a trail run now and then. These days, club activities often include trail clean-up and maintenance days that focus on picking up messes left behind by less conscientious trail visitors, while ensuring the integrity of trail routes. Performing ongoing maintenance to mark trail boundaries and keep an obvious path reduces the risk of off-course activities that may cause erosion or damage to animal habitat.

Beyond trail days, many off road clubs have taken the next step and become major players in coalitions assembled by public agencies to evaluate off road and backcountry recreational plans. The input of these outdoor activist voices offer a balance to the extreme environmental representatives and Federal or State government requirements, creating a dialogue amongst land use planners that takes all aspects into equal consideration. 

Most people in the four wheel drive, ATV, dirt bike or snowmobile community agree: wilderness areas are important. The joys of recreating in the outdoors are derived from the natural beauty and mystic wildlife that surround our adventures, however lands like National Forests and Parks were created in an effort to preserve and provide recreation. The efforts of today’s outdoor motorsports community are that of a sport that is mature, confident and committed to ensuring that future generations are able to enjoy the same outdoor experiences while providing ample protection for rare species, habitat and environment.

The efforts of off-road clubs, individuals and national organizations to protect the right to ride, while also promoting responsible outdoorsman conduct, should be commended. While out and about, remember that we each have the requirement to uphold a positive image that is the key component to ensuring the long term viability of our chosen recreational sport.