Motorized Outlaws: The Challenge for All of Us
Motorized outlaw and idiot behavior that endangers our sport must come to an end. Recreationists must start volunteer trail patrols and exert peer pressure to curtail the idiot factor that will get our trails shut down. We must support law enforcement and encourage it on our trails and back country.
In the mid-1990's while at the Moab Easter Jeep Safari, I had the chance to speak with some zealots from the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), as well as some respected Recreational Planners from the BLM. I must say that something they said struck home with me big time. It has to do with the image of motorized recreationists. (Read a complete article on the image of recreationists here).
We have some work to do in the area of image. It seems that the old adage can be true that a few bad apples can spoil the barrel. The folks who don't play by the road rules are causing us (organized recreationists) a lot of harm. Allow me to call them "motorized outlaws."
Note: I do make a distinction between outlaw/idiots who are oblivious to their impact on our trails vs. those informed rebels who are trying to make a positive difference in our sport by challenging unnecessary, capricious and arbitrary rules, laws and regulations in a constructive manner.
The outlaws in this case are getting off the road where they don't belong, doing damage to recognized important resources, and ignoring the future of our sport. In Utah there are places where off road/trail travel is significant enough to cause the SUWA folks to rise up in arms. Even BLM folks see too much of it. It is ruining the reputation of us law-abiding riders to have outlaws getting off the road/trail. Unfortunately, our image as a whole is being judged by the actions of a few. It's happening on the Rubicon and other trails as well.
I say that our challenge for the future is to strategize on ways to curtail illegal motorized outlaw activities, thereby improving our image (or at least the perception non motorized folks have of us). Obviously if we can have the "right" image to bureaucrats and politicians, our goal of continuing to have access will be easier to obtain. Our credibility will go up as will our results.
So how do we go about that? The first steps are the same as they've always been as far as I see it:
JOIN, ADVOCATE, INCLUDE Others, and LETTERS (write 'em).
JOIN: We must get folks to join organized recreation. Membership means dues; dues mean having the budgets to fight for access while educating the members on responsible recreation principles and the rules of the trail. Many times, outlaws are mostly independents who are not part of organized recreation. We should reach out to get them to join us so they can realize the importance of NOT being an outlaw.
ADVOCATE: We all need to be an advocate for our sport. No more sitting on the sidelines and cheering others on. If you're not advocating your sport you're missing the boat. There is little more powerful than a pitch from the heart from someone who really enjoys what they're doing. You are the one that can make a believer out of your neighbor.
INCLUDE: This year is the year to take politicians, elected officials, and federal bureaucrats on your trail rides/events. Include them in your sport. Show them why we love what we love to do. Get on board with the "Adopt-a-Ranger" program -- make them part of your outings so they better understand our perspective. Reach out to your family and friends. Take them for a trail ride.
LETTERS: We always need more letters. That's how the Sierra Club does it; some times it feels like a numbers game and we need more of our side writing in. Do your share of letter writing. If nothing else, at least express your opinions and desires to ALL your elected officials (local, state and federal), so they know how you feel about land use and access.
Then, after we do the above (I should say *continue* to do the above, because many of us are already doing that), we MUST police ourselves. I see no better alternative.
There aren't enough federal bureaucrats and cops around in the back country to catch the idiot-outlaws. In fact, it's kind of obvious that some federal law enforcement officials pay more attention to highway violations (National Park Service in particular) and organized (Special Use Permit) trail rides, than they do back country outlaws.
It would be easy to draw the conclusion that Park Service gun-toters are a big part of our image problem. They are not out there educating the independent users, nor are they enforcing the rules in the back country (unless it's an organized and permitted event). So the outlaws run free and the Marshall stays in town like the old west. I'm not saying all law enforcement types are like that; but the Park Service sure has more than their share.
So yes, we need to police ourselves. If you drive/ride by a violation of responsible recreation principles, or worse yet, see a blatant Wilderness violation, stop and do something about it. Tell the person involved what they're doing and how it impacts the rest of us. Ask them to stop. If they refuse or tell you to pound sand, then take their license number (and maybe a picture) and report them to the nearest law enforcement official. Report them to the folks who have adopted your trail (such as the Friends of the Rubicon for that trail).
If you witness such an extreme event as to cause you to take this course of action and want your "case" to hold up in court, your evidence should include witness statements, license numbers, and photos.
Talk to your local Sheriff if you're confused about this step. But at least gather the data and give it to someone who can follow up. Federal law enforcement officers do not have to actually see a crime to pursue justice, most County Sheriffs and Highway Patrol officers do have to witness the event first hand.
In all cases, you can serve as an educational force on your trail. Carry brochures and give them out. Carry BlueRibbon and other group memberships and hand them out. Talk to people about responsible recreation and saving our trails. It's a duty we can all have with pride.
The MOST important thing we can do is continue to strategize on ways to improve our image and get rid of the impact of idiot-outlaws. Your conventions, meetings, annual big events should have a session wherein you help us all come up with ways to enhance our image to the voting public. It boils down to votes and the political system that comes from those votes.
I look forward to hearing about your ideas for improving the image of motorized recreation.
Feel free to write me if you have additional questions or need any help.
Thanks and keep recreating on your public lands, DEL