Teaching others about the ethics of ATV riding
Have you ever noticed that when someone doesn't understand something, they are against it? I know I have had a closed mind about some things in my life, and when someone forced me to open it, often I was surprised and even happy they made me see the light.
I often read and hear from individuals about ATVs destroying the land and how we need to have everything locked up to protect it from the predators that ride those machines. In fact a good case in point about this came when I was standing in a crowd of reporters during the Crandall Canyon disaster in Huntington Canyon.
I, along with about 150 other news people were standing there by the highway on a Friday night, waiting for a press conference to start. As we waited, outfit and outfit passed by with ATVs attached to them in one way or another. It was the usual summertime escape from the valley on Friday night to go into the mountains. Most of us that live here have seen time and time again.
However, for some of the national media standing around me, they couldn't believe what they were seeing. One guy that was standing there began a conversation with the others that were nearby.
"Where are all these people going with campers, motor homes and ATVs?" he asked one of the others.
A cameraman in a red shirt answered.
"Their going to tear up the mountains around here," he told the other guy. "They do this all the time. That's why the forest service is closing roads all over the place. There's a lot of damage done because of those things."
Two other news people jumped in about how terrible ATVs are for the environment and that began a conversation that went from the surreal to the fantastic. Stories of destruction and mayhem proceeded to be told.
I couldn't shut my mouth.
"I am a local here and I am here to tell you that what you hear is not necessarily the way things are," as they looked at me considering what this interloper was saying. "I own a number of those machines and my family doesn't go around destroying the countryside. Most people who ride obey the law and don't rip up the landscape."
They shut up, except one guy who was from New York. He started in on me how local people in the west are destroying land that is owned by everyone in the country. He said that between ATVs and energy development there would not be a shred of land left that wasn't spoiled by the time his grand kids were adults.
"Yeah like those of you in New York really know how to take care of the land," I said, not able to shut my mouth. Then he really let me have it saying I had probably never been there and seen how beautiful it was.
"You are wrong," I said as the others looked on. "I spent a great deal of time in New York state and New England in another business and found it to be as beautiful as you say it is," I said and he smiled. "But there is a lot wrong there with pollution and damage to the land as well. The difference is that most of it is private, but it still causes problems in the waterways and for public lands in the areas. Just as I will not paint everyone from New York with the same brush, don't you paint locals here the same way."
He calmed down and we started to talk. The crowd went away and we had a long conversation about the land and how most of the people here want to preserve it, but not lock it away.
The things he said came back to me recently though when I was driving on my side by side through some areas in the swell. Last year I went with a riders group and some BLM officials on a marking party; putting up signs and posts designating routes that can be used legally. We had marked a lot of routes many of which I have ridden and enjoyed. I work very hard to avoid the non-marked routes because those are not legal.
But it seems either most people are not aware of the fact that unmarked routes are not legal, or they don't care. What's worse in my recent experience is all the new "cross country" routes that have been cut since I was in that area of the swell the last time. Those start with one person cutting across and area on an ATV or dirt bike, and then others follow. Some of the most common I see are short cuts to go to legal trails. Rather than ride another block to the actual turn, some make a Y intersection out of these places.
I still believe what I told that newsman from New York; most of us want to preserve the land. But like when we were youngsters in school and one kid did something wrong (usually it was a kid who was unknown to the authorities that were ruling the roost) and soon no one could do that thing any more.
We all get punished when bad behavior from a few cause damage. It is up to each of us, who ride legally to reign this in and report those that do those things. It is up to us to say something to the person. It is up to us to get involved.
Last year I was in Minnesota visiting my son who lives there. I picked up some visitor information while there an one of the brochures boasted about the large ATV trail system Minnesota has. It stated the Gopher state had a large expanse of "187 miles of public trails" that could be ridden by properly licensed machines and riders.
I laughed; I usually ride more than that in two days, and sometimes even approach that amount in one. But it was an eye opener. I thought about what if we lost our rights to ride most of the land we are used to. I love hiking, but to lose riding all the places we now can go would be a disaster.
All of us need to be responsible, even if we sometimes don't like the rules government agencies have imposed upon us. We also need to be outspoken when we see others doing things they shouldn't.
Let's not let a few people, whether they are uneducated about the rules or don't care about them, ruin it for all of us.