Time to Wake Up Redux
Last week the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the first case ever to come before them concerning a citizen's right to bear arms under the Second Amendment to the Constitution. The decision will not come for several weeks or months, but most people believe that the Court will decide in favor of the popular interpretation of the Amendment, that is that a citizen of this country has the right to possess a firearm to protect himself and his property. If that is the case, then we can now legally shoot ourselves in the foot; that's what renegade OHVers do anyway when they violate the law and ride where it is forbidden, or tear up the land illegally.
Everyone that has been around the OHV community for more than a minute knows a story or stories about people recklessly driving or riding where it is prohibited or causing destruction to public land, and they also have seen or heard about the consequences. Those consequences generally involve more closures of the ever decreasing areas in which we can legally recreate, but that just doesn't seem to deter the apparently mentally challenged among us from ruining things for everyone. No matter how much outreach and education the OHV community does there seems to be that 1% that just doesn't get it. And it's that 1% that is giving you and I a black eye in the view of the public at large, a public that includes many OHV hating environmentalists just lurking around to jump on the next mistake by an OHVer, whether that mistake is intentional or not.
Well, it's happened again in the area in which I live and play, the Farmington, NM area in the four corners region of the southwest. We are blessed with being surrounded by millions of acres of BLM and USFS managed land, but even though those acres number in the millions we are being squeezed into smaller and smaller areas in which we can legally ride and drive our ATVs, dirt bikes and four wheel drives. This time, some idiots decided that the Glade Run Recreation Area (aka Chokecherry Canyon) on BLM managed land didn't have enough natural challenges, so they decided to take a backhoe or some other heavy equipment into the area and build a series of jumps for dirt bikes and ATVs. That area is now very torn up, exactly what your neighborhood environmental extremist just loves to grab hold of and show the rest of the world how OHVs are destroying our public lands. (Click here for the article in the Farmington Daily Times.)
We have a hard enough time with our image, what we do not need is idiots shooting themselves and the rest of us in the foot. Go to any environmental group's website and you can view pictures of the damage to public land allegedly caused by OHVs, but when you throw OHvers into the mix that intentionally cause damage and bring in equipment to do so you compound the damage not only to the land, but to our reputations as well. That's my reputation, something I try hard to maintain as a good one, and I'm sure yours as well. But there is that 1% that just doesn't seem to care about anyone's reputation, or for that matter the land itself.
I've spent the better part of the past 10 years on Off-Road.com trying to do my part to spread the word about land use issues, and hopefully educate a few folks while I'm at it. But, after all that time it still amazes me when I see such foolish behavior as that mentioned above. I think I'm finally getting to the point where I truly believe that OHV recreation may someday be something of the past, and that someday is coming rather quickly if we don't put our collective heads together and actively try to stamp out idiotic behavior by a very small part of our crowd. The very first op-ed I wrote for ORC back in January 2000 was called "Time to Wake Up". Over 8 years later that thought still holds as true as it did back then, and the very unfortunate part of all this is that apparently some of the OHV community is still asleep, or at least sleepwalking.
Unfortunately we need to police our own, and that just doesn't mean telling someone that they did wrong and they are a total jerk (or insert your own phrase) for behaving in a manner that hurts us all. If you see someone that is doing something illegal on public land that is ultimately going to come back around and haunt you and me turn them in to the authorities. The actual penalty for the act mentioned above is up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The BLM in this case just wants to find out who the perpetrators are, and have them try to fix the damage. But, maybe if the government started prosecuting this sort of behavior it may deter others in the future...or maybe not.
Folks, time to wake up...again.