|Taking Care of our Trails
Most people that are involved
in off-roading are aware that there has been a great deal of pressure lately
to close off large areas of land to motorized vehicles. As
noted by others here, trails that had previously been open for exploration
have, in recent years, been closed down. Political pressure to close off
these areas has been strong of late, with many vocal environmental groups
gaining the ear of our elected leaders. Unfortunately, our side has
not always been represented in good light when these issues are discussed.
Why close the Trails?
Four wheel drive vehicles
have been used for decades as a means of gaining access to areas that are
too remote to otherwise visit. While most who ride the trails act
as stewards of nature, not every off-roader has been as conscientious when
dealing with environmental issues as they could be. Essentially,
it is the reckless acts of a few that have created enough evidence to support
the theory that motor vehicles and nature donít mix.
But, there really is no reason
that motor vehicles and nature cannot co-exist, despite the criticisms.
For the most part, people who use their vehicles off-road do take care
of their environment. In fact, the very vehicle that some might wish
to eradicate from public lands might be the only way that most people can
get out to view those areas. It is my belief that humans are part
of nature, not ones to be kept separate from it. So, it is really up to
those of us that do travel off-road to take care of our natural surroundings
to the best of our abilities.
can We Do?
There are a number of avenues
that we, as people who enjoy the outdoors, must take to ensure that our
trails remain open. Probably the best advice that can be given is
to simply leave no evidence of your having been there in the first place.
Now, obviously its not possible to pass through mud without leaving a tire
track, nor is it possible to build a campfire without leaving ashes. But,
much can be done to protect the natural surroundings when one chooses to
leave the pavement.
Some tips for wheelers
· Use tree straps
when winching to prevent damaging the bark of trees.
· If you find that
you have inadvertently dug deep ruts while getting unstuck, fill in the
divots as best as you can. Use the winch to help prevent digging the ruts
in the first place.
· If you get high
centered, use rocks (if available) rather than wood to build ramps.
Replace them when you are done.
· Do not leave the
trail unnecessarily with your vehicle. In particular, do not drive across
grassy meadows as you may destroy natural habitats by doing so.
· Clean up after
yourself. Donít leave garbage along the trail or at any campsite. If you
see someone elseís mess, make it a point to clean it up. Carry a couple
of extra garbage bags for that purpose.
· Maintain a friendly
attitude toward others that you may meet on the trail including horseback
riders and hikers. Often, these groups have been educated to dislike those
of us that use vehicles off-road. It is up to us to show them otherwise
both in word and in deed.
· Spread the word
to other off-road users that they must also do their part to help protect
the natural environment that these trails allow us to visit.
Simply keeping trails in
good shape is not enough. It pays to get involved as well. When issues
involving trail closings are being discussed by our political officials,
make your opinions known. Write your federal and state senators and
representatives whenever legislation that may affect our trails is being
considered. Keep track of when these issues are being discussed.
Alert others when important legislation is being discussed. Remember, our
side of this issue is not being heard as readily as it should be.
There are thousands of people that enjoy off-road travel, but few will
speak out on the issue. Those opposed to the use of vehicles off
road are very vocal, and are being heard. Get involved.
Another area where one could
get involved is through 4-wheel club activities. Occasionally, such
clubs will select an area that has been greatly abused and perform a massive
cleanup, often in exchange for off-roading privileges. Activities
such as this are not only helpful in maintaining our environment, but they
also go a great distance in improving the negative image that off-roaders
are sometimes given. Actions often speak louder than words.
Here are a couple of good
resources on the web that can help you become a better off-road citizen
as well as a proactive member of the off-road community:
Blue Ribbon Coalition
This non-profit group also
promotes the responsible use of off-road vehicles. Many of the goals
of the Blue Ribbon Coalition are similar to those of the Tread Lightly!
This link was supplied courtesy
of Treehuger (Doug) in one of the message boards. Bill Burke is one
person who has gotten involved. From speaking with environmentalists about
off-roading to gently scolding those who donít ďtread lightly,Ē he is an
example of what we should be doing to improve the image of our sport. Lots
of good stuff on that site.
One final area that might
provide some insights into off-road travel is through the use of books.
There are several books available for both the novice and the experienced
that can educate people on the techniques needed to make off-roading an
enjoyable, environmentally friendly endeavor. For more information,