I agree with you completly about education users gcg, HOWEVER...
Should the actions of a few take away my rights to access public lands forever?
Are you saying that we DESERVE to lose 1,800 miles of routes in Eldorado National (for example) becuase a small core of forest users, a good number of which are not OHV recreationists, thrash the forest? No matter what we do, that element will ALWAYS be there, unless of course you subscribe to the total closure policy that the "other side" wishes to push.
Saying, "well it's thier land too" is correct, but they wish to CLOSE that land to EVERYONE, including themselves. it's not just the 4x4 crowd that will be hurt when EISs hit all across the nation, it's hunters, campers, hikers, the RV crowd, atv and MX enthusists, fisherman, the guy in the Prius that wants to drive down a dirt road...and just about ANYONE that wants to access public lands by a dirt route. it's the difference between preservation and conservation.
In fact, a good number of OHV users do MORE than anyone else to keep the forests and trails in shape. This is done by the various "Friends of"..groups such as FOTR, FOE, FOHL, Stewards of Sequioa, PLINK etc. They do trail maintence and forest clean-ups. have you ever seen the "Other side' out there with shovels and garbage bags?
Have you ever seen the damage logging does to a forest floor, not in terms of cutting trees but by the use of their HUGE tracked vehicles? In 1,000 years my rig will NEVER do that much damage.
We lose access, not them, becuase recreation is the ONE THING land-managers can control. hence attacking the access at tellico, not the farming up-river.
In a nutshell, there is an element (a powerful one) that wishes to close all public lands to off-road use, and if you say "Well, we deserve it." you are only giving them more ammo and not helping the matter at all.
In fact, many of them read bulletin boards like this one, read comments such as the ones you posted and cut and paste them into a file and save it to use against us! You do not have to worry about it so much here, but at other BBS you do....I know that from first hand experience.
You make several good points. And, I'm not advocating closures in any way. Of course I'm not saying that the "actions of a few should
cause you to lose your access", though it may
in the end. What I am saying is the actions of those few taint others views of our sport in a big way because they are so obvious. And if we ignore that, we will eventually all be viewed as being the same as they are. That may be unfair but I think it is true. 100 wheelers can pass over a trail and not leave a trace. We get no credit for that. 1 guy goes through and does damage, leaves trash, shoots up a sign and we all suffer.
And, I don't think the "small core" you mention is as small as you might think. My experience is that there is quite a large group of wheelers that behave in ways that simply turn off and alienate others. I see it a lot and I'd bet that you do too. The evidence is everywhere on the trail. To be honest it turns me off and alienates me, too. Often it makes me ashamed of being an avid 4 wheeler because I get lumped in with them. So do you.
I'm not saying anyone deserves to have land closures. I want them to remain open just as much as you do. My point is that the actions of 4 wheelers are generally viewed as a whole by others. They don't necessarily see that there is a group of highly responsible wheelers out there that are respecting the land, cleaning it, protecting it, etc. (which I think is a great example of what we should all do more of). They can't really see any results from someone respecting the land and treading lightly because that kind of responsible behavior leaves the land in tact. Instead, what they see are all the trash and damage done by the irresponsible. And they tend to lump all 4 wheelers into that group (much like we tend to lump all of them into the "tree hugger" group, which is probably just as untrue as them lumping us all into the irresponsible group).
To simply state that they won't change anyway, so just ignore them and let me have my access isn't very realistic. What really needs to be done is to reign in these guys because they ARE spoiling it for you and me. That's easy to say and hard to do. I don't have the answer either, but I think we need to work very hard on it and find a solution before it's too late. Education is a great start. The "friends of" groups are great efforts and I'm sure there are other things we might do. Efforts like yours are very much appreciated.
But I will state it again that I simply don't blame anyone for being upset and disgusted with 4 wheelers when they see all the trash, drunkenness, rowdy behavior, gun fire, mounds of spent ammunition, shot up everything, illegal trails, bashed trees, dangerous driving, etc. It is way too prevalent out there. Right or wrong, that becomes a large part of our signature as a whole and we need to find a way to correct it or the bad reputation will continue and we will find it harder and harder to use the land. There are wrongs on both sides here. We should be working to correct both of them and not blame just
the "tree huggers" until we have cleaned up our own back yard.
I think we have the same goals but probably see it a little differently. Thanks for all of your hard work on our behalf!