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It's Time for Four-Wheelers to Become Accountable for Their Own Actions!

By Shawn Pagan

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Take Responsibility!I have always considered myself to be a Four-Wheeling Environmentalist. In my opinion, four-wheelers and others that use the outdoors are true environmentalists because we obviously (in my mind) don't want to destroy that which gives us pleasure. To this end I am the Land UseEditor for Rockcrawler.com. 

As one of  the premier online off-road magazines, Rockcrawler.com  receives a large amount of newswire and other information on a daily basis. Through this information, I have opened myself up to a new view about the environment and land use all across this country - both factual and opinionated. 

I am FOR mixed land usage on almost all fronts. My family and I use a Jeep as a means of recreation. Whether it be working late at night in the garage to get my daily frustrations out or taking my daughter on her first camping trip to Hot Springs (at 18 months) for a weekend of family fun. I grew up riding motorcycles and even raced them for a while. I also enjoy hiking, horseback riding, canoeing, camping and just about anything else one can do outdoors, and I am very concerned about what "nature" will mean to my daughter and future generations.

Take Responsibility!All that being said, I also believe that there are valid reasons to close or divert trails. The number of people that think they and their sport are always right just amazes me. I listen to people whine on 4x4 lists, I get daily e-mails from large Associations telling me about so and so's piece of property and how Big Brotheris taking it away.

A lot of these articles are opinion and nothing more. Some don't even have facts to back them up. I know a whole discussion that took place over a "Poll' about whether or not "Drilling Of Oil" should be allowed in Alaska. Most of the people in the discussion felt that we (the OHVers) were losing the poll because many people taking the poll felt that the drilling should not be allowed. Do any of these people have any facts that this was a slam against OHV drivers? Are any of them geologists that understand what drilling may do to the surrounding land? I know this example is a little bit out there, but it does reflect the reflex actions taken by some to condemn ANYTHING that limit's access - regardless of the reason.

There are many examples of this in my own state of Texas, for example, Fort Hood, the Angelina National Forest, etc. I am deeply saddened by the fact that I cannot wheel in either of these spots, but what is much worse is that I have a hard time not defending the closure of either property. Those of you that were there three years ago...go look at it today and tell me what you think? Does it make you proud to be a wheeler? 

BLM LogoI want to tell you that I am disappointed by many people in my sport that are always the ones willing to point finger at others. For example: (I hear this one all the time) "Who does the BLM think they are? They don't own the land. What gives them the right to..."

Among those of you who have complained about the BLM; or have taken time to write them nasty letters about a "trail closure," how many of you have taken the time to write them a nice letter about the number of trails that ARE open for people to four-wheel on? Did you even think of that? Did you know that the BLM manages more OPEN trails then any other agency (private or public) in the US? Did you know they are one of the sponsors of the ARCA Series? 

These people have a hard job; one that none of us would want. Everybody hates them - the "Environmentalists" because they open trails and the "Recreationists" (Us) because they close trails! Being nice might just get us more then casting stones. Don't get me wrong, we still need to fight the good fight, but they might be more easily swayed if they can realize that we, like them, are people who understand. For more information on the BLM check this article: Get to Know Your BLM.

There is a group of people in California fighting the closure of more then 48,000 acres. They are not fighting the reason the land was closed. Instead, they are fighting the amount of land closed. They actually agree that part of the area needs to be closed - just not all of it. They are working with the Government and the land owners and hopefully will come up with a reasonable compromise. They even worked with the BLM to place the signs about which areas to stay out of because this would drive a faster closure to the lawsuits and get everybody talking without the actions of a court!

THESE ARE PEOPLE TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR OWN ACTIONS!

If you are a true off-road enthusiast (motorcycle or ATV rider, bicyclist, hiker, snowmobile rider) then it's time to take responsibility for what you do! It's time to work these things out and get to a point where we can all accept a compromise. I know it's hard to do; we have all been burned in the past. It's very easy for 1 or 2 people to ruin the months of work and dedication shown by one or hundreds of others - but we have to try. 

Take Responsibility!It is time that we accept our brothers (and sisters) who drive vehicles that are outside of our personal passion (4 Wheel Drives, motorcycles, ATVs, sand rails and various buggies, snowmobiles, bicyclists etc.) - we all need to help each other.

I think Martin Niemöller said it best "In Germany, they first came for the communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Catholic. Then they came for me -- and by that time there was nobody left to speak up."

Speak up, let your combined voices be heard. Tell people what's good. Tell them what's bad! Work together, not against each other. Working together is the only way we will survive. 

The next time you are out playing and you find an area that has been torn up, please contact a local club and fix it up or fix it up yourself. If you run across a fellow outdoors person (hiker, biker whatever) tell them hi even if you don't get a response. Wave at hikers. Help out that guy on the motorcycle. Offer the ATV rider a drink of water. Attempt not to roost through the sand that the Jeep is parked next too. Basically use your head and do what is right. 

Doing what is right also implies responsibility. Being responsible also means not condoning those that do the wrong thing. Don't ride with your motorcycle buddy that puts alcohol in his Camelback. Don't cut new trails unless you have the property owner's permission - and even then USE YOUR HEAD. Don't litter, don't pollute, don't go where you're not supposed to. If there's a question - don't go. If you tried it three times, back off and let someone else try. Don't build roads (and if you do, clean up your mess afterwards). It also means reporting those that don't play by the rules. You all know what you would want in YOUR backyard. Think of nature as OUR backyard. Respect it, love it, nurture it and it will only grow to provide a warm and friendly place for generations to follow. 

[Editor's Note: Before cutting new trails, not only get permission from the land owner, but also consult with local forestry officials and specialists to make sure you're doing the right thing in the right place.]

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Shawn Pagan is a our ROCKCRAWLER.com Land Use Editor and a Staff Writer.  Shawn resides north of Houston, TX.

Contact Shawn at thepagan@rockcrawler.com

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