What Off Road Vehicles Do (part 2)

The Utah Wilderness Coalition has this to say about off road vehicles:

“Most public lands are unprotected from ORVs in Utah. Roughly seventy-five percent, or 17 million acres out of 23 million acres, of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands in Utah still lack any real protection (including designated routes, maps, trail signs, and other tools to ensure that these natural areas are protected) from ORV damage.

“Utah has over 100,000 miles of dirt roads, jeep trails, and old mining tracks. Driving all of these trails would be the equivalent of driving four times the circumference of the Earth.

“The BLM allows nearly uncontrolled ORV use in areas that have known but unrecorded archeological resources, putting these resources at risk from vandalism and unintentional damage. ORVs can cause damage to fragile desert soils, streams, vegetation, and wildlife. Impacts include churning of soils, distribution of non-native invasive plants, and increased erosion and runoff. Rare plant, wildlife, and fish species are at risk.

“ORV use is growing nationwide. In the past 30 years, the number of off-road vehicles in the United States has grown from 5 million to roughly 36 million ORVs. The BLM has fallen woefully behind in the management of these machines on public lands.

“Thousands of visitors come to Utah’s canyons and desert expanses hoping to experience solitude and quiet. In far too many places, however, these visitors are now treated to the inescapable buzzing of rock crawlers, all-terrain vehicles and dirt bikes.” [1]

Even law enforcement organizations are admitting they’re powerless to control ORV use in their jurisdictions.  In a 2007 memo, an organization called Rangers for Responsible Recreation writes:

“The consensus of [law enforcement] respondents is that off-road vehicle violations have increased in recent years. Specifically:  A majority of respondents (53%) say that ‘the off-road vehicle problems in my jurisdiction are out of control.’  Nearly three quarters (74%) agree that the off-road vehicle problems in their jurisdictions ‘are worse than they were five years ago.’  Fewer than one in six (15%) believe that ORV problems are ‘turning around for the better.’” [2]

Glorietamesa.org,  “an umbrella organization consisting of ranchers, horseback riders, hikers, environmentalists, wood-gatherers, residents, hunters and off-roaders, who are dedicated to protecting Glorieta Mesa from irresponsible Off-Road Vehicle recreation” [3] writes:

“A 2002 Utah report reveals that a high percentage of riders prefer to ride ‘off established trails’ and did so on their last outing. Of the ATV riders surveyed, 49.4% prefer to ride off established trails, while 39% did so on their most recent excursion. Of the dirt bike riders surveyed, 38.1% prefer to ride off established trails, while 50% rode off established trails on their most recent excursion. [4]

“More than nine out of ten (91%) of respondent rangers from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) agree that off road vehicles represent ‘a significant law enforcement problem’ in their jurisdictions.  According to one BLM respondent, ‘90% of ORV users cause damage every day they ride. Most will violate a rule, regulation or law daily.’” [5]

The evidence for illegal ORV destruction is easy to come by, and it’s not even really contested by ORVers themselves.  Those of us determined to stop this behavior face the same problem law enforcement does: the damage is so widespread and difficult to regulate that there’s little anyone can do.  So it seems.

There’s a serious lack of activists, effective tactics, and coherent strategies to follow through on.  This doesn’t mean, though, that we should back down.  Setting aside for now the question of illegal activity that branches from legally accessed roads, the reason ORVers get so much of what they want is because they are well organized and active [6]—partly no doubt because they have no problems being told what to do by those organizing them, and because they’re poised to perceive a threat (maybe because they’re so threatening themselves).  They win because no comparable force opposes them.  In ongoing posts we want to explore every single possibility, every tactic, every strategy for success in stopping this that we can.  The very last fragments of intact living land are being sliced apart for fun by stupidity and sadism and entitlement.  It’s long past time to fight back.

1: http://www.suwa.org/wp-content/uploads/ORVDamage_FactSheet_V2.pdf

2: http://www.glorietamesa.org/RangersForResponsibleRecreation.pdf

3: http://www.glorietamesa.org/ohv-orv-facts-sheet.php

4: http://www.glorietamesa.org/Utah-Report-2002.pdf

5: http://www.glorietamesa.org/RangersForResponsibleRecreation.pdf

6: http://www.usaall.org/  [For example.]

About Michael Carter

Activist and author of Kingfisher's Song: Memories Against Civilization, Wasteland Press, 2012. View all posts by Michael Carter

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