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Right now various National Forests and BLM districts are beginning to put together travel management plans. Most of these plans are focused on corralling the growing abuse of our public lands by thrillcraft—ATVs, dirt bikes, dune buggies, swamp buggies, jet skis, snowmobiles, and other associated toys used by neotenous adults. Many citizens are agonizing over which parts of our public domain should be designated legalized abusement parks, and which lands should be protected from such abuse. The underlying assumption of all these travel management plans is that some level of abuse and vandalism of our public domain by thrillcraft owners is inevitable. I do not accept that premise.

ORVs: No Right Way to Do the Wrong Thing

Right now various National Forests and BLM districts are beginning to put together travel management plans. Most of these plans are focused on corralling the growing abuse of our public lands by thrillcraft—ATVs, dirt bikes, dune buggies, swamp buggies, jet skis, snowmobiles, and other associated toys used by neotenous adults. Many citizens are agonizing over which parts of our public domain should be designated legalized abusement parks, and which lands should be protected from such abuse. The underlying assumption of all these travel management plans is that some level of abuse and vandalism of our public domain by thrillcraft owners is inevitable.

I do not accept the premise that abuse of our lands is something that we must tolerate as inevitable. It is our land. It is our children’s land, and their children’s land. We have a responsibility to pass these lands on to the next generation in better condition than we found them. And we have a collective responsibility to protect our national heritage against the thrillcraft menace.

The real problem isn’t the machines. It’s not even the people. Many otherwise decent people ride thrillcraft, but when they straddle one of these machines they become participants in a dysfunctional culture. It is a culture that sees our public land as nothing more than a giant sandbox. Thrillcraft culture represents a lack of respect for other people’s property and the quality of their outdoor experience. What people do on their own property is not my concern, but when they ride their machines on public lands it becomes a societal issue. Our public lands are as close as our society has to shared “sacred” ground.

The operation of any thrillcraft has a disproportional impact upon the landscape, wildlife and other people. Thrillcraft pollute the air and water. They compact soils. They damage wetlands and riparian areas. They spread weeds. They displace wildlife. The noise, speed, and general disregard for other people by thrillcraft owners displace other non-motorized users of our public lands. Increasingly they threaten archeological treasures. How can any of this be considered “responsible” use?

You hear a lot about “responsible” ORV use and “a few bad apples” from thrillcraft promoters themselves, as well as some government bureaucrats. But these are misleading terms to say the least. What is responsible about tearing up the land? It’s like suggesting we ought to promote “responsible wife abuse” or “responsible child abuse.” There is no level of violence to our lands that is acceptable. Working with agencies to create designated routes or play areas is just helping to legalize public vandalism. There is no way to use these machines in a responsible manner except to leave them parked in a driveway.

I find it extremely ironic we would arrest someone as a vandal who had spray painted a Forest Service sign—a human made artifact that is easily repaired–but we assume it is perfectly legal right now for someone to tear up miles of our public lands for fun that may take decades or centuries to heal if at all—with no consequences? Where is the parity?

Most people would never allow thrillcraft to run across their lawns. They would not tolerate such noise in their neighborhoods. They would not accept being run off their sidewalks and pathways in their towns by motorized hoodlums racing along at unsafe speeds. Would we allow thrillcraft to do wheelies in the Arlington National Cemetary, or crawl up the Lincoln Memorial? I think not. And I see no reason to permit similar antics on the rest of our public lands.

Some proponents try to brand those fighting the thrillcraft invasion as “elitist.” But what could be more elitist than imposing noise, pollution, and just general havoc upon others? You don’t need a machine to have fun or to access the public lands. A pair of sneakers and a willingness to make a little personal effort is all that one needs to enjoy our wonderful public spaces. This is not about excluding people. It’s about excluding their hurtful machines.

We Americans need to stand up against this ill-treatment of our common heritage. To me the burning of an American Flag is nothing compared to the deliberate destruction of our public lands for kicks. It’s time for true American patriots to stand up and be willing to call these activities for what they are—vandalism or worse. If these motorheads want to run around in circles in their own backyards, have at it, but they have no place on the public lands.

It’s time to ban all recreational use of thrillcraft from the public domain. I personally can not understand how anyone can make deals about thrillcraft abuse. Why is it wrong or bad to operate these machines in one place and not another. Isn’t the damage equally as bad? If it’s not acceptable on some of our public lands, it’s really not acceptable on any public lands. We need to get beyond the idea that we need to “compromise” on abuse. There is no compromise on some things.

To those who think we have to accept thrillcraft because they are “traditional” activities, I remind them that the same arguments were once made about segregation, beating up your wife, about smoking in public places, and many other behaviors and cultural “traditions” that were once commonplace. Society now views these things as wrong, and has outlawed them.

There is no right way to do the wrong thing. Running thrillcraft on our public lands is wrong. It’s not good for the land. It’s not good for the air and water. It’s not good for wildlife. It’s not good for other people. It’s not even good for the people doing it. It’s time to ban these machines, not legitimize the continued destruction of our sacred public commons.

About George Wuerthner

George Wuerthner has published 36 books, including Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy

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  1. Amazingly, while doing research for a term paper I was not surprised to see the amount of negative and down right communist type writing when it involves decent tax paying americans and thier use of off road vehicles. The liberal left wing environmentalist in this country truly has no clue about responsible use of the machines millions of americans use mainly because they have never even been on one. ATV owners are taxpayers and have rights as do all other americans. Unfortunately the liberal press, colleges and environmentalist do not seem to understand that there must be a way for all to get what they want, it’s called compromise.

  2. I read where the Sierra Club advocates for a balanced policy and allow ORV’s on designated roads and trails across non-wilderness public lands.

  3. BackcountryHunter


    I often disagree with what your write, but I found myself smiling when I read your column. Thanks for cutting through it all and pointing to a symptom of our cultural crisis.

    I know as a hunter that there are few things more damaging to our traditions and fish and wildlife habitat than off road vehicles. No ground is sacred for just hiking boots and horses anymore, the thrillseekers want ruts everywhere.

  4. The only problem with total control of the population, and what they can do with what, is that all the banned stuff is commerce, and this country runs on that commerce. We are not about a corner store, grandma and mom canning, school shoes, owning one car. We can go there again, and some would lead us that way. But it would mean more wood heat, more sidehill salmon on the table, running cars with leaky rings and transfer cases, and enough unemployment to assure abject poverty to most all who do not work for government, and high taxes on all.

    I see the problem with public lands as one of being without sufficient funds, all the time, because they quit dancing with the gal what brung ’em. No money for trails or maintenance. No money to keep campgrounds operational, and now they want you to pay motel prices for a place to pitch a tent with water and an outhouse. The roadless areas are now overun with Mexican dope cartel weed ranches, with plastic drip tubes and creeks diverted to water plants. There are no cops or rangers or any other law enforcement officers out there, and the local sheriff can’t get the job done, either, because they took all those Timber Barons out and now there is no money to run the county. So it appears to me that the Piss Fir Willys can pass all the regs they want, hold a zillion open houses and closed meetings, and plan their hearts out, and the real result on the ground will be zero, nada, zip, nothing, because they don’t have the dough to pay all those wages and benefits to their help who somehow have it all figured out how to work three or four days a week for full time pay. There is just no money to fund a strong enforcement arm. And heaven forbid, letting an ATV use a road is bad, but digging a tank trap at the mainline junction, putting up a gate and a dozen signs that the road no longer exists, saves the land. If you go down one of those roads, you find plugged culverts and the road bed washing into the creek, a buttload of rock with trees growing out of it, tight enough and dry enough to burn with vigor.

    But, the new USFS workforce is representative of the population as a whole, except they are having a hard time finding a way to legally have illegal aliens on the payroll. All those diverse people are filling their social engineering slots, in harmony, of course. In a non-hostile workplace. Peace, brother. I am waiting for them to have a wheelchair accessible wildland fire so all their office help can get fire pay, have a fire rated job. It will come. The EEO folks will see to it.

    It is about managing people, not resources. All this is about managing people, and not resources. Manage the people, and all the good things will happen on their own. Gee. Why did I waste all that time reading and studying about pre-European occupation and land use? Evidently, all I learned was wrong. Man does not have a place on the land unless it is hiking or riding a bike, and the bike has only limited space it might use.

    The real conservation problem I have with the whole deal is that it is very apparent to many that global warming is killing the trees, and fire is going to consume them all, and then the USFS closes the burn area to use by hikers. So if all the trees are consumed or killed, and the creek boiled out and the fish killed, how did the butt heads on the ATVs become responsible for the condition of the forest? It is ok to burn it all up, but not ok to use it until the inevitable fire storm consumes the whole of it? Strange logic. But, then again, my dearest uncle said that there is a type of hillbilly in the West who has to have an internal combustion engine making way too much noise that lulls the hillbilly to sleep and comforts him in times of stress. It makes no matter what the engine drives. It can be chain saws, generators, outboard motors, ATVs, (he called them Doodle Bugs) GI Jeeps, winches, it made no nevermind. He told me thought those people put a little Briggs and Stratton on the floor of the nursery to putt-putt a lullaby for the babies., that they actually needed a little carbon monoxide to adle their minds enough so that they could be good workers. He said that you knew they were around when you found a disposable diaper in the crotch of a tree, a hundred yards of monofilament along the creek bank, a couple of empty Coors cans shining in the stream, bullet holes in the road sign, and three big gulp cups and a styrofoam worm bucket all tore up. He said that woulda pissed him off if it weren’t for the mountain bike trail leaking mud into the creek and turning off the bite. Now that did piss him off. I guess it goes to show you that you can’t please everyone all the time, or some favorite uncles any of the time.

  5. As a bowhunter, cross-country skier, hiker, backpacker and nature photograper, I have found myself excluded from most of the public lands by these Motorheads who consider our National Forests and Public Lands as some sort of motocross track and clearly have no interest in the effects they have on others, including our wildlife.

    As to claims that it is only a small fraction of Thrillcraft users who cause the problem, they are much like the mythology of livestock permittees who claim they are the “true stewards of our Forests and public lands”, while they cause massive and irreperable damage to fish, wildlife and our water supplies.

    The same is true of those who demean environmentalists as “leftists”, “terrorists”, or “extremists”. Don’t you like clean water, clean air? Studies by Utah State University found that nearly half of motorized users admitted that in their last ride they knowingly violated travel restrictions and went off legal routes. It is no stretch to realize it is a massive abuse.

    President Bush has proclaimed our dependence on foreign oil as a national security issue and stressed the need for conservation. As I see these 1-ton dual wheel diesel trucks pulling their 30 foot fifth wheel trailers with a six pack of snowmobiles or ATVs trailing behind with “Support Our Troops” stickers on them, I wonder who is really the patriot. The person who conserves, lives a quiet lifestyle and opposes these energy consuming abuses of our public lands and the destruction of our watersheds or the inconsiderate ones who race around on these motorized menaces to wildlife and other people, while claiming to be the true patriots.

    Like public lands livestock grazing, public lands recreational motorized use will end due to global warming concerns and the damage they cause. You Pseudo Patriots, stop using these machines and Support Our Troops so they can come home and quit losing their lives over Middle East oil!

    John Carter
    Mendon, Utah

  6. I’m a gearhead. Love riding, driving, and tinkering with all manner of internal combustion engines. I have been guilty of ripping a muddy swath of track right through a fragile meadow. I wouldn’t have been there and would have no need to regret my past actions if a gate had kept me and my hormone-fueled teenage angst OUT.

    I think it’s time for our view of the use of our land to grow up too. No one has the right to take away from another’s enjoyment of the forest by rutting around leaving tracks and filling the silence that some go out to find with noise and craziness. Throw on some tennies, take a walk, and see what you hear and the animals you come across when you leave the hardware at home.

  7. Americans have spent more than 100 years establishing a tradition of conservation on our public lands. We have agreed to protect streams, prevent erosion, protect wildlife, keep the air and water clean. Sure we still argue about cows and chainsaws but we all have some common ground – except the thrill craft crowd.

    The thrillcraft problem will erase all that we have accomplished in conservation in the last 100 years. These folks are destroying wildlife habitat, killing wildlife, running oil dripping machines up trout streams for the thrill of it and ruining the experience of anyone within 10 miles of them. They cut fences to trespass on private land, they ride into wilderness areas and into wetlands where birds breed and endangered species are struggling to survive.

    A large portion of the ATV crowd is criminal in nature. The 10 boys (in their 30s) who rode dirt bikes into the Pecos Wilderness in New Mexico last summer were armed and dangerous. If they behaved this way in town they would have drawn a SWAT team. The folks who ride ATVs into wilderness areas with chainsaws to open roads are criminals and need to be locked up for many years. Yet society is treating their behavior as normal and our tolerance is setting a precedent.

    The real problem here is that the conservatives in America have purposely defanged our public land agencies. The Forest Service and BLM have almost no police so when the ATV criminals trash signs or trespass, there is no consequence. The Bushies and their ilk in Congress have purposely destroyed our public land agencies by ruining their budgets. So we can thank the Conservative movement for ATV chaos on our public land, for dead animals, polluted streams, noise, ruts, anger and more anger.

    Soon people will get angry enough to start confronting these folks with lethal force. My dog was almost killed by a child (about 45 years old) on a dirt bike. The current peace between the public and the thrillcraft criminals will not hold much longer.

    The real answer is more police, and the right of citizens to begin the arrest process on public lands. I don’t want violence but these kids (of all ages) on the ATVs invite violence with the violence they do to our land and our silence. Its got to stop.

  8. George, I agree with much of what you write. In westside Oregon we appear to be more “civilized” than much of the rest of the west. If may also be, in part, due to the “density” & steep terrain of our forests that prevent the “motor heads” from driving everywhere.

    On the national forest adjacent to where I live, there is an effective road closure program that is generally respected & supported by the majority. In addition there are some “sacrificial areas”–although not great in extent– where folks who love noise & machines can ride around & be happy. And they generally “play by the rules”.

    The larger issue is one of “kindergarden ethics”, and not just on our national forests but everywhere. Drive any highway & observe all of the litter, note how many people use shopping carts to get their groceries to the car & then leave the shopping cart in the middle of the parking space, observe how many people crap in the forest & do not have the ethics of a cat to bury their waste & the list is endless. We live in an increasingly dysfunctional world where mega-max prisions are our primary growth industry.

  9. What I’ve noticed over the years, is that you can put a normally law-abiding, sensible Good Joe on a thrillcraft and you get a Jeckle/Hyde transformation which turns the good neighbor down the street into an adolecent jerk, acting out old fantasies about speed, noise, power and rejection of social responsibility.
    Some of the reasons the Yellowstone snowmobile regs are so unpopular is that the guide requirement cuts down on speed, running off trail and wildlife harrassment, while the four-bangers just don’t lend themselves to speed, noise and power — just cruising. Heck, if you can’t gun it, make noise, blow smoke, run off-trail like a wanna be outlaw and chase wildlife, ya might as well stay home or (Gawd forbid) ride in a snowcoach with the grandmas and little kids.

  10. Thanks George.
    One thing I do not truly understand is why do 4-wheelers have a higher “right” to public lands than the common four-wheel drive? Why do we create a separate road system specifically for the commercialization of foreign toys (for the most part these are just that) on our public lands yet we will not allow those with an old 4×4 to travel those paths? It is arguable that the impacts are the same or worst with 4-wheelers. As a society facing a fossil fuel crisis of climate change, why do we encourage the trailering of these toys to a trailhead, when an old 4×4 needs no such extras? Now the toy has developed into a miniature 4×4 with two bucket seats and pickup bed. If 4-wheelers are allowed to go places why is it the average Joe Blow with a 4×4 is not allowed to go to those same places. It seems like a very special class of forest user as been developed at the expense of another.

  11. Well, George, your comments on the flag being less sacrosanct than “sacred” public lands are illustrative. Such only goes to point out the quasi-fundamentalist, alternative-religionist outlook of so many environmental advocates. You yourself draw a paycheck from Tompkins and the Foundation for Deep Ecology, which for want of a better description, is pretty much a cult.
    Given such classic (well, in a sense), revelatory writings as Terry Tempest Williams’ four elements book, it is clear that a fair faction of environmentalists are the priests, apostles of some kind of vast Temple of Gaia. Anyone who does not believe the eco-gospel or worship in the proper manner as approved by the anointed is to be cast out of — not “into” — the wilderness. Oops, sorry, I forgot to capitalize Wilderness.
    The tragedy here is that there is no possible way to have a rational discussion about any issue when the belief system is based upon religion. There’s a reason why religious wars are so brutal. Recognition of that is why America is theoretically a nation where religion is not given direct state sanction.
    Seems to me on publicly-shared and supported assets, the avoidance of state sanction of a cult would be a good thing.

  12. Dave:

    One doesn’t have to have any religion or religious feelings about public property to be opposed to someone tearing it up and degrading its values for other citizens. I don’t want to see vandal destroy FS signs or campgrounds, and for that matter, trash any public property whether the city park or a public highway. The problem with Thrillcraft is that they have a disproportional impact on the land, and other users of the public land. That is the basis for my opposition–which I would think any reasonable, responsible and thinking person (which you are) and thus I suspect would agree with–regardless of religious perspective or association.

    And by the way I totally agree with your last comments about religious conflicts–the avoidance of a state sanction cult would be a good thing.

  13. Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers!

    Hey, why is it with every new invention to get a lardass into the backcountry comes a new “right”? Nope. Shouldn’t be. I remember the old days prior to snowmobiles. If you wanted to get into the backcountry, it was on skis with a lot of hard work. Along comes a snowmobile and suddenly every fatassed lazyman has newfound “rights”! I don’t buy it! Rights do NOT automatically appear with each new conveyance! What we are really talking about here are lardassed rights! Right?

  14. I hesitate to do this–but what the hell: Wuerthner and others touched on it, but the motorized crazed is a consumerism-driven phenomenon. These things are built and marketed and sold to people who readily adapt their lives to this type of “recreation”. However, I would argue that the only difference between ORV users and mountain bikers, kayakers, climbers, hobby horse owners, and, yes, even skiers (heli-skiing anyone?) is the motors. Mountain bikers and kayakers do cause damage to resources as well as lobbying for poor public land management decisions. One thing these gear-head users is the ability to self-victimize and claim their rights are being victimized. Mountain bikers are whining about their “tradition” being locked out of wilderness areas; kayakers feel “criminalized” because Yellowstone is closed to them; don’t get me started on climbers pinning routes or monopolizing a public place like Devil’s Tower…our outdoors are thoroughly commodified by most of us. Walk.

  15. George,

    Your last paragraph sums it up nicely. Americans are some of the laziest creatures on the planet. That combined with the love of engines that permeates our society, makes for a bad situation. Time to draw the line. If you want to be out in the wild, then walk.

  16. Susan and Larry, I know many people, unlike many of us who are blessed with more than adequate walking abilities, who simply cannot get to the wilds without a little motorized help. Those with limited physical abilities due to age, birth disorder, accident, or genetic defect should be considered before lumping all motorized users as lardasses or implying that “Walk” works for all. As I noted above even the Sierra Club advocates for a balanced policy and allow ORV’s on designated roads and trails across non-wilderness public lands. Crafting that balanced policy is the tricky part.

  17. Wow. An artillery of verbiage. Too bad the wildlife, fish, flora and fauna can’t weigh in. Where are their ” RIGHTS” ? To protect and conserve- that’s supposed to be up to us. Forget about it- our behaviour is more deplorable than all other species. The planet would be far, far better off without us- and someday it will be.

  18. “One thing ALL of these gear head LAND users HAVE IN COMMON is…” Apologies for all who read my poor typing—these laptops seem so SMALL!

  19. Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers!

    Craig, you missed my point. Whooosh! Right over your head I think. So, allow me to re-phrase it. How did these people that you mention get into the back country BEFORE the invention of the snowmobile? You see, when I’m too old to no longer be able to walk in the wild country, I’ll get as close to it as I can in my motorized vehicle, and just stare at it. And then, I’ll go home and sit on my front porch and drink whiskey, wine, and beer and reminisce about all the great times I had in the wilds. I mean, what the hell, at some point ya just gotta let’er go! I guess my point again is this. Prior to the invention of the snowmobile, what WERE the rights of these handicapped folks to get themselves into the back country? I don’t think it existed. At least I never heard of anyone’s “right” to be hauled back in there. My whole point is this. Just WHY do people assume that they immediately possess a concomitant “right” with each new invention? I don’t get it. Where is the precedence for this reasoning? I know that you’re a thoughtful guy, Craig. Maybe you can make the argument that there IS one.

    As far as my lardassed comments, I was not implying that handicapped people are lardasses. You know that. But that word you use, “balance”. I think that we ALL know what that means. Anyone who has fought the extractive industries knows full well that industry gets fifty percent of everything it want’s each time it asks until there’s nothing left! And that is NOT balance! Balance is simply a code word for greed.

    Drygrass, I agree with your post. It is very good. Indeed, the non-motorized folks are just as bad as the motorized almost! Now, don’t get me wrong. I love my motorcyles as much as the next guy. But I DON’T have to ride them in the freakin’ wilderness! That’s an incompatible use!

  20. Larry, I don’t own any ATV, ORV, jet-skis or powered hangliders or another other vairant. So I am not defending their use. I hate to see the damn things when I hunt or fish.

    By the way, I didn’t miss your point. I just thought the mobility impaired should have some consideration in the discussion of access to public lands. I always enjoy your point of view. Give ’em hell.

  21. I guess if the world will be better off without the human race, well then, maybe one of you should volunteer to be the first to leave.
    It’s lead, follow or get out of the way…See ya.

  22. Sorry, George, but Dave is absolutley right, environmentalism is a cult religion in every sense. And it is a religion that advocates insist simply must be imposed on every human living, especially if they live in this “Land of the Free”. You will not rest until we all pay homage to it.

  23. Marion:

    This is not about religion.

    The issue is whether we allow anyone to degrade public property–especially for kicks. It’s about respecting other people and the public’s common property. It’s about being a good neighbor. It’s about responsible behavior. Tearing up the landscape, imposing noise and air pollution on other people is not being a responsible person.

    As I mentioned in my piece, if I or anyone else were to go to say a FS campground and hack up the picnic tables or spray paint the signs, even just broke a bunch of bottles for fun, I would be arrested as a vandal. But we currently permit individuals to do far worse damage to the public’s common property with immunity.

    I know, from your many previous posts on this site, that you care about private property. Would you permit someone to come to your home and degrade it? Judging from your previous posts, I suspect not. And I think that is great. You are a responsible individual.

    That is the issue here. There is no way to use these machines (off a regular road) that doesn’t cause significant and more importantly in this discussion, a disproportional impact to the landscape, not to mention, imposing noise, air pollution, and water pollution on other users of the land.

  24. Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers!

    Marion, allow me to say something about religion. YES, God is INDEED reflected in the glory of nature! As He has always been! Where do you find YOUR God, in a Walmart parking lot? THAT is the question! Marion, when I see people going on vision quests in a Walmart parking lot, I’ll agree with you that maybe nature has lost its significance! How bout it, Marion? Where DO you see God? Where do YOU see the glory? I await your ridiculous answer.

  25. Hi Morion – welcome back with your Opinions!!
    Let’s see how I can relate to your statement of Eco-Religion?? No other religion in the History of the World has EVER been sshoved down the throats of people that didn’t want it nad these people always gladly accepted the affects of this new system of thought on their: land, culture, previous religions/thoughts and so fiorth??
    Let’s see: Christianity (with all it’s variants), Islam, Roman Catholocism and I’m sure there are plenty I’m not listing!! So – YOUR arguement is Religious and YOUR’S is better than Others – was here First (at least before those damned hippies and eco-nuts) SO it has PRIORITY??!!
    Oh, if you want to Use the CULT premise, let’s see: Mormonism, People’s Church of CA, New World Church of Yellowstone area – ect!!
    Thank you and See a Doctor about your Crainial Rectal Insertion problem!! If YOU haven’t figure thisout yet – Most of the Thinkers to this site DON’T agree or Support you!

  26. Unfortunately it does not matter what religion one worships or believe, the problem arises when they try to force others to not only believe it and worship it, but pay tithes to it.
    Sorry, Larry, I will keep right on expressing my opinions, hopefully I will have more to say than being snotty or rude. And I will thank my God that I was lucky enough to be born in a country where that is possible. And I see my God all around me, I cannot nor would I try to control what you see.
    Craig, I started working on another article, but unfortunately I fell a week ago and broke my ankle. Now the problem is getting the swelling and bleeding down to where it can be pinned, and the roads clear enough that we can even get to Cody to have it done. The roads have been pretty bad for the last couple fo weeks. Meanwhile I have to spend my time with my leg elevated….except when I just have to come aggravate the enviros. :>).
    By the way did anyone else see this article this morning on the Billings Gazette and the Casper Trib websites? It appears jerks are jerks, no matter how they get around.

  27. Marion:

    Hope you heel up OK. Stay off the ankle so you can get around again.


  28. George, it is a pleasure to discuss issues with you. We can disagree about lions, wolves, and atv’s without it turning into a battle. You are a gentleman and an example for the rest of us. As I said on one of the lion columns, you are always welcome at my campfire.

    Marion, I am sure sorry about your leg. Get better soon, and I look forward to your column.

  29. Marion…make the leg better. It is quite terrible that some need to express their hatreds. You deserve better. Heal quickly and in comfort.

    It has occured to me that the liberal seculars are sounding the alarm that man is responsible for global warming which will eventually burn us up if we don’t change our ways, and the proselytizers in the dark suits and white shirts on the porch are telling me I am burning in hell if I don’t change my ways. Hmmmmmm. Different messages but the same conclusion. I have a very warm future, here and in eternity. Same message from two different cults. There must be Cliff Notes on this subject.

    Since February and Presidents Day is coming, I should tell my corny story. It seems Abe Lincoln, a young Illinois attorney, was defending a gyppo barge operator who was accused of damaging a railroad bridge over a river. The railroad had a bevy of bright young attorneys, and the barge owner but one, Lincoln. So the morning is all plaintiffs evidence and testimony, and the judge calls a recess for lunch, and all adjurn to a tavern where the out-of-town railroad attorneys sit at one table, and Lincoln sits with jurors and the judge, and there is much hoo-hawing and guffaws of mirth at Lincoln’s table. The judge tells those attending that court will be in session in 5 minutes, and they all walk back to the courthouse. Lincoln calls his witnesses, and the witnesses are cross examined, and then Lincoln gets to make his closing, at which time he essentially tells the jury that a great team of young railroad lawyers has presented much good evidence of what was seen, but they have come to the wrong conclusion, a conclusion contrary to what the defendants testified to, and the jury should find in favor of the defendants.

    The jury is sent to deliberate, which they do so for maybe 10 minutes, and they come back into the court room. They have decided for the defendant. The young railroad lawyers are in disbelief. On the courthouse steps, one of the bright young railroad attorneys asks the young Lincoln what he had said to the jurors and the judge at lunch, and what was all the guffawing about.

    Lincoln replied that the only thing he had added to the conversation was a story about the young kid on the farm who went running to his father and said “Papa, Papa, our sister Sue is up in the hay mow with the hired man and they both have their britches off and going to pee on all our new hay.” The Father said “Son. I thank you and I am right smartly headed for the barn. You stay here. I will find the truth and administer justice. You have made a useful and good witness, but you have come to the wrong conclusion.”

    I sincerely hope the next young, inexperienced attorney from Illinois who might be President is as clever as Lincoln, and as thoughtful.

  30. Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers!

    Marion, you’re making NO sense! Did I ever mention that you weren’t entitled to your opinion? But my point is this, Marion, and please dispute it if you can. But you can’t, because it’s the TRVTH. ALL religions essentially are nature worship! Like it or not, Marion, that is the TRVTH! ALL religions had their origins in nature. Now. if you can’t accept that, well then, you can’t accept religion!

    Again, Marion, WHERE IS YOUR GOD?! Can you NOT see God in the glory of nature? Sad, so sad that you can’t. Here’s a word for you, Marion. Hubris. Do you have any idea what that means? No, I thought not. What it means, Marion, is that there is NOTHING of man’s creation that can equal God’s OWN wonderous, glorious creation! And it is BLASPHEMY for you to suggest that you see God in something other than his Own creation. Are you a blasphemer, Marion? Sad, so sad. I feel sorry for you and your kind.

    Again, Marion, BE SPECIFIC. Where do you see God if NOT in nature?

  31. Bearbait, I love it. Sometimes it is easier for self important folks to break the mirror rather than look in it. Global warming in particular is beginning to be described as a religion in a number of places.Your comparrison is the best I have seen. Burning from “being bad” instead of freezing from “being bad” like it was 30 years ago, seems to fit so well.
    Ahhh, Larry, you may have read the words, but your conclusion is waaay off the mark. I most certainly do see my God in everything around me, but I see Him as the Creator, not those who insist on tinkering with nature to improve it.

  32. Marion, you certainly keep things “stirred up”. I don’t understand your last point about “those who insist on tinkering with nature” Does this also include the science of human health, physics, astronomy & other science that liberated humans from the “bondage” of the Middle Ages? The science of human health –which is “tinkering” with nature– has improved the human condition!

    Yes, Bearbait, “liberal seculars” –are sounding the alarm about world wide human induced environmental degradation of the earth’s life support systems. If not us, then whom? I bet all of those New England Fisherman, who are now out of a job because of uncontrained take of fish (excluding the lobster) might wish they had listened to a few liberals, 40 years ago about ocean fisheries depletion. Of course at the time, they questioned the science, thinking it was nothing more than a “liberal plot”.

    And Dave Skinner, what about quasi fundamentalist cult of consumerism that believes that American’s (Americanus Homo Consumptus) can consume our way into an earthly paradise? Yes, Dave, anyone who does not believe in the industrial consumer gospel of “eternal human consumption of finite resources” is a heretic. And I leave you with an Aldo Leopold quote: “To preserve any land in a wild condition is, of course, a reversal of economic tendency, but that fact alone should not condem the proposal”. As the vast, vast majority of productive lands in this country have been “consumed”, why is it not possible to have a rationale discussion about leaving a portion of the less productive mounintain tops & deserts as they are?

  33. Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers!

    Bearturd, all very interesting if apocryphal, but methinks that you may be in the wrong thread! Wrong conclusion? Nope. Just the wrong thread! Reminds me of the time that Lincoln was cross examing a guy on the stand named John Kass, and he asked Mr. Kass if people ever refered to him as Jack! True story, Bearturd. And no, it’s not related to the thread, but it just kinda reminded me of YOU!

  34. Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers!

    p.s. Want’a play Lincoln stories? I got a million of them! One time, a visiting dignitary from Europe was staying in the White House. In the morning, he saw Abe gettin’ up and around. Abe started to put on his boots. The visitor was aghast! For you see, this was unheard of for heads of state in Europe to dress themselves. He asked Lincoln, “Sir, do you put on your own boots”? Abe, without hestitation, told him, “Why yes. Whose do YOU put on”? Old Abe, you see, was completely without airs!

  35. Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers!

    Bearturd, you seem to be a poseur, which is Canada is called a hoser! Is that you, little fella?

  36. For once I have to agree with George, however, banning all machines is not the answer. I grew up herding cattle in the breaks on trail bikes. We went everywhere, with no damage to the land greater than a boot print. A TRAIL bike has wide tires, a tiny motor, low gears, and a huge spark-arresting muffler. You can barely hear the engine 20 feet away. The problem is, you hardly ever see one anymore. I’ve seen exactly one on a forest trail in the last 20 years. It’s not “a few bad apples” ruining it for the rest, it’s that almost every ORV in use today is built for maximum impact, with a huge engine, digger tires, and almost no muffler. It’s hard to ride them anywhere without making a mess.

  37. Daniel; Thanks for adding common sense here. The use of these vehicles for WORK is more than legitimate and the so called MODERN versions ARE nothing more than Land Wrecking devices!
    Given the health problems of the nation and so forth – the over weight should WALK for recreation and the VERY FEW eldery that need/want to go places on motorized modes – this will be VERY limited – are O.K., but they gave up the chance to visit certain locales due to age/health; caused either by nature or their poor health practises!
    When I can NO longer climb up the Grand Teton under my own power – I will NOT cray for an elevator; my time is past!

  38. I’m surprised by the number of commenters who still resort to personal attacks attempting to defend the logic of their cause. ORVs are useful vehicles that, like anything, are often overused. Insulting environmentalists and descending to dualist simplicity proves again it’s not the ORV that’s the problem. It’s the driver.

  39. I have read almost every comment on this column and must say as a recreational biker, AND AS A HUNTER that the hunters that left comments in this column describing how bad atv’s are are simply at best hipocrites, they talk about us making noise pollution every where with our bikes, sleds, and other orv’s but what they don’t think about is what kind of harm a shotgun blast does to the environment as well. THen they talk about us leaving ruts everywhere we ride which is only true if the riders are not responsible, but what about all the branches they cut off a tree to put a simple tree stand up, or the grounds which they tear up with their wanna be 4×4 trucks. Point is don’t be hipocritical hunting can have just as much effect on the environment as orv’s can. I am here to tell you that i do both of these activities and can say from expierience that they are equally as harmful to the environment and that there are those of us that do care about the environment on which we ride, some and in fact most of us do have a deep respect for the wilderness mr. JOHN CARTER

  40. This issue is as polarizing as the debate around abortion or global warming. We have the ORV users on one side and the wilderness advocates on the other – each are rabidly passionate about their cause. The 95% of the population that lies in between, in my opinion, doesn’t care. The wilderness people will say that the majority of the country agrees with them. I find that unlikely. Of the millions that will visit Yellowstone this year how many are there to commune with nature or worship mother earth’s sacred ground? No they want full hook-ups, asphalt paths, latte’s, wi-fi, and an exciting river rafting ride. And these are normal everyday people.

    Equating the creation of a rut on a forest trail to the beating of one’s wife or children is way way over-the-top and not an argument that the general public is going to buy into. You will certainly never convince me of that. Perhaps it is just my rural midwestern upbringing. I believe in conservation (my wife and I just bought a hybrid car). I believe in protecting natural places. I’m all for protecting riparian zones and wetlands as much as any environmentalist. Just ask the ducks in my back yard. I guess where I differ though is that I just don’t believe that every mud hole equates to some sort of horrible environmental catastrophe. I just don’t buy that.

    I guess I’m in the distinct minority of people out there that loves to do it all. I love to hike, I love to fish, I love to camp, I love to canoe and kayak. I also love to waterski behind my personal watercraft. I love to ride my ATV. I love to ride my dual sport trail motorcycle. I’m lucky enough to live in a state where I can do all of the above on public lands and waters. A place for everything when everything is in its place. In my state we have wilderness areas, wildlife management areas, state forests, and state parks where motorized recreation is not allowed and I hope is forever not allowed. We absolutely need places like that (but for the wilderness advocates it is, of course, never enough). I also hope we can forever provide places for people to enjoy a motorized experience – backcountry and primitive areas where a person can enjoy a Jeep drive or ATV ride. I love exploring roads and trails on my ATV or dirtbike. Sometimes I just want to cover as many miles as possible and see where a road or trail leads to. It is a completely different experience than hiking. I like both.

    I do agree that the ORV community has its problems. We have lots of ORV users with an entitlement mentality who believe they can do whatever they want, whenever they want, and however they want. It is not just a “few bad-apples” issue. For those who want to “rip it up” with high-horsepower, loud exhausts, and deep knobbies we have places for that kind of activity – called race tracks. They’re all over the place. I know because I go there myself. So I do have a plea to certain ORV users, and that is, “Please, please don’t take your race-exhaust equipped motocross bike or your monster-mudder nitrous equipped ATV to public riding areas. That’s not the place for them.”

    The solution is not to unilaterally ban all ORV users from public land. It is very hard to legislate attitudes. I’m committed to help solve the issues and believe we can solve them, so that my kids can take their kids and explore these same ATV trails.

  41. I ride dirt bikes and atv’s for fun and i believe that some people are irresponsible out in the woods.

  42. I enjoyed the read from the opposite side. While I disagree with your heavy handedness, I do agree that we need to protect our public areas for generations to come. I live in Michigan and am an avid 4×4 enthusiast, and while it pains me to see places like Tellico get permanently closed, I find a little satisfaction in knowing that those areas will begin their recovery process.

    You clearly indicate that you don’t give a rats ass what the ORV community does in their back yard, but you dont think it should be on the public areas. If this is truly your passion, perhaps you should consider working on reducing the regulatory issues preventing us ORV users from opening dedicated offroad parks in our own private property. I have seen so many offroad parks on private property attempt to garner the support of the state, community, and government, only to get their efforts squashed by a DNR office deciding that the corner of their private property is considered wetland therefore incurring a huge fine and shutting the place down.

    Don’t want us in your public land? Support letting us build our own areas and we will stop going to your precious public areas. Last thing I want to do is run across a group of “you guys” in the woods anyways. If I was on a hike and came across your preaching, extremist type I would probably make an exacerbated effort just to piss you off.

  43. The government banned 3-wheeled orv’s for safety reasons. The companies reacted with 4-wheelers, and made money. Ever since motocross became popular, companies have been selling bigger, faster, more powerful machines, built for racing. George calls them thrillcraft. People use them in the forest because that’s what they have, because that’s what’s available from the dealers.
    If we mandate the TYPE of orv used in the forest (small clean engines, quiet, low gearing, reasonable tires) we eliminate the impacts, allow recreational riding, and the companies sell more machines.
    Isn’t that a win-win-win?

  44. Folks like George want an outright ban on orv’s because they feel that orv’s very presence violates the sacredness of the forest. I can relate to this. I get a little miffed when someone plays loud music in the woods. I hate having to run a gauntlet of big untrained dogs every time I’m near a trail. I’m insulted by the lack of respect for my safety exhibited by mountain bikers hurtling down the trails, and I don’t like most horse people’s attitude that I should go out of my way because they haven’t taken the time to train their horses not to spook over someone standing by the trail.
    As I’ve stated, it’s not motorized vehicles per se that are the problem. It’s the TYPE of orv’s that impact the land and other users. A clean, quiet, slow-moving orv doesn’t bother anyone.
    You may have noticed that no-one responds when I say this. That’s because George et al don’t really care about the noise, smell, and disruption of soil. They believe that it’s just wrong to access the forest experience on a machine. It’s as if there’s something innately holy about getting there by muscle power, and anyone who doesn’t is cheating. This forest religion would ban electric wheelchairs. They don’t want to hear about this solution.

  45. It’s sort of like smoking. People who are against smoking manage to get designated smoking areas which congregate smokers, intensifying the impact. They strategically place these smoking areas near entrances so that everyone who goes into a building will be affected. Then a vast majority will agree that smoking has to go.
    Rather than working for a solution that works for everyone, they will settle for nothing less than complete victory for their own side. It’s a crusade.

  46. One thing I will always respond to is losing my rights, many people think that somehow they are going to win by closing every road and trail to offroad vehicles because of a few idiots doing the wrong thing and leaving a mess of beercans.
    I am disabled and just would like to let you know that not everyone who rides an ORV is a beer drinking thrill seeker, ninety five percent are elderly or disabled, and it happens to be the only way they can back far enough to enjoy it.
    If you want to do something about the mess or going off established roads or trails then enforce the current regulations don’t outlaw our land from us. I have grown up in this country, paid my taxes just like every one else, but when I see what is happening because of these so called politically correct environmentalists, I see Neo Fascism.

  47. Todd;

    You seem to miss an important point. Not all activities and behaviors are acceptable on public spaces. We don’t allow people to smoke cigarettes in public buildings. We don’t allow people to drink alcohol in the public library. We don’t permit people drive their vehicles across the lawns and flower gardens at city parks.

    Yes you pay taxes but paying taxes does not give you the right to disproportionately destroy or degrade public facilities.

    Riding an ORV on an engineered road is singificantly less damaging than riding such machines on trails or worse creating your own trail.

    The noise and speed are other intrusive factors.

    As far as enforcement is concerned, there has been no effective model produced so far that can be used for enforcing the machines and their drivers. There is too much terrain, and not enough law enforcement officers. And to fund a sufficient number to really make a difference would be prohibitively expensive. Not to mention the consequences (i.e. fines) are currently so inconsequential as to be of limited effect on behavior.

    As many agencies have discovered, it’s better to ban these machines than try to deal with all these problems.