OFF-HIGHWAY VEHICLE USER GROUP PERSPECTIVES ON TRAIL SYSTEMS
Back Country Recreation Areas (BCRA) designation would allow traditional multiple-use activities with the emphasis on promoting and protecting recreation.
By Clark L. Collins, Executive Director, BlueRibbon Coalition
Equestrians The BlueRibbon Coalition primarily represents motorized recreation interests, but it has many equestrian members as well. We have a long history of working with horseback riders on shared-use trails. Our local trailmachine club helped put on a horse endurance event in the 1980s. We marked the trails, rode clean-up, and generally supplied most of the volunteer support for the event. The 50-mile course was on local National Forest trails that we help maintain. We got a lot of satisfaction from sharing these trails with the horseback competitors. We've maintained contact with some of our American Endurance Riders Conference (AERC) friends over the years, and some are now members of the BlueRibbon Coalition. We've supported equestrian access, and published articles in BlueRibbon Magazine that illustrate equestrian trail users willingness to work with us on issues of common concern.
An equestrian media article, The Way I See It by Genie Stewart Spears was published in the June 1993 issue of Western Horseman. Spears maintained that discrimination against other trail users is something that horsemen can no longer afford. She wrote: "More and more trails are being closed to horses, bicyclist, and off-road vehicles while complacent recreational land users think that somebody else is taking care of the problems. And, worse yet, whenever these users do take action, they frequently seem to be pitted against one another..." Sometimes particular user groups are successful in eliminating others; however, they frequently find themselves the next to be excluded."
The trails community is being drawn together naturally by a shared love of the backcountry. Those with an anti-everyone but themselves attitude are isolating themselves from the mainstream. They are also "forcing" supporters of balanced, shared-use to work even closer together. Spears summarized the main point of her article: "Before all is lost, recreational trail users must put differences aside and unite to preserve our trails."
The BlueRibbon Coalition also believes we must unite. However, a major impediment to user cooperation on shared-use trails is the ongoing wilderness debate. We do not support new wilderness designations for two main reasons. First, it discriminates against our form of trail recreation, and precludes management options for proper resource care and protection. Because of these views, wilderness advocates accuse us of being anti-environmentalists and poor stewards of the land. The allegations are not reasonable, and they are not true.
The second reason is that the green-advocacy groups want all of our scenic areas locked up in wilderness. They deliberately downplay the fact that most forms of recreation are not allowed in wilderness. Mountain bikes are not allowed! Motorcycles and ATV's are not allowed! Snowmobiles are not allowed! 4X4s are not allowed! Even those forms of recreation that are allowed are severely restricted. Wilderness purists then attempt to kick outfitters and guides, horseback riders, and even large groups of hikers out of areas after they are designated wilderness.
For these reasons we believe that no additional Wilderness designations are justified. We feel that it is time to consider an alternative to Wilderness designation called Back Country Recreation Area (BCRA). This type of designation would allow traditional multiple-use activities with the emphasis on promoting and protecting recreation; not systematically eliminating it as in Wilderness. I have asked wilderness advocates what they think of this idea. Their response: "Sure, as soon as we get all the wilderness designated that we can."
I think that they have locked up all of the wilderness that they need, and then some. It's time to draw the line in the sand and say "NO MORE WILDERNESS." Especially if they are not willing to talk until they get all of the wilderness that they can. It's time for them to consider accommodating recreation instead of attempting to eliminate it. It's time to work together on a more reasonable alternative.
Basically the BCRA designation would provide for permanent protection of the right to use the land for the existing types of multiple-use trail recreation. By protecting the existing high quality of these areas, recreationists can continue to have some backcountry areas set aside without the threat of future loss due to a new "wilderness" designation.
Our goal is to develop a BCRA land classification proposal to the point of obtaining consensus within our user-group and support from both multiple-use recreation and the resource industries. If we get a good response from off-highway recreationists, we are willing to take this higher, and seek legislative support. We hope equestrian trail users will support this effort.
Mr. Collins is a native of Boise, Idaho. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1961 to 1965. He has been a member of Electricians Union Local #449 since 1965. He was one of the founders of the BlueRibbon Coalition in 1987, and has served as its Executive Director since 1988. He and his wife Rita have three children and five grandchildren.
The BlueRibbon Coalition has over 500 member organizations that are distributed throughout the nation. It has become recognized as a major recreation organization, and a major proponent of the "Wise Use Movement." The Coalition's motto is: "Preserving our natural heritage FOR the public instead of FROM the public."
Mr. Collins can be contacted at: BlueRibbon Coalition,
1540 North Arthur, Pocatello, ID 83204
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Updated March 15, 2007