This may not seem much like a skill, but actually I am finding it is, especially with the reach of social media. As an example: I was recently at a photo opportunity where to keep the Jeep line perfect they wanted to smash down a bush and park on top of it. I said, "No, we can move everyone forward, but let's not run over the bush then take a picture of it for the Rangers to add to their file of reasons why offroaders are harmful to the land." I don't think the person that suggested the move meant any ill harm, as they quickly understood what I was saying, but if I hadn't spoke up we would have had one more point against us as the picture hit the internet.
It is our job as offroaders to respect the land that we are given to recreate on and Pack It Out. It's ok to have a voice and help people be responsible. Sometimes we all get distracted in the heat of the moment and need a gentle reminder.
Leaving No Trace
I recently read a Boy Scouts manual and even they talk about Leaving No Trace. While offroading we understand that we are taking a vehicle into a designated area. How we deal with that designated area is how we will be perceived by others.
This is a good outline to follow, as listed by Tread Lightly! + I added a few extra items to the bullets to consider...
Travel Responsibly on land by staying on designated roads, trails and area. Go over, not around, obstacles to avoid widening the trails. Cross streams only at designated fords. When possible, avoid wet, muddy trails. On water, stay on designated waterways and launch your watercraft in designated areas.
Respect the Rights of Others including private property owners, all recreational trail users, campers and others so they can enjoy their recreational activities undisturbed. Leave gates as you found them - either open or closed. Slow for any animals. Yield the right of way to those passing going uphill. On water, respect anglers, swimmers, skiers, boaters, divers and those on or near shore.
Educate Yourself prior to your trip by obtaining travel maps and regulations from public agencies. Plan for your trip, take recreation skills classes and know how to operate your equipment safely. Know the basics of wilderness survival and first aid.
Avoid Sensitive Areas on land such as meadows, lakeshores, wetlands and streams. Stay on designated routes. This protects wildlife habitats and sensitive soils from damage. Don’t disturb historical, archeological or paleontological sites. On water, avoid operating your watercraft in shallow waters or near shorelines at high speeds.
Do Your Part by modeling appropriate behavior, leaving the area better than you found it, properly disposing of waste, minimizing the use of fire, avoiding the spread of invasive species and repairing degraded areas.
Why not look cool helping keep the trails clean and rid of garbage? It is unfortunate but more times than not you will run across trash on the trail. In my experience it hasn't necessarily been from offroaders, but as good citizens we will clean up after these other groups.
I have to give a shout out to Spiderweb Shades who has given a new meaning to a cool looking trash bag. Check them out. Notice there are a lot of different colors to match your vehicle.
There are also Trasharoo bags that fit more snugly. Check them out. They come in earth tone colors for overlanders.
Even when dirt biking I have a backpack or butt pack on that I pack out my trash, and sometimes we even have enough room to pick up others trash. What a disappointment when this happens, but you have to look at the positive that you are making a difference!
Here is one of my pet peeves...are you ready?!?! I clearly love social media and the ability to help us share information, cool pictures and exciting times. However, it can also backfire on us as off-roaders. There is a rule of thumb on what is right and wrong - technically you know these elements - most are common sense. If you don't, feel free to ask me, or someone that is around you while in the specific situation. We need to watch our pictures of the "wrong". Supporting and promoting something that is going to hurt us as a community of offroaders isn't awesome and isn't going to get you brownie points from fellow club members that work hard to keep the trail open that you just helped getting one step closer to being shut down.
Parking off the trail is the most simple example of wrong. It feels right. You are pulling out of the way of traffic, but you are also driving over vegetation that shouldn't be driven over. Try to find a place that you can pull off without any damage. Being realistic, there may not be such an environment so either park on the trail, or don't take a picture of your lunch spot. Things happen. You don't need to highlight them.
If you are looking for an organization to support, or to make a difference there are multiple options. Blue Ribbon Coalition just celebrated 30 years of fighting land-use battles for all offroaders - 4x4, ATV, UTV, MC and Snowmobile. There is also Tread Lightly! who has a slightly different message and ORBA: Off Road Business Association that works with the industry businesses. NOVCC and SEMA are also involved. Then there are the land-use organizations that are more regional to a state, region or specific area - I found this pretty comprehensive list of land-use groups at www.orba.biz/ohv-organizations.
The money that these organizations collect go towards specific projects and fighting legal battles. Yes, there have been wins! Thanks to the organizations above we have been able to maintain multiple properties of land to recreate on that would have otherwise been shut down.
On a personal note, for the ladies reading this thinking you are of no value. I have had multiple conversations with land-use organizations that would LOVE for ladies to get involved in their organizations. They know that we are organized, scheduled and have a lot of value to add. Although there most land-use groups are primarily men, don't be discouraged to getting involved!
I think we all try. And then there is that guy. I support multiple land use groups and remind offroaders on a daily basis of our responsibility. It's ok to speak up...or if you don't want to, then just clean up. Think about if your budget or time can support and help a land-use group either at the national or local level. Sometimes your time to help on a trail or project is more important that money, so don't fret, just look to see how you can help!
Author: Charlene Bower
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