BAKERSFIELD, CA (June 29, 2007) – The Off-Road Business Association (ORBA) and the BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) have learned that the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), recently announced the formation of Rangers for Responsible Recreation, which, according to PEER is a “coalition of more than a dozen of America’s most seasoned law enforcement and natural resource management specialists.” PEER and the newly-formed organization are asking for a “National Call to Action to address law enforcement threats on public lands.” PEER has expressly singled out OHV users as the dominant threat and the group most in need of more aggressive law enforcement action.
ORBA and BRC take issue with PEER’s attempt to make OHV users the villains and scapegoats for the many problems that currently exist on America’s public lands. PEER and the “Rangers” fail to recognize that the vast majority of OHV use that occurs on public lands is done in a responsible manner. ORBA and BRC challenge both groups to join the OHV community in a collaborative effort to address rogue users of all types who choose to recreate irresponsibly and damage the resources we all wish to preserve for future generations.
ORBA and BRC are very familiar with the challenges involved with OHV recreation on public lands. Only by working together will we find solutions to these problems that will result in managed off-road recreation and environmental protection. “This looks like more of the same crisis mongering from PEER and we challenge this new group to work with the OHV community instead of demanding massive closures via lawsuit,” states Brian Hawthorne, BRC’s Public Lands Policy Director.
Bill Dart, Director of Land Use for ORBA said, “The solution to this problem is not to demonize each other, as PEER has done by using the term “Wreckreation,” but to work together on these issues to safeguard the future of responsible OHV recreation and protect the environment.” One solution not mentioned on the PEER website is to make the areas currently available for OHV recreation more user friendly by providing maps, trail guides and good on the ground signage. These solutions cost money and we would like PEER and Rangers for Responsible Recreation to join us in asking for the appropriate funds to manage these recreation areas so that resource damage is reduced or eliminated.
Bringing former land managers and law enforcement personnel to the table in an effort to solve these problems is an interesting concept, especially since these same folks largely created the situation that confronts us today. These officials are well aware that the agencies they used to work for did not respond to the need for increased OHV recreational opportunities. In essence, these agencies, by directing funds away from OHV recreation and instituting one closure after another, have caused many of the problems that PEER and the Rangers now want to blame on OHV users.
In order to find a solution to these complicated and often controversial issues we need to understand the problem. In a recent Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) the BLM states that between 1980 and 2001, there has been an increase of 108 percent of the registered OHVs in California. The DEIS goes on to state that between 1994 and 2001, there has been an increase of 74 percent of street licensed four-wheel drive vehicles. However, during this same period of time – 1980 to 2001— there has been a 48 percent decrease in the amount of land available for OHV recreation. This has resulted in the “ghetto-ization” of vehicle recreation, with more and more people pushed onto smaller parcels of land. It is no wonder that resource values in these areas have suffered; it is also no wonder that the emergence of camping and OHV “ghettos” has led to trespassing and additional resource damage by those who do not wish to comply with the increasingly stringent limitations on use We can either ignore these facts and continue to watch outdoor recreation deteriorate, or we can find new and better approaches to the land use challenges that currently confront all who enjoy visiting the deserts, mountains, and forests of this country. We invite PEER and the Rangers to join us in taking the latter course.