After reading the responses to my letter, I felt that some things needed be clarified, and some questions needed to be answered. And I hope that I can answer most of them here, but if not please be aware that UFWDA representation will be at the VA meeting in Sandston next Monday the 27th.
Beware: this one will not be brief.
United Four Wheel Drive Association was organized primarily to assist and represent member associations in issues as they relate to the use of motorized vehicles on public and private lands.* UFWDA is the only four wheel drive exclusive organization in the country, all others are mixed use. Who do you think will represent our interests better, our own people, or someone that is in the business of representing others?
The Blue Ribbon Coalition is a national non-profit organization dedicated to preserving responsible recreational access to public lands and waters.* Good organization, but when it comes to where they will focus there attention, will it go to the folks that have $100,000 in donations or the ones that have 4 mil in donations. I hate to say it but the 4 million will win. And this 4 million comes from the motorcycle industry, not the 4X4 industry.
Tread Lightly is a nonprofit organization offering a variety of tools to help arm recreationists and the industries that serve them with essential outdoor ethics. Our mission is to proactively protect recreation access and opportunities in the outdoors through education and stewardship initiatives.* This is a PR machine that does a great job for us. But they are not going to fight legislation to close our public or private lands.
The Virginia Four Wheel Drive Association is a family-oriented, non-profit organization promoting safe, responsible and fun four wheeling.* This is my organization, I am an active member and I volunteer more hours than you want to know to this organization, but I know that when it comes to protecting our rights, a local organization won't cut it. We can fight locally, and might do OK for a few years, but when precedents are being set across the country in Land use cases, it won't be long before they are used on us in Virginia. And believe me, once the public lands are closed, the private lands aren't far behind. And if you think they can't mess with you on private land, think again, you might own it, but you don't control it.
Let Trout Unlimited, a national organization with more than 150,000 volunteers organized into about 400 chapters from Maine to Montana to Alaska. This dedicated grassroots army is matched by a respected staff of lawyers, policy experts and scientists, who work out of more than 30 offices nationwide"* find out that a trout stream runs through your property, or that the run off from your land feeds a stream that feeds a trout stream, runs through your land, and your off roading there, I don't think so. Money talk's people and I have seen it condemn a piece of land because a corporation was done fighting with the owner who wouldn't sell them a right of way. They got nothing now.
Last year, the UFWDA reorganized because of issues with how money was collected from its different Associate organizations. And they wanted to make it even across the board to all of the Associates. There where also management issues that had to be taken care of, but these things will not be discussed by me as it's not my place.
The restructure was put in place, and fingers crossed that the membership would understand and continue to back the organization. And some did, about five state organizations, including VA4WDA, continued with full support of UFWDA. Other state organizations decided to take the "lets wait and see what happens" approach and went for the $100 option. The difference is that every member of the VA4WDA is a member of UFWDA with full benefits and every member has voting rights. The other states are counted as one, no members benefits, the entire state gets one vote.
So what does this have to do with UFWDA needing money you ask? Well first off, we lost around 50% of our membership dues. The "lets see what happens" attitude struck a huge blow. Then because we lost 50% of our membership, it makes it harder to sell those corporate memberships. The package used to sell advertisement for the Voice, UFWDA quarterly magazine, does not look as beneficial as before, so there's more money lost. And this along with the current market accounts for around a 75% loss in revenue to the organization. Let's put some perspective to this, Trout Unlimited has annual revenue of about 20 million dollars with 150,000 members, The Blue Ribbon Coalition is about 4 million annual, and UFWDA is so much less than these it makes me wonder how they do what they do. If we got a dollar from every Trout member we could double it. How do you fight what were fighting, on a budget like that.
There are some deals in the works that sound very promising, SEMA is in two weeks and meetings have been set up to generate support. And a couple of more very competent people have stepped up to help the organization get back on the road. There are some very dedicated individuals working for us, individuals who could be out in the general work force making a good living doing what they do. But because of there love of our sport, and most of the people, they continue to sacrifice. They continue to put in those 60 to 70 hour weeks trying to get this organization back on track after others let it decline into its current state. They are still out there working for us, even after hearing some of the people they are busting there butts for, berate them. The current management of this organization did not put it into its current state; they are the ones trying to revive it.
United has not mismanaged its money since the reorganization, it has not spent it on trips to the Bahamas', or parts for there rigs. It has been spent fighting in Tellico, the outer banks, as well as other fights around the country. It has been spent trying to build back what had been neglected for so many years. Instead of bashing the hard work that's being done trying to rebuild, we need to pitch in and support them. Ask them what we can do to help. Step up and volunteer to run for an office, and make a difference.
We must remember that the United Four Wheel Drive Association is OUR organization, treat it like it. Get involved, participate on the different forums online, and get your ideas out there. If you hear about something going on, good or bad, please let everyone know. When you purchase from a vendor, see if they advertise with us, if they do thank them, if they don't tell them they should. If you don't take care of your organization no one will. And when it's gone, there is no one to blame but yourself.
As you can tell, I am passionate about my sport. I don't let it blind my judgment, but I understand how a volunteer organization works. I have done some research on what's been going on here. I don't know everything that has gone on in the past, but I know the people that are handling it right now, and I trust that they have dedicated themselves to making UFWDA the strongest organization that they can. And I stand behind them one hundred percent.
* Taken directly for the organizations website.