Cohesion: The First Step in Securing the Off-Highway World for the next Generation.
In the modern world of 2005 there is more information available to us faster than ever before. If something happens in North Carolina, it’s being discussed moments later on an internet forum in Washington State. To an extent that makes it easier and easier for people to share information, issues, ideas and pure opinion than anytime in history.
Even though more people than ever are reading forums, logging onto the internet to browse sites dedicated to off-highway motorized recreation, joining larger organizations and are offering their opinions, the word about working together as one cohesive unit is still not getting out to the masses or in many cases to the organizations that represent us. We as a community fail miserably in a combined effort to get a unified message out about who we are, what we do and why motorized recreation is a viable pastime that should be supported not shunned.
Cohesion: by dictionary definition “The act, process, or condition of cohering: exhibited strong cohesion in the family unit. The state of cohering or sticking together.”
To me Cohesion in the motorized community means working together; something I don’t think the community does very well today. Our community has grown ten-fold over the last few years and is still changing; but it is a community that has a hard time understanding itself or even what direction it may be headed in. The simple fact is that we don’t have an unlimited growth capacity and we need to monitor that growth and provide a message to those outside the community that we are concerned about the future. We also should be providing a message to those inside the community that we will police ourselves and action will be taken against those that limit our recreational opportunities.
Today there are a plethora of organizations that are looking out for motorized recreation. While I believe that each of them do their own “little bit of good” (or perhaps “big bit of good”), in many areas I don’t feel very much cohesion between any of these organizations. And frankly speaking, at least a few of them are more interested in their own bottom lines and their own personal welfare than the community they “represent”.
Something you may be very surprised to know: while there are some very good groups out there at the regional and/or state levels that are working wonders - with a few exceptions, these organizations rarely ever feed their land use concerns and legal / legislative issues any farther than their local representatives or members. Infrequently do the National Organizations even hear about local issues – even though the National Organizations may have a way to work that issue from the top down. Obviously they can’t help if they don’t know what’s going on.
It might also interest you to know that the larger Regional / National and even International organizations don’t communicate any better amongst themselves. In fact, many times when they do communicate it’s only after different individuals have contacted different organizations and they merely end up working on the same issue so they coordinate their efforts and move forward - not because of any grand plan to work together.
My experience with the majority of National Organizations has not been stellar, and I am in no way stating that to take anything away from them. For the most part, these organizations are indeed tasked with an impossible job; short on staff, short on volunteers; short on experience and of course, short on money.
The make-up and structure of these organizations is quite varied. Some have fully paid staff; some are privately funded, others are funded by grants and/or government agencies; some rely on donations while others choose membership fees to pay their way; some use entirely volunteer efforts including volunteer boards. I could go on and on about the differences, but I won’t. The most important thing that these organizations provide is that they choose to work for you in a capacity to “keep the trails open” for your recreation and enjoyment.
Today I give these organizations (including United) not more than an average of a “C” or “C-“ in cohesiveness to other organizations. I do, however, think that by working “better together” and improving access to information (including land use, legal and legislative communication) that the majority of these organizations could work “better together” and it would help all the organizations to keep costs down, access up and a to provide better cohesive feeling across the community. This in turn could pull everyone’s grade up a few notches and make the community much stronger and much healthier than it is today.
So now what? Now that I’ve pointed this out what should we do about it? Well my dad always told me that if you were going to offer up a problem, no matter how obvious it should be that it was only “whining” if you didn’t provide at least an idea for a solution.
In my humble opinion there should be a forum (dictionary definition: a public meeting or presentation involving a discussion usually among experts) for these organizations and the organizations that they support to discuss these topics and share advice from their legal / legislative representatives. I fully understand that there are issues that cannot be discussed and I also understand that not all of these organizations are going to agree every step of the way. I also know that this would be difficult at best to get started; but, I feel the benefits greatly outweigh the detriments. I believe by doing this many of these organizations may be able to free up resources to propel motorized recreation into the future.
The first step would be to get the various organizations to provide a representative to participate in a VERY formal round-table discussion about how to proceed. One outcome should be a way for State and Regional Associations to feed information into that forum. There should be output from that forum to the public to talk about what’s happening across the region/country/globe. This output may be in many different forms, but provided in such a way that it makes it easy for people to grasp the details they need.
For example as one off shoot of “working better” together I could (and hope to) see a shared national advertising campaign about the benefits that motorized recreation has to offer to family, the environment and our own personal lives.
Now I know that many of these organizations have their own internal (and perhaps external) issues to deal with. They have their own charters, visions and missions. Ultimately if there is a time when our personal recreation choices become limited to what we choose to do on our own property (which may also be limited), then all of that becomes mostly a moot point.
Let me add that steps large and small are being taken everyday to achieve a better cohesiveness across many of these organizations. 90% of those heavily involved in motorized land use met in 2002 and came to an agreement in regards to a 100 year plan for recreation. Over the last 2 years many national organizations have worked collectively on a number of national issues including the BLM Recreation Summit, BLM Special Use Permit Regulations and USFS National Rulemaking (Roadless, Transportation, Planning and most recently OHV Route Designation). These are all big efforts of a combined motorized recreation community and they help to illustrate that if we work together in a cohesive fashion we can be much bigger then the sum of our parts.
Over the next few months I intend to present my ideas to the national organizations that work to look out for all of our motorized recreational needs. I want to see and understand if I (we) can find a way to improve this communication between friends - to find a way to make the Off-Highway community stronger, more efficient, and ultimately an environment that can work together for the future of our Sport/Pastime. By doing this we would create a cohesive entity that can react and move as one.