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Off-Road Notes - Editorial Column

Posted in Features on November 2, 2006
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I have to admit that when the Hummer H3 appeared on the scene, I was underwhelmed. After driving the H1 off-road, other Hummer designs just didn't do much for me. This year at SEMA, Rancho won the design award for its H3 suspension, and Rough Country introduced its innovative and competent H3 system. Both of these suspensions allow the use of 37-inch tires and not only lift the H3, but also help it to work well off-road. AmStar introduced its new Wilderness Ready H3 that's available through your local Hummer dealer and can be built with DOT-approved bead-lock wheels, front and rear ELockers, body armor that really works, and numerous racks and other storage options. Even with its anemic five-cylinder mill, the H3 is looking pretty good to the backcountry explorer.

In this issue, you'll find a feature on the AmStar H3. Also, check out the tech feature on Rod Hall Racing's new H3 racer. Jay Kopycinski was allowed unprecedented access to GM's Arizona skunkworks where he was able to follow the buildup and get the scoop on how those in the know build an extremely competitive H3, which is winning almost every race it's entered. Make sure you also peruse James Weber's feature on Robby Gordon's Dakar H3. Robby had some bad luck in Africa, but that doesn't detract from his driving ability or from the fact that his H3 is impressive. This month, Off-Road shows you that the H3 isn't an off-road wannabe.

On another topic, in the old days, when I was Editor of 4 WHEEL DRIVE & SPORT UTILITY MAGAZINE, I would get pretty hot about land-use abuses that kept us off our public land. I was younger then and didn't have the sense to control my tirades, making for some interesting fireworks back then. I'm now much older and exhibit much better control.

Yeah, right.

I am much older, but do I have more control? No. I can't hold it in anymore. Going driving off-road anywhere these days brings us in contact with new rules and abuses that our public land managers are using to keep us out of the backcountry. For example, in southern Utah there's a place called Canaan Mountain. This is a beautiful area where pioneers built a sawmill and ran a logging operation to get timber for the surrounding settlements. There are the remains of two windlass setups, one on the north and one of the south side of the plateau, where logs were lowered off cliffs 2,000 feet high. The views of Zion National Park to the north are superb. This is a spectacular place.

The Canaan Mountain area falls under the jurisdiction of both Kane and Washington Counties in southern Utah. The area is managed by the BLM. Both counties say that the roads are open into this area. The BLM claims the roads are closed and tickets anyone it can catch traveling those roads. Notice I said "roads." That's right, the old logging (and later cattle-ranching) roads are still there and passable. Talk about RS 2477 claims waiting to happen! The BLM says that Canaan Mountain is wilderness. Sorry, BLM, the legal definition of wilderness says that an area has to be at least "5,000 contiguous roadless acres" to be considered a wilderness area. Canaan Mountain is crisscrossed with machine-built roads and two-track trails.

"OK," the BLM says, "it's not a legal wilderness, so let's make it a Wilderness Study Area and manage it as wilderness, keeping out everyone on wheels."

Sorry again, BLM, you aren't allowed (legally) to manage Wilderness Study Areas as wilderness. If you were, you'd just designate anywhere you wanted as a WSA to keep out everyone. Wait a minute, that's exactly what you ARE doing

I thought that under Gale Norton, the Department of the Interior would show some signs of intelligent public land management. This hasn't happened. If anything, land management has gotten worse under this administration than it's ever been! Even when the BLM manager (the person in charge) of an area has some sense of fairness, as, in fact, Jim Crisp does in southwestern Utah, individual rangers with their own agendas run rampant, harassing the public in the backcountry. We have to fight for our rights, not only individually, but also by supporting groups like the BlueRibbon Coalition and CORVA.

Can we gain access to our public land again? I sure hope so

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