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4 Wheel Drive Trails - Environmental Concerns - 4Word

Posted in Features on December 25, 2006
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A few days before writing this editorial, I had just returned from a very nice anniversary event with a time-honored four-wheel-drive club. The event was held inside a state park, and to my amazement there were still four-wheel-drive trails left open in this park. How long they will remain open is, of course, a mystery. The name of the park isn't important, but I will tell you more about this spectacular place in next month's issue.

While sitting in the hotel bar after a fun day on the trail, I ran face-to-face into my first anti-four-wheeling environmentalist. Her immediate goal, other then saving the world, was to keep crazed four-wheel adventurers off any existing trail inside her park. Her comment went something like "it's just too hard to police the area. The only solution is to shut down the trails to all vehicular traffic."

This chance meeting would more than likely have been a dream come true for quite a few enthusiasts (especially after downing a couple of beers), but being the reserved individual that I am (ahem), I did my best to maintain a dignified professional composure. I had to. After all, how would it look in the next day's liberal daily news headlines if I let my emotions get the best of me? "Out-of-control national editor goes crazy on poor, defenseless environmentalist just trying to save the world."

The fact is, she didn't have a clue about any of the things four-wheel organizations, manufacturers, and individuals do to promote responsible land use. She didn't even know about natural environmental changes and weather conditions that affect landscape and terrain. She was completely close-minded and didn't want to know anything other than what she was led to believe. There is not a single thing I could have said that would have swayed her views.

A couple of points she touted may have constituted a slight environmental concern but nothing that warranted land closures. We all know that there are a select few out on the trail who are only concerned for themselves, but the vast majority of us are more than responsible. If she didn't have an answer for one of my legitimate questions, she would side-step it and launch into another supposed environmental catastrophe caused by off-road enthusiasts - the perfect politician! The most disconcerting part of this encounter was that she wholeheartedly believed every inaccurate statement she was making, right down to the last drop of fabricated misinformation. I can only imagine what goes on at environmental extremist rallies. I visualize a group of crazies chanting anti-land-access slogans to the hypnotic tick of a metronome. Good little soldiers keeping in step with one another. In my opinion, the vast majority of propaganda that spewed from her piehole was scripted drivel.

In the past, I have written how we as enthusiasts are perceived by environmentalists. Some of what I had written was personal opinion, but in this case she proved that my opinion was fact. She lumped every single four-wheel-drive enthusiast into one category: irresponsible. If there were one beer can left on a trail or evidence that someone had driven off a trail, we were ALL responsible. She didn't care about the hard-working, responsible people who use the trails with care. She couldn't concern herself with the families that build a lifetime of memories on the trail with their children. She was only driven by one thing: preserving a land that very few people would ever be able to visit or explore if she had her way.

This is why each and every time we roll off the pavement we need to be responsible. What we consider a little fun can be construed by these environmentalist groups as malicious and wanton destruction of public property by roving hooligans. If you live in the West, feel very fortunate that you have off-highway trails to drive your four-wheel-drive vehicles. In some of the East Coast states, off-highway recreation is virtually nonexistent. Just think for a moment of the economic impact to the industry as a whole if we are denied access to public lands.

Maybe I shouldn't be so harsh, she has every right to protect public lands. So do we, but unlike her we like to use these lands for recreation other than walking on foot. I can understand wanting to protect the environment - I am not here to destroy it, nor am I here to abuse it. You and I have an inherent, legal right to access and enjoy our public lands. So get involved with an organization that is fighting for your rights to enjoy the natural wonders this great country has to offer.

Happy Trails,
Kevin McNulty
kevin.mcnulty@sourceinterlink.com

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