February is this magazine's birthday month, and this time around, we've edged just a little bit closer to our golden anniversary, which takes place 12 months from now. Obviously, a great deal has changed in our world since then, from the way we publish magazines to the way we read them (in print? online? on an e-reader?) to the vehicles we drive to the methods we use to modify them.
One thing that hasn't changed much at all over the last 49 years is the need for us to continue to be responsible citizens on the trail, to be good stewards of the environment whenever we're Out There, to be vigilant in the face of potential trail closures, and to get ourselves organized to lobby for access to public lands. We covered this topic in depth last November, and it's been of keen interest to us since Day 1. Literally-here's an excerpt from the very first Four Wheeler editor's column, published in February 1962.
"There are literally thousands of persons who will be four-wheeling in the future," founder Bob Ames wrote. "These newcomers will have to be educated to safe driving, good conservation and just plain good backcountry manners or the entire sport of four-wheeling stands a good chance of being legislated out of existence.
"Personally, I think . . . that the greatest danger to the sport of backcountry driving is the 'lobo' four-wheeler. He drives alone and is often deliberately careless about where he drives and what he does.
"A set of jeep tracks across forbidden lands are unmistakable. They are often irrefutable evidence that a four-wheeler has committed an unpardonable sin by destroying property, defiling a stream or littering a parking lot.
"If there is an organized four-wheel drive club within a hundred miles, they usually get the blame. For they are the only ones who admit that their pastime is backcountry driving. That is often conclusive proof to many people that club is responsible. That the organized four-wheeler actually does the reverse-by cleaning up campgrounds, protecting trails, and obeying every law is overlooked or completely disregarded.
"To change these erroneous opinions and to help change the 'lobo' into a responsible enthusiast are two goals that Four Wheeler and every member of its staff is dedicated to. We will constantly work to see that the organized four-wheeler receives recognition for what he really is-a good citizen at all times."
Forty-nine years later, we still think that's a pretty good mission statement for our magazine-and a good philosophy to abide by for backcountry living.
While we're proud of our own legacy, we've always got an eye trained on the future, and next month, to kick off our 50th year in publication, we're proudly unveiling the "new" Four Wheeler, with new columns and departments, some candid takes on the four-wheeling scene from some familiar faces, and a fresh new look and attitude: Just what the doctor ordered for the next 50 years.