A few months ago, Tread Lightly! commemorated its 20th anniversary in business as a nonprofit organization. This May, I personally had the good fortune of celebrating my 20th year of employment with Tread Lightly!, Inc. Next to motherhood and chocolate (anything chocolate), working within the outdoor recreation community has been one of the greatest joys of my life. It’s been a Rubicon of a ride, and I feel especially lucky that Tread Lightly! has been the vehicle that has allowed me to work at a job doing something I love—promoting the values of good stewardship to ensure outdoor recreation endures as an American way of life.
Looking forward, I see many opportunities among the challenges the outdoor recreation community faces. And have no doubt about it—the outdoor recreation community, especially the OHV community, faces some serious challenges on multiple fronts to protect our existing access, and in turn our opportunities to enjoy America’s great outdoors.
The last few years have been especially challenging for most Americans and it was no exception within Tread Lightly!. With rising gas prices and constant natural disasters, the economic recovery is sure to slow, but Tread Lightly! is actually experiencing a bright spot. For the first time in 20 years, our membership has doubled in the last year.
Education & Training: Millions of people visit our website each year to learn what exactly they’re supposed to be doing to “tread lightly.” Four-wheel drivers, ATV riders, hunters and hikers can all get quick tips on how to minimize their environmental impacts and social conflicts. We currently address 18 different recreation activities and common recreation issues, such as sharing the trails. You can also watch how-to videos or download more detailed guidebooks for responsible use.
We also have our Tread Trainer program designed to create a cadre of volunteers espousing the importance of treading lightly, and allowing Tread Lightly!’s small staff to reach more people than we could ever hope to reach on our own. If you don’t have time for a training course in person, anyone can go through Tread Lightly!’s free 30-minute online course to learn how to put minimum impact techniques into practice on the ground the next time you’re outdoors.
Communications & Information: In late 2009, Tread Lightly! began a fantastic new public awareness campaign called “Respected Access is Open Access.” We actually started at the request of the shooting and hunting community, but it has grown to address the big ethics issues in the OHV world. Feedback so far has been phenomenal. Litter, straying from the trail, trespassing, invasive species—Tread Lightly! is working to eradicate these problems to prevent environmental damage and closure of our favorite off-roading spots. You’ll be seeing more and more of these messages in your favorite magazines and websites—and soon, on more than 250 trailhead kiosks around the country.
Restoration for Recreation: Near and dear to my heart is “Restoration for Recreation”—a program to restore, enhance, or help maintain recreational opportunities on the ground. Thanks to a partnership with Quadratec, Tread Lightly! has recently announced a new Stewardship Grand Program. Up to $500 can be awarded to help with a volunteer-based clean-up or trail maintenance-type project. If you or your club needs help, please don’t hesitate to apply for a grant.
What Can You Do To Protect Your Access?: Make your voice heard. There are a lot of new policies and procedures, rules and regulations being implemented from Washington, D.C. Pay close attention to things like President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, the U.S. Forest Service’s proposed new planning rule, BLM’s new Wildlands policy, or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s new Vision policy. Every one of these endeavors has to potential to limit and/or severely curtail access to our public lands. It’s your right to comment on these new plans and policies and help shape the outcomes.
Do your part. Commit to being a good steward and ambassador for outdoor recreation. Join Tread Lightly!’s army of responsible recreationists, and in addition to acquiring the tools to minimize your environment impacts and social conflicts, get great discounts off vehicle insurance, tires—even a new vehicle like a Jeep if you’re in the market.
Give voluntarily of your time and money. America needs help, not just financially, but through helping hands. If you love America’s great outdoors and accessing it for fun and enjoyment, by all means, your help is needed. And the time to act is now, because we are in very real danger of losing more recreation access and opportunities all across this great nation. Volunteer to conduct maintenance or clean-up projects on public lands. If you would like to give directly to Tread Lightly! to help initiate Restoration for Recreation projects on the ground and further develop an ethic of responsible use within the outdoor recreation community, please consider donating $5 by texting “TREAD” to “20222.” We promise to put your money to good work and to benefit you and your access to outdoor recreation.
About Lori McCullough
Lori McCullough is the Executive Director of Tread Lightly!, a nonprofit organization focused on protecting recreation access and opportunities in the outdoors through ethics education and stewardship initiatives. Tread Lightly!’s core focus is on people who need access to enjoy motorized recreation and people who need motorized access to enjoy non-motorized recreation.