Recreational Access and Conservation - Land and Access Columns
| Introduction | News | Notices | Activities | Education | Forums | Columns | Links |

Dedicated to conservation and multiple use of public lands for recreation opportunities

Edited by: John Stewart

Secret Trails

by: John Stewart, Director of Environmental Affairs, UFWDA

BLM Wilderness Boundary Marker, Argus Range, CA
Photo by: John Stewart

Image: Pipes Canyon Road - Gated and Closed

Will promoting local trails ultimately kill them? Will the wrong people show up and trash our trails? Can too much awareness of our sport (the hobby that we are all so passionate about) undermine its existence. Should trail riding areas and our favorite backcountry roads remain "our dirty little secret"?"

And, just what is this "dirty little secret"??

The question should not be in terms of to post or not to post information about trails. The ultimate issue is ACCESS to trails; whether they are on private property or public lands. What is crucial to the discussion is an understanding of the opposition to motorized (mechanical) recreation.

Everyone needs to become familiar with the message wilderness advocates are saying and forget about whether they want to publicize a trail or not.

The major issue recreation faces is a move to re-wild 50% of North America to pre-Columbia times. For those unable to define "pre-Columbian", that is the state of North America prior to Columbus and his voyage of 1492.

Laugh and the world laughs with you. Ignore this issue and you will be crying alone. Your sons and daughters will never know the experience of a campfire on a summer evening under a blanket of stars.

Currently, California is facing a wilderness initiative that calls for 2.5 million acres to be "protected". That effort is expected to be revived when the 107th Congress begins session. Projections are that it will increase in scope; as much as 12 million acres is rumored to be included in future versions.

Similar wilderness initiatives are being prepared for New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and other states. These efforts are part of a larger plan called "The Wildlands Project" which is detailed at the follwoing web sites:

The Wildlands Project web site:

The California Wilderness Coalition (California Wilderness Campaign) touts its support of the Wildlands Project on its web site:

To gain a deeper understanding of history and ideology of the Wildlands Project, which has its roots in the Earth First! movement, visit the following web site:

This site provides information on the Wildlands Project using the words of the founders of the movement, including Dave Forman, one of the founders of Earth First!:!.html

Wilderness bills, as well as the movement to remove Dams and Reservoir’s, is just a part of the agenda to bring the Wildlands Project to fruition.

Earth First! describes this campaign on their web site:

As these last two sites reveal, Dave Forman and his followers have no clue as to what will happen to the millions of citizens affected by their (and the main stream environmental organization's goal) to bring the Wildlands Project to fruition, to depopulate 50 percent of the United States and apply restrictions similar or more severe than the Wilderness Act.

No sane person would argue against protecting the environment. Where the danger lies is how you go about it. Do you look to technology and realistic methods to achieve it? Or, do you depopulate regions (displace millions of people) to go backward and return 50 percent of the U.S. to its "natural" state before the Europeans arrived?

The campaign to deconstruct the dams on the Colorado River, Columbia River, Snake River, and other rivers throughout the U.S. will have tremendous impact on our water supplies. The impact is critical in western states which are already facing water shortages. The arid southwestern states of Utah, Arizona, Nevada, as well as California, depend on the water these dams provide to sustain our cities and towns. All western states will have a tremendous impact on energy supplies when the hydroelectric capacity is removed.

As it is now, the need for water around the world is a crisis situation. Mexico already owes us millions of gallons of water we can’t collect. We are currently experiencing drought across the U.S. and are in constant threat of it here in Southern California. The goals of the Wildlands Project and the main stream environmental movement will only add to this crisis. Everyone has head the words of the "energy crisis".

How bad is the drought in the west? Governor Bill Owens of Colorado wants more dams built in order to retain more water for Colorado to deal with the drought at the expense of the states (Arizona, Utah, Nevada and California) below Colorado:,1413,36%257E23447%257E798823,00.html

In the same article, environmentalist claim they aren’t to blame for the drought because "The reservoirs we have aren't full, and if we had other ones, they would also be nearly empty."

Their policies of pursuing the agenda of removing he existing dams and reservoirs will only make this drought and future droughts worse by removing the capacity to store water.

But, the effects on our economy, national security, and way of life as we know it are not their concerns. As Dave Forman stated:

"We must make this an insecure and inhospitable place for capitalists and their projects... We must reclaim the roads and plowed land, halt dam construction, tear down existing dams, free shackled rivers and return to wilderness millions of tens of millions of acres of presently settled land." -- David Foreman, Earth First! Confessions of an Eco-Warrior

John Davis, editor of Wild Earth Magazine explains the Wildlands Project this way.

"Does all the foregoing mean that Wild Earth and The Wildlands Project advocate the end of industrialized civilization? Most assuredly. Everything civilized must go..." -- John Davis, editor of Wild Earth magazine.

Well known anti-mountain bike crusader Michael J. Vandeman is a supporter of the Wildlands Project. He and his followers are well known flamers on mountain bike message boards. Check out his web site at:

On the right hand side of this page are all the activities he wants to ban from the forest. At least he doesn’t discriminate, he wants to ban hiking and rafting also. Check out the other info on his site and you’ll see references to other supporters of the Wildlands Project.

The mainstream environmental movement’s campaign for the Roadless Initiative, their opposition to President Bush’s Health Forest Initiative and active forest management, and the many lawsuits filed to close off areas by the Center for Biological Diversity and others are also part of this campaign.

Now, you say this does not apply as your wheeling opportunities are on discontinued roads and private lands??

I do request that you review the information about The Wildlands Project. It matters not whether you are referencing BLM or Forest Service or private lands or lands managed by a conservancy or a state.

I would suggest you review what is happening in Maine with the various conservancies in other states that are holding private land in trust for "public" benefit. Those conservancies are the means to enact the Wildlands Project using private land acquisitions.

A classic example is playing out in Florida right now:

Note that currently, Florida is about 10% government and 90% private with respect to land ownership. According to the grand plan as outlined under the Wildlands Project, the land ownership is expected to shift to 90% government and 10% private. The long range plan is based on a 100 year evolution.

Now, compare that to what is happening in Maine and other New England states today. While you believe your wheeling is at the grassroots level using discontinued roads and private property, you need to keep in mind that those discontinued roads and private property are a rapidly diminishing source of wheeling opportunities.

Right now, the west is a major battleground. Once controls to access of public lands are secured, controls to private lands will follow. While the prime interest is on preserving "wilderness characteristics" of public lands, the core battle is motorized recreation; on public lands or private lands.

The fight for access to public lands will not be solely in the western states. The eastern states have many of the votes necessary for public land closure. As closure to public lands increases, so do restrictions to recreation on private lands.

They are interrelated. The Wildlands Project is the linkage. North American habitat for all wildlife, including large carnivores, is the goal: 50% of North America in pre-Columbian forest lands.

Do the math. Where do humans and recreation fit into the scheme?

The questions remain: Will promoting local trails ultimately kill them? Will the wrong people show up and trash our trails? Can too much awareness of our sport (the hobby that we are all so passionate about) undermine its existence. Should trail riding areas and our favorite backcountry roads remain "our dirty little secret"?"

Our sport is in the cross-hairs of wilderness zealots. It matters not whether you ride a mountain bike, drive a 4x4, ride a dirt bike, use a wheel chair, or any other form of mechanical means for "off-highway" recreation. The use of public lands for recreation and extraction of critical natural resources is the target.

Even "non-mechanical" means of recreation face restrictions. Rock climbers are passionate about their sport and the physical challenge of climbing a sheer rock wall. Their climbs cannot be achieved without placement of "anchors" in the rock. These "anchors" are a "mechanical means" thereby limiting the access the non-motorized recreationist has to public lands.

It matters not whether you publicize trails or attempt to keep them secret. The wildlands advocates know the lands they want protected. You have nothing to say about their plans. They are in the dictators chair. Your keeping "dirty little secrets" is playing right into their stacked deck.

Keep your trail secret, only you will know that it no longer exists. No one but you will know the recreation opportunity you have lost. Publicize your trail and many people will know when it no longer exists. Continued access to private lands depends on continued access to public lands.

Endangered Trail List - Is your favorite trail endangered? Let us know.

Note: Chris Vargas of The Warrior's Society contributed to this article.

Related Articles: Related Links: