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Ongoing discussion of recreation and environmental issues affecting California

Environmental news and information for recreation advocates
Environmental news and information for recreation advocates

Discussion forums covering a variety of 4x4 model technical issues and general recreation topics
Discussion forums covering 4x4 technical issues and general recreation topics

Recreation Advocate

The OutdoorWire family websites feature news and information affecting outdoor recreation opportunities and access to public lands. 

Secret Trails

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 little secret"?"

And, just what is this "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 tenet recreation faces is a move to re-wild 50% of North America to pre-Columbia times.  For those unable to envision "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.

California is facing multiple wilderness initiatives that call for over 2.5 million acres to be "protected".  Similar wilderness initiatives are being prepared for New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Washington, and other states.  

These efforts are part of a larger plan wilderness advocates refer to as "The Wildlands Project”.  A variety of organizations, such as California Wilderness Coalition, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, and many others, support the Wildlands Project tenet of providing areas of biological diversity where access is highly restricted.

The history and ideology of the Wildlands Project, which has its roots in the Earth First! movement, promotes wilderness bills as well as the move to remove dams and reservoirs as a part of the agenda to bring the concept to fruition.  That concept is to return North America to a condition prior to the arrival of Columbus in 1492.

The proponents have no clue as to what will happen to the millions of citizens affected by their goal to bring the Wildlands Project to fruition.  That goal is to depopulate 50 percent of the United States and apply restrictions to land access similar to 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 and cost effective 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?  What man has invented, man cannot un-invent.

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 and electrical supplies with resulting impact on our lifestyles.  The impact is critical in western states already facing water shortages. The arid southwestern states of Utah, Arizona, Nevada as well as California, depend on the water and energy these dams provide to sustain our cities and towns.  All western states will experience a tremendous impact on energy supplies when the hydroelectric capacity is removed.  And, western states are experiencing unprecedented population growth which is compounding the impacts.

As it is now, the need for water around the nation is a crisis situation.  We are currently experiencing prolonged drought across the western U.S. and are in constant wildfire threat in sever drought areas. The goals of the Wildlands Project, and the mainstream environmental movement, will only compound this crisis.

How bad is the drought in the west? In an article published in the Denver Post, Governor Bill Owens of Colorado wanted more dams built in order to retain more water for Colorado to deal with the drought at the expense of other states (Arizona, Utah, Nevada and California) below Colorado.

In the same article, environmentalists claim “they” are not to blame for the drought and lack of water because “The reservoirs we have aren't full, and if we had other ones, they would also be nearly empty."

The environmental movement policies of pursuing an agenda of removing the 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 concern.  As Dave Forman, co-founder of Earth First! 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..."

Well-known anti-mountain bike crusader Michael J. Vandeman is a supporter of the Wildlands Project and wants to ban bicycles from public lands. At least he doesn’t discriminate; he also wants to ban hiking and rafting.

The mainstream environmental movement’s campaign for the Roadless Initiative, their opposition to the Health Forest Initiative and active forest management, and the many lawsuits filed to close off areas to recreationists 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??

Review the information about The Wildlands Project.  It matters not whether you are referencing BLM or Forest Service or private lands or other lands managed by another state or federal agency or conservancy.

Review what is happening in Maine with the various conservancies 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.  In 1990, Florida was 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.

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 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, or use 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-motorized” recreation faces 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”, targeted for restriction, 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 dictator’s chair.  Your keeping "little secrets" is playing right into their stacked deck.

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

Keeping trails “secret” ensures they will not become part of the recreation opportunity spectrum.  Keeping trails accessible only to a few special and technical capable vehicles ensures the loss of those trails.

Times are changing.  We cannot go back to the future.  Our challenge for the future is to publicize our trails and educate fellow wheelers of the importance of caring for our trails.

Still skeptical?  You say it will never happen?  Learn from history.  How many areas are off-limits today that were available 10 years ago?

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