Monday, November 07, 2005

Tomorrow's The Day

Tomorrow is the day to be heard folks. If you live in Billings get out and vote for your mayor, especially if you're going to vote for Ron Tussing. If you're a Garver fan then you have my permission to stay home, voting is just such a hassle, the lines. . . . . you'd better just stay home.

Don't forget about the Treasure State ATV Association's comment drive tomorrow at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 2216 Grand Avenue. It's going on from 3 PM to 10 PM so it should be easy for anyone to find time to get there. Even with my helter skelter work schedule I'm going to make a serious effort to be there. It should only take a few minutes to write down your comment, the Association will do the rest.

These comments affect the travel plans for the Little Belt, Castle, and Crazy mountains. I haven't had a chance to ride anything in the Castles or the Crazies yet, but I've ridden the Little belts quite a bit and it's by far my favorite area in the state. Opportunities for all types of recreation in this area abound, and it isn't all that far from home either. Let's fight to keep it open for everyone instead of just for a select few.

Comments are much more effective if they refer to specific trails, there will most likely be maps there so that you can find trail names/numbers to use in your comments. Avoid things like "I like to ride 4 wheelers so keep the trails open", these type of comments hold little weight. It's much better if you can refer to the specific trails that you ride, then throw in a few that you'd like to see opened up, then throw in a few that you've never even heard of just for good measure, just use specific names/numbers, preferably ones that actually exist.

If you really want to help out, go ahead and join the Treasure State ATV Association, FFOR, and/or the Blue Ribbon Coalition, if you're a raging tree hugger you should check these organizations out at the very least. None of them advocate environmental devastation, they all advocate responsible stewardship. If motorized recreationists and tree huggers could ever actually get together and reach some sort of compromise I think the alliance would be extremely powerful. Most off roaders understand the necessity for staying on existing trails, but unfortunately environmental groups seem to be hell bent to close down everything. Most of these routes have been around for many, many years and as long as new trails aren't being made by users I just simply don't see the harm in leaving them there. The real enemies of the environment are large corporations that seem to get away with constantly violating the law, the individual recreationist is usually just as concerned with the well being of the forest as any Sierra Club member, probably more so, I don't think that most Sierra Club members have ever been to a National Forest, let alone spent most of a summer in one. We already have Wilderness areas which are protected from development, if you have a serious distaste for the noise generated by off road vehicles, then go there, that's what they're for.

What I think that a lot of anti's don't realize, however, is that the trails through the national forests, in this area at least, aren't veritable Interstates, and most of the people that ride them are at least 30 or older, you don't see a lot of little hellions up in the mountains, they mostly stick to areas like Ah Nei or the South Hills. You could go hiking on most trails in this area all day and you might encounter one small group of slow moving ATV's, piloted by a family with kids or a quartet of old farts that just needed an excuse to get out of town for a day. A small price to pay for good relations if you ask me.

I look forward to the occasional encounter with hikers or mountain bikers, I look at it as an opportunity to try to foster better relations between different types of users. You'd be surprised at how friendly they can be if you stop and wait for them to get on down the trail a bit, or just ride past them slowly, instead of roaring past them wide open and drowning them in dust. I think that a lot of people just believe the spin that groups like the Sierra Club put on the matter, about the noise etc. I know that I was certainly surprised the first time that I encountered another group of ATV's in the mountains, we were stopped and the other group probably got within 30 yards or so before we heard them coming, sound doesn't travel very far in heavy timber, no matter what the Sierra Club says.

The only people I've sensed any ill feelings from are people on horses, this is Montana after all, it seems that no matter what you do it isn't right to most of those folks. The hikers I've come across were all willing to chat for a while. Seems that sitting way up there on that horse must starve people's brains for oxygen or something, all they can think of to say is smart assed comments and grunts, a reaction that I really don't understand considering the fact that horses don't have to stay on the trails, they can go anywhere. If I had horses I'd be up in the Bob Marshall, headed for some serious adventure, there's plenty of areas for that in this state, areas where motorized toys aren't allowed at all. You'll never hear an ATVer bitching about horses, or hikers, or mountain bikers, not until they start trying to keep all the trails to themselves anyway.

The simple fact of the matter is this. If we're going to keep these areas open, we all have to stick together, no matter what you ride, even if it's your shoes. There are groups out there that would love to see all of the forests locked up and not accessible to anyone, not even hikers. That's just wrong, and if we don't make our voices heard that's exactly what will happen.

See ya at the Knights of Columbus hall tomorrow, let's do our part.

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