THE IMPORTANCE OF CLUB MEMBERSHIP

— We’re stronger as a group, by Tim Tolleson:

Riding off-road vehicles is a very personal experience, but UTVs are bringing whole families to the sport. Although we compete, it’s important stick together, and few know that more than Clark Collins. After being told by a (now former) governor of Idaho that, “Off-road enthusiasts are politically insignificant,” Collins formed the BlueRibbon Coalition with individuals, clubs, resource-extraction interests and powersports businesses to prove that OHVers are anything but “politically insignificant.” The BRC is now one of the premier OHV advocacy groups in America, and the Symms National Recreational Trails Act of 1991 is but one of the BRC’s many accomplishments. Trail systems and state OHV programs have benefited greatly from the Symms NRTA Fund, paid for via a portion of gasoline taxes, and the BRC has been on the winning side of many lawsuits preserving our right to ride on public lands.

The BRC, AMA, ASA and others successfully reopened 49,050 acres of dunes at Glamis, and the AMA supports President Trump’s decision to review national monument designations spanning the past 21 years.

When I started riding, dirt bikes were all there were—until Honda invented the ATC so BLM rangers could manage the Imperial Sand Dunes (Glamis). I started at 3 & 4 Wheel/ATV Action when Suzuki unleashed the first four-wheeled ATVs and have witnessed the birth of the Yamaha Rhino and Polaris RZR. Bigger UTVs allow more of a family-and-friends experience, but the sport is still largely personal.

Meeting personal goals and achieving inner peace through “getting away from it all” are great, but some of the better OHV experiences are large gatherings, like the Rally on the Rocks and Brimstone White Knuckle Event. At these jamborees, OHV-activist clubs set up booths to attract new members to Tread Lightly, the BRC, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC), the American Sand Association (ASA), the Americans for Responsible Recreational Access (ARRA), the Colorado OHV Coalition (COHVCO), Utah’s Sagebrush Rebellion, and many regional and state OHV clubs.

These are great organizations for blending our many individual voices into one loud one, and there are many reasons to join an OHV advocacy and/or enthusiast club. For a $49 annual due, the AMA protects our current riding opportunities, partners with businesses for member discounts on goods and services, puts on OHV competition and social events, prints newsletters and magazines, offers roadside assistance, lists OHV riding areas in all 50 states on its website and much, much more.

In April, AMA member Ron Gonichelis of Euless, Texas, took possession of his Yamaha Super Tenere, which he won in the 2016 AMA Member Sweepstakes. The 2017 AMA Member Sweepstakes offers a chance to win a 2016 Suzuki GSX-S750 or a 2017 Yamaha FZ-09 simply for joining the AMA or renewing an existing membership.

OHV advocacy groups fight for our rights and keep us informed on issues all over the USA. In ARRA’s June newsletter, watchdogs warned us of possible ramifications from federal budget cuts, with the Interior Department’s budget being cut by $1.6 billion, the BLM recreation budget cut by $9 million, and the Forest Service trails budget cut by a whopping $64.8 million. For 2018, it’ll be even more important to join a local club and volunteer to maintain trails while the national advocacy groups lobby on our behalf through government relations staffs and sue if necessary.

Another OHV-advocacy organization, the Off-Road Business Association (ORBA), also protects our motorized access and the future of OHV recreation, and 4 Wheel Parts recently handed ORBA a check for $30,782 after its Round Up initiative this spring. Customers rounded up their bill by $1 at checkout to support off-roading, so it’s important to shop at OHV-friendly stores whenever possible.

Your local dealership is a great place to find out about local OHV clubs and events (and is likely to be an ORBA member), and so are the websites of the national umbrella organizations like BRC (www.sharetrails.org) and AMA (www.americanmotorcyclist.com). The NOHVCC, in partnership with Ride Trails, LLC, has developed a website template that OHV not-for-profit clubs can use to set up websites and attract new members. If your area doesn’t have a UTV club, the NOHVCC (www.nohvcc.org) and BRC can help you start one.

The BRC, NOHVCC and COHVCO regularly hold workshops on dealing with all levels of government agencies to promote and protect OHV-recreation opportunities and also on trail construction and maintenance. These are valuable resources that existing and new clubs can tap to enhance OHV recreation in their area. Yamaha’s Outdoor Access Initiative and Polaris’ TRAILS grant program award grant monies to organizations seeking to create or improve conservation or recreational opportunities. Yamaha’s OAI awarded $100,000 to two national agriculture foundations and OHV clubs in seven states during the first quarter of 2017. Polaris partnered with the National Forest Foundation (NFF) and awarded a $108,000 grant to the NFF to improve OHV trails in Minnesota and Florida.

Over the past decade, Yamaha and Polaris have handed out more than $5 million in grant checks to promote OHV recreation, and there are also grant programs derived from state OHV registration funds and the Symms NRTA. The Western Slope ATV Association applied for grants from the Colorado OHV fund to buy two 50-inch trail dozers and build 300 miles of trail, and the WSATVA now loans them out to the USFS to maintain and build trails in two national forests.

Yamaha and Polaris also donate ATVs and UTVs to organizations for trail maintenance.

ARRA conducted a poll this spring, and 87 percent of respondents said they recreate with OHVs on public lands, while 13 percent ride on private lands. The NOHVCC also produced a guide on how to partner with private landowners on OHV trails, and several states have or are working on legislation to shield landowners from liability when they allow OHVs on their land.

So, there are many benefits to joining a club or forming your own, and the best ones involve more knowledge and places to ride!

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