THE IMPORTANCE OF CLUB MEMBERSHIP
ORGANISATIONS PROTECT OUR OHV OPPORTUNITIES
Having attended 15 different schools (K-12) and moved five times during college, I’ve been “the new kid” most of my life, and a loner of sorts. My Grandmother chastised my Dad for moving around so much, because children need to grow “roots” in a community, but I loved the adventure and experiences of seeing new places and meeting new people.
Had I stayed in my parents’ home town, I never would’ve visited the 48 states and camped and/or ridden in more than two dozen national forests. I never would’ve raced motocross on tracks across Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, Virginia and North Carolina as a teenager, or turned an interest in photography, English and motorsports into a career. In 37 years of moto-journalism, I’ve gotten to ride or race on almost every AMA MX course, three amateur SX courses, the famed Blackwater 100 and several GNCC courses, and the SCORE Baja 1000. This job has taken me to Canada, Mexico, Bolivia, Japan, France, Switzerland and Italy.
And I’ve gotten to meet and ride with many people and legends of the sport, who are too numerous to list here, but I’ll drop one really important name – 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 premiere 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 benefitted 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 re-opened 49,050 acres of dunes at Glamis, and the AMA supported 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. ATVs are still a personal sport, and bigger UTVs allow more of a family-and-friends atmosphere, 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), National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC), American Sand Association (ASA), Americans for Responsible Recreational Access (ARRA), 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 (now discounted to $39) 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.
OHV advocacy groups fight for our rights and keep us informed on issues all over the USA. In ARRA’s June 2017 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 Forest Service trails budget cut by a whopping $64.8 million. It’s 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 in the spring of 2017. 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 invaluable resources that existing and new clubs can tap to enhance OHV recreation in your 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 NFs.
Yamaha and Polaris also donate ATVs and UTVs to organizations for trail maintenance.
ARRA conducted a poll in the spring of 2017, 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 from joining a club or forming your own, and the best ones involve more knowledge and places to ride!