Archive | May, 2021

2020 TPA Special Edition KTM 690 Sweepstakes WINNER!

And the winner is…ANDRE BOSSE!

Congratulations once again to Andre Bosse the winner of the TPA Special Edition KTM 690. Executive Director Chad Hixon handed over ownership of the new KTM 690 just last week. Andre is a Colorado Springs local and plans to use his new whip to explore the many back-country roads and trails nearby. We think there is no better way to enjoy Colorado, and Andre will be sure to see some of the most amazing things right in his own backyard – and doing it in first-class style!

Be safe out there and have fun ANDRE!

Andre Bosse

Continue Reading

Monetizing the Scenery

Most of you are familiar with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance – but if you are not you should be. SUWA is behind efforts to continually restrict access to public lands for all types of recreation. This recent article in Range Magazine is well worth your time – it paints a really good picture of what we are up against in the struggle to protect access to our public lands in Utah and all over the West.

Reprinted with permission from Range Magazine and Marjorie Haun.



Utah’s biggest Green group is caught between protecting wilderness and big tourism.

By Marjorie Haun

Indian paintbrush, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah.

Indian paintbrush, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah.

In the early days, environmentalism—now called the “Green Movement”—was both loved and hated for its implacable devotion to conserving nature. Now Big Green has become the kind of immovable, profit/power-motivated industry it once found detestable. In just 50 years, it has evolved from a grassroots push to protect nature from industrialization and overpopulation into a political operation with its hooks in all levels of government, allied with the kinds of billionaires and corporate giants it once eschewed. Big Green 2021 is more concerned with monetizing scenery than with what is right for the environment.

Worlds Collide

The rural West is in the midst of an unnatural evolution driven by ideologies disconnected from its elemental truths and by billionaires disconnected from its need to survive. Southern Utah is a case in point. Early on it was a place of sprawling high-desert ranches, mines, and other extraction operations. Mormon pioneers were the first white settlers in this region destined to become famous for uranium, movies, homey outposts, and astonishing sandstone anatomy. Though this evolution has taken more than a century, there has been an alarming acceleration in recent years as once-conservative Utah towns such as Moab, Torrey, Escalante, Bluff, and Boulder have morphed into progressive havens for wealthy ex-urbanites. It’s impossible to overstate the role the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) and its cohorts have had in driving this unnatural evolution.

In 1970, President Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), effectively nationalizing the outdoors. In 1976, Congress passed the Federal Lands Management & Policy Act, which greatly expanded the power and scope of the Bureau of Land Management from its original mission of managing the range and facilitating grazing for western ranchers to the regulation of minerals and energy extraction. The BLM took a heavy hand in policing cultural antiquities and micromanaging activities on public lands, thus becoming at times useful to Big Green.

In the mid-1970s, helped along by seismic changes in federal law and inspired by Edward Abbey’s “Desert Solitaire,” SUWA and other groups, such as the Utah Wilderness Coalition, rode into the West on a wave of environmental sentimentality. Abbey’s book depicted both the cruelty and delicate allure of southern Utah’s red rock country and worked like a magnet to draw young activists from across the country. In the beginning, SUWA’s goal was to protect as many millions of quiescent acres as possible by breaking Utah into massive piebald wilderness designations.

SUWA has always been a little estranged from rural Utahns with roots and economic ties to ranching and traditional natural resource development, but the alienation has worsened with its growing disconnect from common sense. Taking extreme positions on political issues—Orange Man bad, anything left-wing good—SUWA’s rhetoric is that of panic. In 2017, at the request of Utah’s congressional delegation, President Trump downsized two massive monuments previously created without the consent of Utah’s leaders or citizens by Presidents Clinton (Grand Staircase-Escalante, 1996, 1.9 million acres) and Obama (Bears Ears, 2016, 1.3 million acres).

In emails to supporters and on its website, SUWA exploded with indignation, accusing President Trump of “eviscerating the monument” and leaving “rare archaeological sites and stunning wildlands without protection from looting, prospecting, oil and gas drilling, uranium mining, or off-road vehicle damage.”

Four years hence, none of the hysterical projections have been realized. With the Biden regime now in control of the nationalized outdoors, however, SUWA’s tone is fawning to the point of being comical: “The Earth and all its inhabitants face the dire threats of climate change and the loss of nature, including extinctions. And in its first 10 days, the Biden administration has already taken meaningful steps to address those threats. It isn’t our job at SUWA to cheerlead for a particular administration; it’s our job to push them to go further. But we are very encouraged—even excited—by the Biden administration’s start.”

But neither its extreme partisanship nor its disconnect from the grassroots is a problem for SUWA’s bottom line. With its offices in D.C. and Salt Lake City, assets of over $16 million and an annual revenue of nearly $6 million, reliable donations from billionaires, billionaires on its board of directors, and lucrative relationships with fashion designers and gigantic outdoor recreation companies such as Patagonia, REI, Black Diamond and Petzl, SUWA doesn’t need to appeal to working people in the rural West.

Shady Billionaires & the De-democratization of the Green Movement

Although Jeff Gibbs’ 2019 documentary, “Planet of the Humans,” came to the odious conclusion that only mass human depopulation would save planet Earth, it showcased how in the last two decades Big Green has sold out to corporate interests and wealthy donors with their own profit motives. Not only does the onboarding of billionaires de-democratize groups such as SUWA, but it also makes them dependent on venture capital and sometimes ill-gotten wealth. There are dark chapters in the histories of SUWA’s most high-profile billionaire board members Hansjorg Wyss and Bert Fingerhut.

In 2012, Mina Kimes penned a report for Fortune magazine titled, “Bad to the Bone: A Medical Horror Story,” in which Hansjorg Wyss plays the role of supervillain. In the early 2000s, Wyss’ medical device company, Synthes, began testing Norian X-R, a bone-growing compound, using illegal trials on human subjects. Synthes promoted Norian X-R for use in spinal surgeries, a procedure for which it had not been approved. Johnson & Johnson purchased the compound, which started killing patients almost as soon as it hit operating rooms. Four Synthes executives were indicted and convicted on charges related to “off-label marketing,” but Wyss went untouched. In 2021, Wyss continues to make sizable donations to SUWA and sits on its board of directors.

Bert Fingerhut, a billionaire Wall Street securities analyst and Green activist, moved to Aspen, Colo., in 1983 and connected with several groups including SUWA. In 2007, while serving as director of SUWA, he pled guilty in federal court to numerous charges of securities fraud. Mark Ristow, an associate of Fingerhut’s and then SUWA treasurer, was indicted as well. According to a column by Joe Bauman in Deseret News: “Ristow, 62, a resident of Indianapolis, was a SUWA director as well as treasurer for the environmental activist group headquartered in Salt Lake City. Like Fingerhut, Ristow pleaded guilty to organizing an elaborate scheme to defraud savings banks and depositors.” This is not the stuff of grassroots conservation.

In a 2006 article, environmentalist and former SUWA board member Jim Stiles detailed an instance showing how the influence of billionaires such as Wyss, Fingerhut, and venture capitalist David Bonderman, who sits on the boards of the Wilderness Society and Grand Canyon Trust, has de-democratized the environmental movement.

“The Wyss donation was particularly fortuitous,” Stiles wrote. “Its founder, Swiss-born Hansjorg Wyss, became a member of SUWA’s [b]oard of [d]irectors in 1996 and is its current chairman… In 2004, SUWA had almost $5 million in ‘net assets and fund balances,’ including $2.5 million in ‘savings and temporary cash investments,’ nearly $300,000 in ‘non-interest-bearing cash,’ and about $1 million in ‘stocks and mutual funds.’ With all those assets, a gala party is planned in May as a tribute to Wyss. The event, to be held in New York City, will cost about $100,000. But according to [SUWA director Scott] Groene, ‘it’s a fund-raising event…[it] will raise us money.’ How much money is enough? No one can fault SUWA for its good fortune, but Utah’s most prominent environmental organization is starting to look more like a bank. And while its coffers have grown, membership, according to a SUWA source, has fallen to less than 14,000.”

Big Tourism & Cognitive Dissonance

Edward Abbey wrote in “Desert Solitaire” (1968): “Industrial Tourism is a big business. It means money. It includes the motel and restaurant owners, the gasoline retailers, the oil corporations, the road-building contractors, the heavy equipment manufacturers, the estate and federal engineering agencies and the sovereign, all-powerful automotive industries.” Twenty-five years after he penned those words, Abbey’s disciples would come to embrace the “big business” about which he cautioned.

Monetizing the scenery brought with it the promise of tourist-generated wealth that would supplant mining, oil and gas jobs and revenues. The amenities economy solution became the rose-colored-glasses selling point for SUWA’s overarching wilderness bill. Seeing an area for compromise and the possibility of a reliable flow of tourist dollars into their towns, a lot of locals went along with the scheme. What followed was a boom of small locally owned restaurants, outfitters, rental shops, retailers, and guide services that quickly became dependent on the marketing of Utah’s beautiful places. Some sectors boomed more than others. Then Big Green backtracked.

Fast-forward to 2021, and red rock tourism is now dominated by off-road-vehicle enthusiasts. After embracing the amenities economy solution in the 1990s, SUWA now stands in opposition to the OHV (off-highway vehicle) sector of tourism. But SUWA wields political clout and its dissonant agenda threatens to shut down a large sector of the local economy. Under pressure from SUWA, the Moab and Grand County councils recently banned large OHV events in the area and are leaning heavily on nearby San Juan County to do the same.

Dispersed camping—an iconic outdoor activity enjoyed by all demographics—is also on SUWA’s hit list. In 2020, SUWA petitioned the Bureau of Land Management to restrict off-roading and dispersed camping in the San Rafael Swell region, a vast range of sagebrush and red rock in central Utah. Under the purview of President Trump’s BLM director, the agency rejected SUWA’s petition.

In the SUWA universe, however, the scope of acceptable economic alternatives is narrowing. Arbitrary bans won’t hurt its wealthy donors, staff of attorneys, or billionaire board members, but it may be the death of local businesses that serve off-road and camping enthusiasts. Frankly, it’s hard to know what to do. Millions of hikers and thousands of mountain bikers on unregulated trails…good. Families with ATVs camping by the creek…bad.

Political Puppet Masters

Today SUWA is immersed in politics and, like all savvy political organizations, it’s playing the long game. The demographic shift needed to achieve its prime goal of a federal bill that would put tens of millions of acres into a restricted wilderness designation forever is underway. With progressives, many favored or employed by SUWA, now dominating commissions in both Grand and San Juan counties, SUWA is neither looking for, nor does it need, the consent of the governed.

In 2017, following a decades-long series of lawsuits brought by the Navajo Nation against San Juan County, federal Judge Robert Shelby took the unprecedented action of federalizing a local election and redrawing voting districts. In doing so, Shelby gave majority control of two of the county’s three districts to the Navajo Nation, which comprises a small fraction of the county’s landmass.

During that same time SUWA founded and funded the Rural Utah Project, with the goal of ensuring that Democrats would dominate local government. Using identity politics to recruit minority voters, RUP helped to flip San Juan County in 2018. The “get out the vote” arm of SUWA/RUP has the kind of money that grassroots political organizations could only dream of. SUWA’s activities are creating a political serfdom in which majority conservative/Republican counties are being controlled by progressive politicians enacting agendas disconnected from the history and traditions of the people.

Liz Thomas, a SUWA field attorney who lives in Moab in Grand County, has been in fact writing policy for the county commis¬sion in San Juan County. Documents obtained from the county show that Thomas has ghost-written at least 12 resolu¬tions from 2019 to the present. Her resolu¬tions are invariably put forth by one of the two progressive commissioners whom RUP helped elect in 2018: Mark Maryboy and Willie Grayeyes. Documents related to the county policy were emailed directly to the county administrator from Thomas with instructions to put them on the agenda. Recently, Thomas wrote a controversial reso¬lution asking Joe Biden to reestablish the rescinded boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument.

Using official letterhead, Thomas has written at least one response from San Juan County to the BLM. At one point, she was sending Commissioner Maryboy so many directives that the county administrator, Mack McDonald, made the following state¬ment in an email to Maryboy: “Is there a way when these come to you, that we can meet and review them with enough time so that we can fix these and have the [c]ounty [a]ttorney review them?” The people be damned; SUWA is steering policy in San Juan County.

America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act

Since it was introduced into Congress by Wayne Owens in 1989, SUWA’s defining piece of legislation, America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, has doubled the landmass it would encompass from around five million acres to nearly nine million acres. It would pack such a severe punch to Utah’s rural economies that few legislators have wanted to touch it. Even Obama’s Interior Department regarded it as radioactive. But with Biden now occupying the White House, SUWA may get its prize. In its currently proposed form, ARRWA would lock up a large percentage of southern Utah’s most resource-rich lands into wilderness des¬ignations in perpetuity. SUWA’s radical pro¬posal, however, may be small potatoes when compared to the Biden regime, which has recently announced that it intends to “pre¬serve” anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of America’s lands. With one-third of the U.S. landmass now under federal control, and another third to one-half removed from eco¬nomic production, American ranchers, farm¬ers, miners, oil and gas workers, and the families they feed could fade into history.

The Pendulum

With decades of activism and millions of dol¬lars, SUWA has transformed Utah’s political landscape. Nonetheless, there is organized and growing opposition to its initiatives. Pres¬ident Trump’s downsizing of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in 2017 dealt a painful political blow. Now, even with the Biden regime on its side, SUWA has an uphill battle to enlarge the national monuments due to profound opposition at both state and local levels.

In 2017, SUWA used “open meetings” rules to sue three counties—Kane, Garfield and San Juan—whose commissioners met with Trump’s then-Interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, about the monuments. In August 2019, the court rejected the lawsuit and fined SUWA for $50,000 in legal fees. Utah’s Blue-Ribbon Coalition/Share Trails, comprised of small businesses, outdoor recreation/OHV clubs, and individuals, has successfully rebuffed many of SUWA’s recent efforts to close roads and prohibit motorized access on federal lands. And most recently, a federal judge rejected SUWA’s bid to stop a helium drilling operation on BLM land in Labyrinth Canyon near Lake Powell.

To a degree, transplanted ex-urbanites have changed demographics in southern Utah. Nevertheless, SUWA remains largely alienated from the working people of the region. With its political puppeteering exposed and a gauntlet of finicky criteria for outdoor activities to gain its acceptance, SUWA’s clout remains dependent on big-dol¬lar outside support. Giving its oblations to bil¬lionaires, big corporations, and pop-culture elites, SUWA is guilty of anti-rural bigotry, a cynical disregard for the people whose des¬tinies it seeks to control.

The average yearly income for people who live and work in southern Utah is around $42,000 per household. SUWA’s payouts are six figures. In 2018, SUWA director Scott Groene earned $163,000 in salary and bene¬fits. Attorney Steven Bloch took home $126,000. SUWA paid one legal contractor $411,355, and the total payroll for that year was $1,873,000. Finally, with most of its activists coming from outside southern Utah, and its main offices in Salt Lake City and Washington, D.C., SUWA looms as a self-righteous crusader, sweeping down from on high to save rural Utah from the rural Utahns who live there. SUWA’s political extremism, dissonant objectives, erosion of its donor base, and disconnect from “roots Utahns” are a chink in this Big Green’s vainglorious armor.

Marjorie Haun is a freelance writer from southern Utah who shares with Jim Stiles both wonder and dread at the urbanization of the rural West.

Download Full article with images:
Monetizing the Scenery


Read the full magazine:
RANGE  Magazine
Summer 2021

Continue Reading

Pre-Scoping Public Input – Chaffee County Camping and Travel Management Plan

United States Department of the Interior
Bureau of Land Management
Royal Gorge Field Office
3028 E. Main Street
Cañon City, CO 81212

SUBJECT: Pre-Scoping Public Input – Chaffee County Camping and Travel Management Plan DOI-BLM-CO-F020-2021-0020 EA

Please accept these comments from the Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA) in the BLM’s request for comments for Pre- Scoping Public Input concerning the Chaffee County Camping and Travel Management Plan, DOI-BLM-CO-F020-2021-0020EA.

The TPA is a Colorado based 501 c 3 nonprofit organization whose primary mission is to preserve the opportunities for motorized single-track riding on public land. We partner with land management agencies to ensure that a fair and equitable amount of public land is available for motorized recreation. Additionally, the TPA partners with other clubs and organizations such as the Chaffee County based motorcycle club, Central Colorado Mountain Riders (CCMR), and jeep club, Colorado Off Road Enterprise (CORE.)

We appreciate the opportunity to engage with this process and recognize the issues that dispersed camping is having on public lands across the west. The TPA is committed to helping the RGFO find the best possible solutions to protect the resource while maintaining quality experiences for ALL users that value the camping opportunities provided on the public lands of the west and in this case Chaffee County.

The TPA has several grave concerns about this project and the process that the RGFO is proposing to use for this project. On advice of counsel, we have listed our most troublesome concerns regarding documents prepared by the RGFO and posted to the project website (

  • The RGFO documents do not adequately articulate a Purpose and Need for this project. The Purpose and Need as currently published is not sufficient to examine a range of alternatives.
  • The RGFO has crafted the Purpose and Need too narrowly. In addition, the documentation and scoping materials for this project appear pre-decisional.
  • The project must consider a range of alternatives in an Environmental Assessment (EA).
  • “Travel management” should not be done in an EA. It is a major federal action requiring an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
  • The Best Available Science on User Conflicts directly weighs against closures.
  • Analysis and comments must not be arbitrarily limited to Chaffee County. BLM managed public lands and lands managed by the USFS extend well beyond the jurisdictional boundaries of Chaffee County. Limiting this project’s analysis to Chaffee County will preclude a holistic investigation and result in a myopic conclusion.
  • Analysis of dispersed camping issues should be concurrently conducted with the USFS Salida Ranger District and the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (ARHA) to avoid a Decision that results in adverse effects, or unintended consequences on lands adjacent to BLM properties but managed by other agencies.

For this Pre-Scoping phase of the project, the TPA is compelled to point out that dispersed camping involves more than just motorized users and is utilized by multiple and diverse outdoor recreation groups. This is extremely relevant to this project considering the limited access for OHV’s use and the proximity to many of the inventoried sites. On the contrary many of the inventoried sites are in very close proximity to many non-motorized recreational opportunities such as the Methodist Hills trail system, Colorado Trail Trailhead, Mt. Shavano Trailhead, and areas in close proximity to the AHRA managed land. In addition to the broad range of recreation users utilizing dispersed camping many social issues are also a factor. People living on public lands of which many are a part of the Upper Arkansas Valley’s workforce and people that are otherwise homeless all contribute to this issue. This is further evident within the plan’s inventoried sites near Salida which are inaccessible by vehicle. The TPA suggests the RGFO to not term or reference the issue as vehicle-based camping or motorized dispersed camping but rather just Dispersed Camping.

Other considerations and suggestions from the TPA include the following:

  • Dispersed camping is currently, or is becoming, an issue on public land all over the western U.S., but especially near areas with various and diverse recreational opportunities. Some areas’ efforts, such as Moab, to mitigate these impacts, including closures to dispersed camping or other management strategies such as designated
    dispersed and paid camping, have only pushed the dispersed camping use to adjacent areas or the next available location. Trying to resolve this issue by only addressing BLM managed lands in Chaffee County will only push the use and “stress” to adjacent lands managed by other agencies within Chaffee County or to neighboring counties including Fremont, Gunnison, Lake, Park and Saguache. Most users do not camp or recreate based on a particular land management agency, county or state jurisdiction. Why then would the RGFO attempt to take this approach to manage this issue? To adequately curtail and manage the dispersed camping issue a more holistic approach that involves ALL the agencies and adjacent counties that could experience the effects of this Decision must be included. Without this we are only transposing the issue, not resolving it.
  • This plan incorporates two distinct processes, Travel Management Planning (TMP) and a plan to address dispersed camping issues. These are acknowledged by the RGFO as two separate processes. However, Travel Management Planning, generally requires a more detailed and arduous Environment Impact Study (EIS) when it is determined that a “significant” change is adopted that could affect the human environment. Travel Management Planning is arguably a significant change and should not be done in an Environmental Assessment (EA.) It could also be that the closure or new management strategy of hundreds of dispersed campsites could arguably be considered “significant” changes. The BLM should address Travel Management Planning for the Shavano and Pass Creek areas separately from dispersed camping planning.
  • The pre-scoping questions posed to the public seem to be focused on limiting and “closing” camping opportunities. Given the increase in use and recreational opportunities created in the area, why would the questions and suggestions for comments be focused on reduction or elimination of an obvious (and increasing) demand? These questions and suggestions could be perceived as pre-decisional or as pushing the agenda of a special interest group. To achieve the best possible Alternatives, the TPA suggests the RGFO must also include suggestions about where to create and expand camping opportunities. In addition these suggestions should be open to areas not identified in this process as having camping issues and/or that could potentially see the effects of the outcome of this Decision. For example lands that are easily accessible to popular trailheads, communities in the area and fishing access on the Arkansas River should all be considered for potential camping development. A broader scope of questions and suggestions should be provided.
  • The planning approach seems to insinuate the issue is recreation vs. conservation. This leads to the perception that you can only have one or the other. However, proper management strategies should allow for the two concepts to coexist.
  • The TPA offers a brief summary of research into user conflict. Researchers have specifically identified that properly determining the basis for, or type of user conflict (personal vs social conflict,) is critical to determining the proper method for managing this conflict. Scientific analysis defines the division of conflicts as follows:
    • “For interpersonal conflict to occur, the physical presence or behavior of an individual or a group of recreationists must interfere with the goals of another individual or group….Social values conflict, on the other hand, can occur between groups who do not share the same norms (Ruddell & Gramann, 1994) and/or values (Saremba & Gill, 1991), independent of the physical presence or actual contact between the groups……When the conflict stems from interpersonal conflict, zoning incompatible users into different locations of the resource is an effective strategy. When the source of conflict is differences in values, however, zoning is not likely to be very effective. In the Mt. Evans study (Vaske et al., 1995), for example, physically separating hunters from nonhunters did not resolve the conflict in social values expressed by the nonhunting group. Just knowing that people hunt in the area resulted in the perception of conflict. For these types of situations, efforts designed to educate and inform the different visiting publics about the reasons underlying management actions may be more effective in reducing conflict.” 1
  • Other researchers have distinguished types of user conflicts based on a goals interference distinction, described as follows:
    • “The travel management planning process did not directly assess the prevalence of on-site conflict between non-motorized groups accessing and using the yurts and adjacent motorized users…. The common definition of recreation conflict for an individual assumes that people recreate in order to achieve certain goals, and defines conflict as “goal interference attributed to another’s behavior” (Jacob & Schreyer, 1980, p. 369). Therefore, conflict as goal interference is not an objective state, but is an individual’s appraisal of past and future social contacts that influences either direct or indirect conflict. It is important to note that the absence of recreational goal attainment alone is insufficient to denote thepresence of conflict. The perceived source of this goal interference must be identified as other individuals.”2
  • An overwhelming portion of user conflict results from a lack of social acceptance by certain users and these conflicts will only be resolved with education. The TPA believes the distinction between personal and social user conflict must be distinguished and addressed in this process. Any proposed changes must be reviewed to ensure those changes do not generate, and result in, an increase in user conflicts.
    The TPA thanks the RGFO for reviewing and considering our comments and suggestions. We would welcome a discussion of these comments at your convenience.



Chad Hixon Signature
Chad Hixon
Executive Director
Trails Preservation Alliance 


1 See, Carothers, P., Vaske, J. J., & Donnelly, M. P. (2001). Social values versus interpersonal conflict among hikers and mountain biker; Journal of Leisure Sciences, 23(1) at pg. 58.

2 See, Norling et al; Conflict attributed to snowmobiles in a sample of backcountry, non-motorized yurt users in the Wasatch –Cache National Forest; Utah State University; 2009 at pg. 3.  

Continue Reading

Adventure Rider Article – Access and Advocacy

Reposted with permission from Adventure Rider Magazine – December 2020
Ned Suesse is a member of the TPA Board of Directors

Access and Advocacy

The challenges faced when connecting beautiful places

Words & Images Ned Suesse

Rider on MotorcycleFrequently, I’ve had conversations with friends on adventure bikes about public land management, and they fall to either side of a divide. One side holds that federal agencies are worthless and trying to close all of our access, and they therefore deserve to be either hated or ignored. The other side claims that the federal agencies are worthless and not doing enough to protect public lands, and groups like the Sierra Club are necessary to secure natural values.

In my view, neither of those stories has it right. In fact, we have an incredible bounty of great routes maintained by these agencies, so they deserve some credit. We also have great natural areas, and the laws that govern land use are generally biased to protect them. No matter what action or inaction the agencies choose, people will disagree, which explains how we can struggle to find consensus. Given that, I submit that the best way to improve the outcome for interesting routes that connect beautiful places, which we all enjoy riding, is a third idea: effective involvement to preserve and protect not only routes, but also the lands they pass through.

In the American West, most of our riding is on public land managed by one of two agencies: the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or the Forest Service (USFS). These agencies operate under different rules, but both are governed by public process, which requires public engagement to achieve the best outcome. Neither agency is mandated or equipped to look at the popularity of their decisions, so effective engagement is rarely a matter of sending form letters. The place where popularity counts is the voting booth, specifically for members of Congress, the branch of government from which the agencies secure their funding. Your congressional representatives will have offices near you, and it isn’t hard to get a meeting with staff and explain what you think is important. They may not agree, but they will take note that you care.

In both the USFS and BLM, a great deal of control is delegated to the local offices, where there is a line officer who is generally equivalent to the captain of a ship. These people don’t control the armada, they don’t pick the overall direction, but the ship does not move without their consent. Therefore, effective engagement happens most often at a local level. In many areas, there are clubs that are doing this work, and you can join and donate time, energy and money to help them make a difference. Clubs are also where most on-the-ground work happens, from cleaning up trash, to clearing trees and building new trails. Often, clubs are run by exhausted volunteers on the verge of quitting, so joining and helping can make a huge difference as well as providing new riding buddies.

The public servants who work in these agencies are generally bureaucrats who have worked their way up through a system that does not reward the same qualities private industry does. In many cases, these bureaucrats are pleasant, reasonable folk, which doesn’t necessarily mean they understand or appreciate the existence of motorcycle riders on their public land. It is our job to justify ourselves, and our use, to people who are unaware or maybe even biased against us. It may not be obvious to a non-motorcyclist that connections and campsites are important to us. We can help them see the world our way.

These land managers are tasked with managing our lands within a mess of laws that are difficult for the layperson to understand and often contradictory even when one does. The rule that comes up most often is the National Environmental Policy Act (referred to as “NEPA”) which sets a process for every decision the federal government makes that affects the quality of the environment. The NEPA process has different protocols depending on the potential impact of the decision, but the key thing to understand is that decisions are made in a process, and there are times in that process where you can comment and be involved, and times where you cannot. Generally, during the “scoping period,” you can get involved. Later, once scoping is past and comment periods close, nothing you say has any effect, no matter how correct you might be. Scoping and comment is required for all NEPA processes, and most offices have a process to get you subscribed to notices so that you can be involved at the appropriate time.

Rider standing on trail with bikeThe other key rule that affects our use is Travel Management. This is done at a broader level than decisions, typically by a Forest (USFS) or a Field office (BLM). As with everything else, there is a defined process to be involved with, and effective engagement requires getting involved early. Travel Management may only happen every decade or two, so when it comes along it is critical to be involved with it. Because Travel Management encompasses a larger area, often a statewide organization will be involved. These statewide organizations serve an important role alongside clubs. Where a club is more likely to make a difference on the ground, the statewide groups are able to bring legal pressure, expert testimony and policy experts to bear on the larger regional issues.

Personally, I was uninterested in any of this until my favorite place to ride was closed. I went from uninterested to really angry in a flash, and it has taken decades to work my way back to engaged. Everything that happens on public land happens at the speed of government, which is both frustrating and occasionally beneficial, since bad news can happen as slowly as good news does. If you are getting involved, recognize that advocacy requires slow and steady involvement, not just a few moments of your time. It takes hydraulic pressure, not hammer blows. If you want to make a difference, show up, join a club, donate, get to know your local agency people and expect that moving the needle will take months and years, not days or weeks.

In the end, I see a false division between “environmentalist” and “motorcyclist”. I don’t know a single rider who would prefer an unhealthy forest to a thriving one, and in many areas, most of the trail work and funding to maintain trails comes from off-highway vehicle riders. This leads to the final point: wherever possible, we can try to break down the perception of us (motorcyclists) vs. them (environmentalists). Enviromotorist is a viable position (not to be confused with moto-mentalists) that holds that responsible access can coexist with maintaining natural values. Motorcyclists will never win a popularity contest, but we can show how our position is compatible with others.


  • Wilderness (capital W) is defined by congress and allows no mechanized recreation, including bicycles, motorcycles, hang gliders and so on. It is the most restrictive protection available. Many companies talk about riding in wilderness (small w), so keeping the legal definition in mind is important.
  • Wilderness does not allow for fire mitigation (exceptions are made for fires once burning), or management for species of concern. Trail maintenance must be done by hand (no chainsaws).
  • You can support existing Wilderness, but be against additional Wilderness. This is my position. The places that are “untrammeled by man” as congress defined are largely already designated. New designations focus increasing use on diminishing areas and abdicate responsibility for management.

Success Story

  • In Salida, Colorado, the Central Colorado Mountain Riders (CCMR, local club), with support from the Colorado TPA (state organization) have succeeded in adopting, maintaining and even opening several new trails over the last few years.
  • Each action has taken years to complete, and required partnerships with non-OHV groups for success. CCMR has an active board of volunteers who each take ownership of individual projects.
  • Latest example: In 2020, Dudbob’s trail was constructed and opened on BLM. The process for this trail started in approximately 2015.

Things You Can Do

  • Be a steward—take care of the roads and trails you use, help educate other users, and leave campsites better than you found them.
  • Be an ambassador—show the best of motorcycling to other users, businesses that you patronize, and people who work in the land management agencies.
  • Get involved locally—join your local club and show up for work days and public process meetings.
  • Donate funds—send money to organizations not only where you live, but also where you want to ride.


About Adventure Rider

ADVrider was launched in 2001 to provide adventure motorcycle riders their own dedicated online community. The site was debuted as an adventure riding forum and has grown to become the most visited website in the world for motorcycle enthusiasts. ADVrider currently has over 350,000 registered members who have submitted 33 million original posts.

Adventure Rider Magazine

Continue Reading

Rio Grande National Forest Response to Continental Divide National Scenic Trail Corridor Issues

Rio Grande National Forest response to the request of clarification on Supreme Court ruling USFS vs. Cowpasture River Preservation Association and its relationship to Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDNST) corridor issues.

Forest Service
Rio Grand National Forest
1803 West Highway 160
Monte Vista, CO 81144

Dear Mr. Riggle:

This responds to your letter dated March 10, 2021, regarding the 2020 Supreme Court decision involving the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (ANST), United States Forest Service v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association, 140 S. Ct. 1837 (2020). The decision clarifies the role of the National Park Service as the administrator of the ANST and the United States Forest Service (USFS) as a trail managing agency for the ANST, i.e., a federal agency with jurisdiction over some of the federal lands traversed by the ANST.

I would like to clarify two points made in your letter. Paragraph 2 of the letter states (emphasis in original):

The US Supreme Court addressed the management relationship of the National Trails System Act and the Multiple Use mandate of the US Forest Service for the corridors around NTSA routes and the designated trail itself. . . . The Supreme Court clearly stated the mere designation of any route under the National Trails System Act does not alter the multiple use mandate of the agencies managing this land.

Paragraph 3 of the letter states:

The Court ruling provides significant protection for continued multiple use access to public lands and prohibits many of the proposed closures of the trail and adjacent areas to multiple usage recreation.

The Cowpasture decision holds that a national trail is most akin to right-of-way over land and as such does not change the jurisdiction of the underlying land. Therefore, the legal authorities governing federal lands managed by a national trail administrator do not apply to federal lands crossed by a national trail that are managed by another federal agency. Federal lands underlying a national trail that are not managed by the trail administering agency are subject to the legal authorities of the federal agency with jurisdiction over the underlying lands. With respect to the ANST, where the trail traverses National Forest System lands, those lands are subject to the legal authorities that apply to the USFS, not to the legal authorities that apply to the National Park Service.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Cowpasture does not address the multiple-use mandate of the USFS under the Multiple Use–Sustained Yield Act in the context of national scenic trails designated under the National Trails System Act (NTSA). The decision also does not address multiple-use access to National Forest System lands or prohibit closure of the ANST and adjacent lands to multiple-use recreation. Rather, the decision holds that National Forest System lands traversed by the ANST remain under the jurisdiction of the USFS and are not part of the National Park System.

As outlined above, the facts of the Supreme Court Cowpasture decision are materially distinct from the management scheme present on the Rio Grande National Forest and the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDNST). The USFS is both the designated administrator of the CDNST and the underlying land managing agency of the land traversed by the CDNST within the Rio Grande National Forest. Management of the CDNST within the boundaries of the Rio Grande National Forest is governed by the 2020 Rio Grande National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan, the comprehensive plan for the CDNST, and all applicable law, including but not limited to the NTSA, the National Forest Management Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Forest Service’s travel management rule.

I look forward to continuing to work with the Colorado Snowmobile Association, the Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Coalition, and the Trails Preservation Alliance—as well as many other partners—to provide outdoor recreation opportunities to the thousands of visitors to the Rio Grande National Forest each year.

Dan Dallas
Forest Supervisor

Continue Reading