16 ANTI-ENVIRONMENTAL VIGILANTEISM: A NEW TOOL OF THE OFF-ROAD ESTABLISHMENT Over the years, off-road clubs have evolved from recreation groups to political groups. As they have become political, they have adopted a strong anti-environmental and anti- property-rights outlook. Frustrated by restrictions on their cright d to motorized recreation, they have begun to use illegal means of getting what they want.
Their methods have included covert sign removal, unauthorized road construction, sign defacing, and overt vigilante cshovel brigades d. The Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVCO), the Mile-Hi Jeep Club, and Trailridge Runners 4WD Club have all encouraged or engaged in such activities. The leadership of COHVCO has aggressively encouraged the use of ccivil disobedience d, which has lead to the upsurge of lawlessness among off-road recreationists in Colorado.
COHVCO John C. Martin is president and Chairman of the board of COHVCO. He supports the use of what he calls ccivil disobedience d.
In June of 2000, he not-so-subtly suggested that BLM signs should be destroyed as a cpublic service d. Using words that suggest he thinks public lands belong only to off-road recreationists, he writes: Once I mentioned to a few folks that we should help the federal land managers manage our lands as ... more. less.
economically as possible. If someone found a sign that had been removed or damaged and wanted to get it back to the agency, I would be happy to return it for them.<br><br> To avoid the accusation or the long story, there needs to be a mechanism to return these signs anonymously. This is a service someone should supply. I can do that.<br><br> Yesterday, around noon, someone dropped off one of those metal signs that explain that there should be not motor vehicles beyond it. The sign has been forcibly removed, the mounting holes were torn, and the sign had been folded nearly in half. The person who brought it to me had cfound it in a wash. d As a public service, I returned it to the local BLM.<br><br> One would expect the owner of lost or damaged property to be happy to see its return. Surprise, Surprise. They were not.<br><br> The questions about where it came from and who damaged it were quick to come. Being a concerned citizen, and totally innocent of wrongdoing, the conversation did not go the way the agency folks were headed. It went something like this: cHold on.<br><br> This is your sign and someone found it. I am doing you folks a service by returning it to you. You don 9t Congressional meeting copy (part 2 of 2), March 3-4, 2003 17 understand, I want a reward.<br><br> You should be happy to get your property back. I 9m not the criminal, neither was the person who found it and wanted me to return it to you. After that, with somewhat of a confused look on agency faces, the tone of the conversation changed.<br><br> They asked me if I could tell them where it came from, I said no. I did tell them that any of their property given to me would be returned as soon as I had a chance. They said there was no reward for returning it.<br><br> I told them that getting property back to its rightful owner was reward enough. That 9s my story and I 9m sticking to it. John C.<br><br> Martin, COHVCO, June 2000 In the July, 1999 issue of the COHVCO newsletter, John C. Martin praised a fellow member who said c&the next time he saw a sign that took away his rights, he would remove it. d Martin also asks in print, cDo I ride in closed areas? d His answer: cIf a sign explains why a road or trail is closed and it makes sense, I will always obey it. d Otherwise, c&I have decided that civil disobedience is my right. d It should not have been a surprise that on June 25, 2000, the Barking Dog Shovel Brigade ripped down dozens of signs that said cmotorized vehicles prohibited d and did not give a reason other than cprivate property d. This attitude also explains why on Sept.<br><br> 7, 2000, hundreds of off-roaders ignored signs and converged on Caribou Flat in an orgy of destruction that became known as the cmudfest d. It could be argued that, if the signs did not have an explanation, this group was merely exercising its right of ccivil disobedience d as encouraged by John C. Martin in the COHVCO newsletter.<br><br> TRAILRIDGE RUNNERS 4WD CLUB Members of the Trailridge Runners were also involved in the Barking Dog vigilante group. Pat Steenburn, the treasurer of Trailridge Runners, and her husband Eric, were members of the band. The landowners were notified of the vandalism when they received an anonymous e-mail message with a return address of Esteenburn@aol.com on June 26, 2000: cI'm surprised criminal or civil charges haven't been filled against you for closing Balarat Road (not trail).<br><br> My wife is handicapped and has enjoyed Balarat Road herself for the last 15 years via jeep. Have you not heard of RS2477? &Better do your homework before you take the law into your own hands.<br><br> The following is part of a fwd-e-main I received from Harold Ogden: As many four-wheelers know, Barking Dog Road (County Road 87) has been open and in use for generations. I meets the definition of a Public Highway&&. d It should not be a surprise that Trailridge Runners were upset by the closure of Barking Dog Trail to motorized recreation. Other members of the club had been using it for access to another illegal road construction project 4this one on national forest land.<br><br> An officer of the club, Donald E. Owens, was caught in the act of converting a single track trail into a jeep road, about ½ mile from Balarat. According to Paul Krisanets, Law Enforcement Officer for the Boulder Ranger District, cOn November 22, 1996, Donald E.<br><br> Owns was charged on Violation Notice number F1845105 with constructing or maintaining a road or trail without authorization on National Forest System Lands 18 (36CFR 261.10a). Mr. Owens subsequently reached a plea agreement in U.S.<br><br> Magistrates Court with Assistant United States Attorneys and was ordered to restore damages done from this. d Unfortunately, after 7 years, a deep gully has eroded down the hill from this illegal road built by the Trailridge Runners. The ugly scar continues to get worse, and is visible for miles. Balarat Creek suffers from the sediments that continue to wash down the gully onto private property.<br><br> The restoration was incomplete. BLUE RIBBON COALITION The following letter was sent to Clark Collins, the Executive Director of the Blue Ribbon Coalition, on October 3, 2002: Dear Mr. Collins: I am writing to request a clarification of Blue Ribbon 9s position on private property rights.<br><br> My family was victimized by the so-called cBarking Dog Shovel Brigade, d a vigilante group consisting of members of the Trailridge Runners and Mile-Hi Jeep Clubs. They trespassed and vandalized our land on June 25, 2000, causing property damage and interfering with our family- operated forest agriculture business. Here are my specific questions: (1) Does Blue Ribbon encourage the use of a vigilante shovel brigades to open alleged roads through private property?<br><br> (2) If so, under what specific conditions? (3) If not, is Blue Ribbon willing to condemn such action when it takes place to help discourage the use of vigilante force against private landowners? Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.<br><br> I look forward to your response. Sincerely, Mark Boslough A few days later, Mr. Collins responded with a handwritten note on his letterhead: cREP America are a bunch of troublemakers and apparently you are one of their agitators d Similar letters were sent to the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC) the United Four-Wheel Drive Associations (UFWDA), and Tread Lightly!.<br><br> Only Tread Lightly! responded. 19 TREAD LIGHTLY!<br><br> cThe two groups allegedly in violation [Mile-Hi Jeep Club and Trailridge Runners] are NOT members of Tread Lightly d Tread Lightly! is an organization that attempts to encourage off-roaders to be responsible. The Mile-Hi Jeep Club and Trailridge Runners 4WD Club exploit this organization by falsely claiming membership and saying that they abide by the Tread Lightly!<br><br> pledge: T ravel only where permitted R espect the rights of others E ducate yourself A void streams and Meadows D rive Responsibly Emily McAllister is the Education & Program Specialist for Tread Lightly!. She wrote a letter to Mark Boslough on Oct. 8 , 2002 in response to his query.<br><br> In her letter, she said, cThe two groups allegedly in violation [Mile-Hi Jeep Club and Trailridge Runners] are NOT members of Tread Lightly! A thorough review of their web sites proved only to show mentions of Tread Lightly! and were apparently listed only as their own personal beliefs and not listed with affiliation to membership in Tread Lightly!. d But the Trailridge Runners website ( http://www.trr4wd.com/trrinfo.htm ) states: cThe Trailridge Runners are also members of: Colorado Assoc.<br><br> of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs Inc. Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition United Four-Wheel Drive Associations, Inc. Tread Lightly!<br><br> Inc. Red Rock Four-Wheelers Inc. of Moab, Utah d And the Mile-Hi Jeep Club website ( http://mhjc.org/club.htm ) states: cThe club belongs to and fully supports the Colorado Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs, Inc., the United Four Wheel Drive Associations (UFWDA), COHVCO, Tread Lightly, and the Old Car Council. d These two groups have exploited Tread Lightly!<br><br> to enhance their own reputations, when in fact their actions are in complete opposition to the Tread Lightly! principles. 20 LONG-TIME OWNERS, RESIDENTS, AND FRIENDS VOICE THEIR OPINIONS Maya Elrick Dr.<br><br> Elrick is the wife of Mark Boslough. She is a professor at the University of New Mexico. I would like to reinforce the points that my husband, Mark Boslough, made in his recent commentary.<br><br> I want to emphasize the fact that he is not the only landowner near the Barking Dog Trail who has experienced the abuse of off-road vehicle trespassers, nor is he the only landowner that was involved in the closing of Barking Dog trail to off-road vehicle use. My family owns land that Barking Dog Trail crosses. We have owned that property for nearly a half a century.<br><br> We have sold of some parts of our land and purchased others, including 18 patented mining claims (about 150 acres) through which Balarat Creek flows downstream from our original land. When I was a young girl in the early 1960s we used to go down to the creek and pick wild raspberries. I remember a stream that was lush with vegetation.<br><br> I never witnessed anything like the caravans of off-road vehicles that, in the 1990s, slashed through the streambed and tore up the plants that lined the riparian wetland along our creek. Maya Elrick (a Colorado native) rides cPatches d on her family 9s ranch in the early 1960s, a few hundred yards from the old Balarat mining camp Off-road vehicle trespassing along Balarat Creek became a serious problem when motorized recreationists discovered it and started making new roads and driving into our ranch from Barking Dog Trail. The off-roaders cut down trees without permission, and repeatedly tore down one of our ranch gates.<br><br> Our caretakers caught motorcyclists attempting to cut through our meadow on more than one occasion. Recently, Jeeps created a new road up a steep hill. The intersection of this newly created road with Barking Dog Trail is inside our ranch, and our fence was actually torn down by someone.<br><br> Now their new road has eroded so deeply that (ironically) Barking Dog Trail is nearly impassible at this point. Sediments from this deeply eroded gully are now washing down Balarat Creek toward the South St. Vrain.<br><br> One of our neighbors, John Ramey, is a real-estate developer whose hobby is mining. He became so exasperated with the trespassing and vandalism to his mining equipment that he erected a gate at the end of County Road 87 in a desperate attempt to keep vehicles out. Our caretakers watched 21 as a group of off-road motorists tore it down.<br><br> Now he is forced to keep his mining equipment on our land safely behind our fence, so it is not vulnerable to further vandalism by trespassers on Barking Dog Trail. In June of 1999, I confronted a group of off-road recreationists trespassing on our land where it is crossed by Barking Dog Trail (near where their new road has created the severe erosion problems). They were part of an organized group.<br><br> I don't remember if it was the Mile-High Jeep Club, but our property was posted, and they ignored our signs. I instructed them to turn around and go back from the direction the entered our property. They refused.<br><br> The Mile-Hi Jeep Club may do trail clean-up projects when it gives them favorable media attention, but in nearly half a century, they have never offered to clean up the trash, illegal campfire rings, vehicle parts, or other damage done to our land by off-road recreationists. They have made no effort whatsoever to contact us. I had never even heard of this club before several of its members vandalized our property.<br><br> Two years ago, the landowners in our area successfully rose up against this onslaught and asked the county commissioners to close access to Barking Dog Trail by allowing an official gate to be erected at the end of County Road 87. Our neighbors supported this action overwhelmingly. Here are some quotes from the letters written to the County Commissioners by our neighbors.<br><br> This is part of the documented public record available to anyone, so I will name names: John Geier (who bought 200 acres of my family's land in 1965) wrote that, "We have had trouble over the years with trespassers, hunters and motorcycle riders." Barking Dog owner Mark Boslough drives his very first vehicle, when Both owner and jeep were in their teen years. (Broomfield, 1972). 22 Paul Warren (whose family has owned a mineral patent crossed by Barking Dog Trail since the 1920's) supported the closure of the road, but said "If this is not to happen, some other means of controlling the off road vehicle traffic in this area would be another option!" Max Greenlee (another 2nd-generation land owner whose property is traversed by Balarat Creek and the extension of Barking Dog Trail wrote, "...the off-road traffic is increasing and our property is subjected to illegal motorcycle and ATV use.<br><br> The areas around this section of road have had vegetation stripped with consequential increases in erosion due to all the new motorcycle and ATV trails that crisscross the area. Based on these observations, I am in full support of the effort to get this section of roadway closed to the currently abusive uses." The Boulder County Commissioners hearing to close the road was held in the year 2000, and was attended by four representatives from the Cal-Wood Conservation Education Resource Center, our next-door neighbors, whose goal is "to develop, foster, and promote environmental conservation education with the goal of improving the quality of life for future generations and encouraging the wise use of natural resources." They spoke very eloquently and strongly for shutting down off-road activity in the area. In an effort to reverse the Commissioners 9 decision, the Mile-Hi Jeep Club and the Colorado OHV Coalition (COHVCO) initiated a campaign of misinformation.<br><br> On Sept. 27, 2001 the Commissioners voted to keep another road near Jamestown closed to vehicles. In an attempt to stir up its members against the Commissioners and landowners in our area, COHVCO fabricated its own version of the Sept.<br><br> 27 Commissioners 9 meeting, which had nothing to do with County Road 87 or access to Barking Dog Trail. One COHVCO board member has even gone so far as to tell a newspaper that we only own 3 mining claims. The facts of ownership can be obtained by anyone, simply by visiting the courthouse.<br><br> Off-roaders are also attempting to use the trail by force, through bullying and intimidation. They Maya Elrick and Mark Boslough both come from long-time Boulder County families. In the 1940s Boslough 9s father (second from left) drove a cab for Bill 9s City Taxi, at 1402 Walnut St (the current location of the bus station).<br><br> 23 have threatened to try to get my husband fired, and have posted a photograph of me along with personal information on the web. They have interfered with our attempts to thin our trees to reduce the fire hazard. They have accused us of vandalizing our own land because we have done this expensive and time-consuming forest stewardship work that benefits everyone.<br><br> They have ripped out the young saplings we planted to stabilize the soils they had torn up with their vehicles. This just makes it harder for us to control erosion that their off-road driving has caused. But we will not be intimidated.<br><br> We recognize that one Jeep club 9s contempt for private property and land ownership does not reflect the majority. We are keeping Barking Dog Trail open to people and wildlife. But it is closed to motorized vehicles.<br><br> The closure was a community effort, community supported, and much needed. Max Greenlee Mr. Greenlee is a second-generation owner of a homestead that is about a mile from Balarat, in Long Gulch.<br><br> Balarat Creek flows through his property, where it is an intermittent stream. The effort to reestablish a road for vehicular traffic in Long Gulch (Barking Dog Trail) will cause an unnecessary degradation. I am not qualified to comment on the legal aspects of this controversy but I do feel strongly about the deterioration this change would bring.<br><br> I have been familiar with this area for over 40 years as my family has owned property that lies in the upper end of this drainage. There has been considerable mining activity in previous years in this region and many old roads used to service the mines can still be identified. It is possible to force a 4 wheel drive car along these roads often leaving varying amounts of damage.<br><br> The riparian areas such as Long Gulch are especially vulnerable since the vestiges of the remaining roadway are adjacent to the streambed or actually in it. Long Gulch does carry a flowing stream at times. Of course motorized traffic inevitably brings with it a certain amount of noise pollution which disturbs an area that currently has a healthy environment for a variety of wildlife.<br><br> Recreational 4 wheeling is a great sport and has its place but it does take a toll on fragile areas such as this one. I hope that Long Gulch can escape what I think is an unnecessary and violent change in character which had been virtually undisturbed for many years. Sherri Tippie Ms.<br><br> Tippie is the president and executive director of Wildlife 2000, which relocates beaver families that are under assault from urban areas to riparian zones in the mountains. The denial of off-road recreational clubs that Balarat Creek is surrounded by a riparian wetland is absurd. This is a free-flowing mountain stream.<br><br> The ground is wet along the stream banks year- round. The definition of the word "riparian" is "the geographically delineated areas with distinct resource values that occur adjacent to streams, lakes, ponds, wetlands, and other specified water bodies." In the case of Balarat, the stream side wetlands support native grasses which provide food for wildlife. It is within a primary elk migration corridor.<br><br> Elk, deer, bear, mountain lion, and beaver take advantage of the flowing waters of Balarat Creek. The stream-side riparian wetlands support old-growth native cottonwoods as well as several native species of willows, and constitutes ideal beaver habitat. Brad Ulrich's article says: "...Boslough apparently became angry, accusing the four wheelers of tearing things up (even going so far as accusing them of driving in a wetland where on doesn't even exist!)...." Ulrich has never been there.<br><br> The wetland exists. 24 Mark Boslough and his family have spent thousands of dollars on habitat restoration. He and his brother have spent hundreds of hours in the labor-intensive work of planting trees, by hand, along the stream banks.<br><br> He has worked hard with various foresters and government agencies to thin the fire-prone diseased and dying trees in the area. He has worked hard to stabilize and reclaim mine tailings. He is so protective of the delicate soils and fragile ecosystem of Balarat Creek that he will not drive there himself, even though it is on his own property.<br><br> In the summer of 2000, Wildlife 2000 relocated a family of beaver into a small beaver pond along Balarat Creek. Mark Boslough insisted that we carry the beaver, by hand, along the creek to the relocation site. He and his brother, along with community volunteers, provided the labor.<br><br> Yes, Mark Boslough became angry when off-roaders tore up the wetland ecosystem on his property, destroyed the small trees he was nurturing, and drove right across the reclaimed mine tailings without regard for his hard work. This kind of abuse should make everyone angry! Jim Martella Mr.<br><br> Martella lives at the top of Balarat Hill, about a half mile from the end of County Road 87. I have been living up County Road 87 for nearly 8 years and have some perspective on this dilemma. I am not sure if County Rd 87 has ever extended into Long Gulch-the current extension was most likely made by miners in the 50's or earlier so that they could get back in there or by four wheel drive clubs-it's fairly easy to tell a modern road from an old miner road.<br><br> As far as the Barking dog trail is concerned, if it was ever used as a public road-it sure was never used by any modern vehicles-most likely it was a horse trail at one point. I have been up and down that on foot many times and would never consider using even a friends 1947 Willies to go up or down it. What I can say about this trail, like many in the area, the four wheel drives and motocross users have used and abused not only the trail but all surrounding areas including the house and property where I live.<br><br> Every summer I have to repost no trespassing sign because they get torn down, every year someone in a jeep decides to make their own road through a meadow that hasn't had any traffic thru it for at least 60 years. I can remember a time when I tried to throw a few motocross riders off my property and one tried to run me over. I haven't seen them back since they got an up close look at my Smith and Wesson model 629.<br><br> I have picked up boxes of empty beer bottles left behind from over night partiers and cleaned up other messes as well including a truck that went off the road and was left behind. Every so often I have people come up my driveway (maybe 6 to 7 jeeps) and then figure out it's a driveway-I thought people who had drivers licenses know how to read-maybe I'm wrong but I guess since they can't read the 8 different signs on my driveway I'm not wrong with my assumption. Basically with blatant disregard to private land owners, posted property lines, posted private road signs and no respect for the land or the delicate environment-I am totally opposed to any vehicular traffic that has no official business up there.<br><br> Do we have to wait till someone burns the place down before a stop is put to the mindless weekend warriors hell bent on four wheeling? How about if I get in my four wheel drive and shred some flatlanders garden to hell, throw beer bottles all over and dump my oil on their lawn? What's fair is fair.<br><br> Vernon Brandt 9s response to Jim Martella Mr. Brandt is a member of Trail Ridge Runners 4WD Club, and is the Mile-Hi Jeep Club representative to the COHVCO Board of Directors. well jim you seem confused.<br><br> you say you live on 87 . 87 is a "public road " and and knowone (sic) has to advise you of their business if any to be on that road. as for your driveway- if it is an old mineing 25 (sic) road astablished (sic) before 1906 it is a public road as well and you have illegally marked it private.<br><br> if however it is private then i am sorry that you are meeting the black seep (sic) of the off hiyway (sic) user group. as for them leaveing (sic) cans ,butts and other stuff. again i am sorry .<br><br> none of that is a reason to keep us off of the barking dog road since it is a public road. there are folks that litter all over the place and if we shut down the roads for the litter bugs there would be no roads at all. as for whether rigs use barking dog.<br><br> cut the crap i have tape and pictures of my personal use in 99 just before boslough blocked the road. you cant make up your mind on the use of that road cause you state noone could and then say that folks have used it . which is it.<br><br> i see your dislike for the fourwheelin and motorcycle crowd but that does not mean a hill of beans. lets get aquanted (sic) and work out a way to comunicate (sic) the the rebels and we can all get along. you have NO right to tell me i have no business in your neighborhood.<br><br> if i am on your property sure but if i am on a public road and you pull a gun. better be real quick with the trigger. we will be up there real soon to remove the illegal obstructions.<br><br> you have an open invite to give me a call and i will help you in any way i can 970 222 0065 thanks vb Stephen J. Spaulding Mr. Spaulding is a professional forestry consultant from Green Mountain Springs, Colorado.<br><br> Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the trespass situation you are experiencing along Barking Dog Trail. First, let me say that I find it difficult to believe that certain parties appear to use the property without expressed consent from you. To the best of my knowledge, your ownership of the property is in the private domain and this ownership is recognized by Boulder County as it collects property taxes on the property.<br><br> As for the forest management activities on the property, I originally prepared a written forest management plan for the property in September of 1999. As part of the preparation for this management plan, an inventory of the forest and its condition was performed. During the course of the inventory, it was observed that the unimproved dirt road (Barking Dog Trail) was being used for recreational purposes.<br><br> While it remained the decision of the landowner (Mr. M. Boslough), it was recommended that this recreational use be resolved prior to any forest management activities.<br><br> This recommendation was made on the risk of injury to users of the dirt road, whether invited or uninvited, from forest management activities such as tree falling, hazards from the slash left from the tree felling and other concealed hazards. In addition there is a serious concern about the soil erosion effects that are a result of the recreational use, particularly in regard to off-road vehicles. The soils in the area are very susceptible to water erosion if the soil is disturbed and the vegetative cover is damaged or destroyed.<br><br> In regard to the areas disturbed by historical mine use, the disturbance of the soil by off-road vehicles makes a difficult restoration process even more problematic. Finally, the proximity of the creek in Long Gulch adds the issue of degradation of water quality, an even more critical issue considering the current drought. The damage resulting from unauthorized use of off-roads vehicles is an issue both on private and public lands through out the entire state.<br><br> Steve Lubliner, Lyons mountain biker I support the effort to keep motorized vehicles off of Barking Dog Trail. Let's face it, the people who are responsible for all the littering and vandalism in the area are the people who drive in. 26 Bikers and hikers aren't the ones who carried in the vehicle parts and oil cans that have been scattered along the creek, and televisions sets that people have shot up.<br><br> About six years ago, I witnessed several individuals in 2 or 3 vehicles turning what was clearly a single track trail into a double track road. They were using hand tools to make their new road just past the Ceran St. Vrain loop, not far from Barking Dog Trail.<br><br> I later found out they were members of a jeep club, and that they had gotten busted. Sid Goodloe, New Mexico rancher In Arizona, ORV users stimulated by a nationally broadcast television ad depicting a Nisson truck destroying a ghost town have begun to search out historical artifacts and archeological remnants for the same treatment. Arizona Highways magazine, an official publication of the Arizona Highway Department, has discontinued publishing locations of Arizona's historic mining sites because ORV damage has become a major concern.<br><br> The old Balarat mining camp is on Mark Boslough 9s property. Jeeps, ATVs and motorcycles have made a new road directly over the foundations of the buildings in the foreground. Most of the ruins of this ghost town have been taken away by trespassers.<br><br> Vehicle parts and other trash now litter the site of this old town. 27 August 7, 2002 Guest Opinion Fewer roads, fewer fires "This land is your land, this land is my land," Woody Guthrie, 1952. "This is our land," Jarbridge Shovel Brigade Official Web Site, 2002.<br><br> By Mark Boslough On Sept. 1, 1846, my great-grandfather's great-grandfather camped in a place that is now the outskirts of Elko, Nevada. The night was dark and quiet.<br><br> There were no roads for hundreds of miles. There were no ranches, no timber companies, no towns, no subdivisions, and no vacation houses to protect from wildfire. When the forests caught fire, as they had for millennia, nobody cared.<br><br> The natural cycle was in balance. Things have changed since then. Today, only the most inaccessible fragments of our national forests are wild, unmarred by roads and other intrusions.<br><br> The wild, roadless areas are special, spectacular places, where forests tend to be healthy and fires need not be suppressed. Wildlife is protected by isolation, and people can visit for solitude and rejuvenation. This land is your land.<br><br> Without protection, however, roads and development will eventually swallow up the last remaining wild forests. Unfortunately, there is a dangerous and growing movement spawned by the timber and motorized recreation industries to grab this public treasure for their own gain. Allowing them to do so will push these prized forests to the front burner, exposing them to the ravages of human- caused, catastrophic wildfires like those that have singed the West this summer.<br><br> One of the uglier manifestations of this movement is the "Jarbridge Shovel Brigade," of Elko County. This vigilante group was formed to seize the control of public lands in northern Nevada, lands owned by all Americans. In 1995, a road to the Jarbridge Wilderness Area washed out.<br><br> To protect the nearby Jarbridge River and its endangered bull trout fishery from soil erosion, the U.S. Forest Service decided to keep the streamside road closed to motor vehicles. The road was blocked off with large boulders.<br><br> This did not sit well with some locals, who organized a work party to defy federal protection of our public land and take the law into their own hands. On July 4, 2000, they converged on the site, removed the boulders, and built their own unauthorized road. The philosophy of the Shovel Brigade movement seems to be this: Anywhere vehicles have ever been driven can be maintained as a public highway by vigilantes, regardless of environmental harm or federal protective rulings to the contrary.<br><br> These groups do not limit their aggressive intrusions to public lands. They also invade lands owned by private individuals who don't want motorized trespassers on their property. I learned this firsthand when I attempted to prevent motorized use of a creek bed on my family's property in Boulder County, Colorado.<br><br> When the oldest parts of our property went into private ownership, the entire area was roadless. Old maps show only a single-track footpath along Balarat Creek. But to some off-road enthusiasts, a hiking trail on any property, public or private, is theirs for the taking.<br><br> In helping themselves, they have caused erosion, destroyed vegetation and created new spur roads. With 300 acres of trees that needed to be thinned to reduce the fire hazard, I hired a professional forester to draft a forest stewardship plan. One of the primary recommendations of his report was to stop the unauthorized recreational use before undertaking forest stand improvements.<br><br> If trees were cut and underbrush removed without putting up gates and fences, he reasoned, the land would be much more vulnerable to motorized trespassers. In 1999, I posted "no motorized vehicles" signs along our creek land. That spring, a group of 15 vehicles from the Denver-based Mile-Hi Jeep Club ignored my signs and drove through.<br><br> The club's web site even reported that one vehicle dumped a crankcase load of oil into our creek. 28 So that summer I did what the Forest Service did in Elko County. I blocked the trail.<br><br> This was unacceptable to some members of the Mile-Hi Jeep Club, who organized a "Barking Dog Shovel Brigade" to remove my boulder and work on an amateur road construction project on private land they had no right to enter. Unlike the Forest Service, I didn't let the matter go. I brought in a truckload of boulders.<br><br> Two years later, the "road" has reverted to a hiking trail for my neighbors and the surrounding community. The streamside wildflowers, grasses, willows, and aspen trees that were crushed under the off-road tires are growing back. The Mile-Hi Jeep Club's oil slick is gone, and I have picked up much of the trash and vehicle parts.<br><br> More importantly, the threat of human-cause wildfire has been greatly reduced. When I blocked the trail to off-road vehicles, I removed at least a dozen unauthorized fire rings. Few illegal campfires have appeared since then.<br><br> After the Shovel Brigade removed my barrier, somebody built a celebratory bonfire. This summer has brought the worst drought the mountain West has experienced in a century, but off-road recreation has continued unabated in the tinder-dry forest near my family's property. In July, only a few miles to the north, two men in a Jeep CJ7 drove off a road onto toasty dry grass.<br><br> It was quickly ignited by their hot catalytic converter. Before it was contained, the resulting Big Elk fire consumed 4,413 acres of forest, forced the evacuation of 250 homes, cost $2 million, and tragically claimed two lives in the crash of a slurry bomber used to fight the blaze. "I keep wondering why it is that we can't close off more of the backcountry roads and the places where people are coming in and being careless with fires," observed Paul McDaniel, who had to flee when the fire threatened his neighborhood.<br><br> This seems like a no-brainer; a practical idea so obviously beneficial, it is almost beyond discussion. Compared to roadless wild forests, fire-prone areas that are crisscrossed with roads are exposed to fire by human- borne matches, tossed cigarettes, exhaust sparks, fireworks and unattended campfires, not to mention arsonists. As you know, the worst of the fires this summer actually were physically set by people.<br><br> The Forest Service estimates that 90 percent of wildfires in national forests are human-caused. A common-sense way to prevent forest fires is to limit motorized access into the woods, especially during the fire season. But renegade shovel brigades and Jeep clubs seem to have no respect for rules that protect forest resources or private property.<br><br> When other motorists follow their example and fail to obey road closures, the results can be catastrophic. Take the recent huge fire in Arizona. The blaze was not started by a hiker, as off-road vehicle groups have gleefully claimed.<br><br> The Chediski fire broke out after a pickup truck driver got lost in a maze of forest roads on the Fort Apache Reservation and subsequently ran out of gas. In desperation, his stranded passenger set a signal fire that got out of control, merged with the Rodeo fire, burned almost half a million acres, destroyed nearly 500 homes and cabins, and forced the evacuation of 300,000 people. Forests with open roads will always be more vulnerable than those without roads.<br><br> Someone who tossed a cigarette or other burning object into a roadside ditch started the Missionary Ridge fire near Durango. That fire destroyed 56 homes and more than 70,000 acres, costing more than $40 million. Areas with roads in our national forests require active management to reduce their unnaturally high fire hazards and help restore them to health, but thinning also makes them more vulnerable to damage from motorized intruders.<br><br> That's one of the reasons thinning projects need a comprehensive environmental review, so that we don't inadvertently increase the fire risk with a rushed job due to political pressure. By reasonably limiting access in forests already criss- crossed with roads, we can reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires. In the wild and roadless areas of our national forests, nature can be left to its own devices, which will keep forests healthy, reduce wildfire hazards, and save taxpayers the expense of road construction and upkeep - not to mention the cost of fighting the resultant wildfires.<br><br> By preserving roadless areas, the federal government can protect our last remaining wild forests for all Americans. Boslough, an Albuquerque scientist, grew up in Boulder County, Colorado. He is a member of REP America.<br><br> 29 BUSH ADMINISTRATION 9S MISUSE OF RS2477 IS A THREAT TO QUIET TRAILS AND PRIVATE PROPETY Revised Statute 2477 (RS-2477) has become as sacred to off-road organizations as the 2 nd amendment is to the NRA. However, the interpretation of RS-2477 by off-road clubs is unconstitutional, because the 5 th amendment states: "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." Off-roaders have used RS-2477 to intimidate and threaten small landowners, many of whom cannot afford to defend themselves from lawsuits. Off-road clubs are now claiming that old mining trails across both public and private property can be converted into public highways, and are attempting to seize control of trails and stream beds for their motorized entertainment.<br><br> They have now found a strong ally in the Bush administration. Bush opens up backcountry trails to vehicles By ROBERT McCLURE, SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER Jan. 1, 2003 - The Bush administration, in a move that has outraged environmentalists, is about to hand a big victory to Westerners who want to use a post-Civil War-era law to punch dirt-bike trails and roads into the backcountry.<br><br> Untallied thousands of miles of long-abandoned wagon roads, cattle paths, Jeep trails and miners' routes potentially could be transformed into roads -- some of them paved. Many crisscross national parks, wildlife refuges and wilderness areas. Scheduled to go into effect shortly, the rule change was greeted warmly by off-road vehicle enthusiasts, whose numbers have exploded in recent years.<br><br> Many oppose attempts to fence off wilderness areas where mechanized vehicles are banned. Where miners and wagons trains went, so should dirt bikes, they say. "We consider it a pretty substantial gain," said Clark Collins, executive director of the Blueribbon Coalition, an advocacy group for snowmobilers, dirt-bike and all-terrain-vehicle riders and 4X4 enthusiasts based in Pocatello, Idaho.<br><br> "That historic use in our view should provide for continued recreational use of those routes," he said. "The government should not be allowed to close those routes." Environmentalists say the amount of noise pollution, erosion, water pollution and other harm done to the backcountry will depend largely on how the rule is handled by the Bush administration. And they're worried.<br><br> "I don't think Congress in 1866 meant to grant rights of way to off-road-vehicle trails," said Heidi McIntosh of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. "This is flying under the radar screen, but I can't think of another initiative the Bush administration is pursuing that would have a more lasting and significant impact on public lands." In Washington state, huge areas -- including parts of North Cascades National Park -- are honeycombed by old mining trails that could be promoted by off-road-vehicle devotees as open to motorized traffic. Other national parks that could be affected include Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Denali, Wrangell-St.<br><br> Elias and Rocky Mountain. A 1993 National Park Service report said the impact across 17.5 million acres in 68 national parks could be "devastating." 30 The law was originally passed when Jesse James was just starting to rob banks and the U.S. cavalry was still fighting Indians.<br><br> Seattle did not yet have a bank or a public schoolhouse. It made federal land available for wagon roads, miners' trails and other transportation routes. Its purpose was to open the West to settlement.<br><br> It would be nine years after the law's passage before the internal combustion engine was invented. Decades would elapse before many newfangled automobiles were scooting around the landscape. The rule change announced on Christmas Eve by the Bush administration rolls back severe restrictions slapped on the use of the law under the Clinton administration.<br><br> "We're really concerned about this because it seems like the administration is encouraging (road) claims that will affect the parks," said Heather Weiner, Northwest director for the National Parks Conservation Association. Outside national parks, wilderness areas set aside by Congress in national forests and other federal lands also are in play. "It would disrupt the quiet and the feeling that you're away from civilization," said Seattle activist Pat Goldsworthy.<br><br> Lots of land is at stake. In California alone, 19 wilderness areas and proposed wilderness areas could be affected. A full accounting of such areas in Washington apparently has not been compiled, but the Alpine Lakes, Pasayten, Glacier Peak, Stephen Mather and Mount Baker wilderness areas all contain old miners' trails.<br><br> "You name it, miners have been everywhere" around the West, said Seattle attorney Karl Forsgaard, an environmental activist. "So keep that in mind." The one-sentence, 21-word statutory provision in question, known as Revised Statute 2477, was part of the nation's first general mining law, passed July 26, 1866. It says, "The right of way for the construction of highways across public lands not otherwise reserved for public purposes is hereby granted." The idea was to induce miners to continue to fan out across the West and settle it.<br><br> To do that, they needed roads, or at least what passed for roads in those days. That law and its replacements in 1870 and 1872 gave miners the right to buy public land for $5 an acre or less if they did work necessary to discover minerals on the land. Those prices remain in effect today.<br><br> A few years earlier, Congress had passed the Homestead Act, which provided cheap land to settlers willing to build ranches, farms and homes on the acreage. That law was repealed in 1976. That was the same year Congress repealed the roads-for-lands provision of the old mining law.<br><br> However, at the time Congress gave states and counties 12 years to settle their old road claims. Ten years later, Congress in effect extended the deadline. But the Clinton administration fought most attempts to turn wilderness into roadways.<br><br> Now, the Bush administration says it will finalize a rule giving Western states, counties and cities -- some avowedly hostile to federal control of wilderness areas -- a better chance to enforce those claims. The Clinton administration made it difficult to get the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management to approve the road claims. A burst of litigation resulted, much of it in Alaska and Utah.<br><br> In Utah, some 15,000 road claims are at issue; Alaska's state government has identified about 650. In Utah, county governments angry about the establishment of a national monument have become embroiled in a fight over the issue. The state sued the federal government.<br><br> And in Alaska, the state government contends that even some section lines -- the imaginary grid that marks off every square mile in the nation -- are subject to the provision and can be claimed as roads. Until now, proving that would likely have involved an arduous legal battle. Under the Bush policy, though, the BLM can process the claims more readily as an administrative action.<br><br> 31 It makes sense, says the Bush administration, because it saves state and federal taxpayers money on court costs. "The department felt this allowed them to address the . .<br><br> . issues in a more straightforward way," said David Quick, a BLM spokesman. Stephen Griles, a former mining lobbyist who serves as the No.<br><br> 2 official in the Interior Department, told a pro-development group in Alaska that the rule change was spurred in part by the advocacy of the Western Governors Association. "The department is poised to bring finality to this issue that has created unnecessary conflict between federal land managers and state and local governments," Griles told the Resource Development Council in November. Griles told the group the rules would be "consistent with historic regulation prior to 1976." What's changed since then is that sales of off-road vehicles, particularly three- and four- wheeled all-terrain vehicles, have skyrocketed.<br><br> Enthusiasts have started to fight to maintain access to back-country trails. Meanwhile, environmental activists are trying to declare additional areas off-limits to the off- road vehicles, saying they disturb wildlife and hikers, cloud up streams and cause erosion of trails and hillsides. The new rule could help put to rest a controversy over a related Clinton-era policy, said the Blueribbon Coalition's Collins.<br><br> A Clinton policy banned most logging, mining and other commercial uses in 58.5 million acres of national forests where no roads are built. But under the new policy, if states, counties or others are able to establish a network of legally recognized "highways" through those acres -- even if the highways are dirt roads or something less -- it would give those fighting the so-called "roadless" proposal ammunition. At least that's what Collins hopes.<br><br> "That's why we have a real interest in it," he said. "It does have the potential to influence this debate." In national forests, those trying to open a route to motorized travel would have to show that the route existed prior to the establishment of national forests -- around the turn of the last century for most places in the Pacific Northwest. In many places, though, miners preceded establishment of the forests.<br><br> Old maps can pinpoint their routes. "You're talking about going back and doing some fairly detailed research in old historical documents," said Paul Turcke, a Boise, Idaho, attorney who represents off-road-vehicle enthusiasts, including the Blueribbon Coalition. It's clear that counties and states have the right to try to open up the old routes.<br><br> Cities would, too, under the new rule. It remains to be seen whether private groups such as off-road-vehicle clubs could sue to open the routes. "If I had to predict, I would say the trend is going to be toward more private interests being involved," Turcke said.<br><br> 32 The cBarking Dog d overlooks the trailhead. This rock formation is on Boulder County 9s list of historic landmarks. A group of men, dressed in workclothes, stand or sit outside "The Chipmonk Store" in Balarat, Colorado in Boulder County.<br><br> The building is made of logs, with eaves of plywood and two square windows above the sign. A smaller building with a small gable and a stovepipe chimney is next to the larger one. Snow is on the ground in front of the building and on the hillside in the background.<br><br> Bare trees emerge from the snow. Circa 1878. REPOSITORY Western History/Genealogy Department, Denver Public Library, 10 W.<br><br> 14th Avenue Parkway, Denver, Colorado 80204.