Some photos courtesy of Jonathan Poole
The attendance was excellent.
The entire event was covered by the
media. Several attendees and speakers were interviewed
Lori Hryniuk, Rob De Lange
The B.C. Land Conservancy's attempt to deny access to the Harbourview area to non-hikers has resulted in an unprecedented occurrence: hundreds of outdoor users, from motorcyclists to fourwheelers, gathered in front of the B.C. Legislature to demand fair access to public land.
The rally was scheduled to start on 2:00 pm on Saturday afternoon. When I arrived, shortly before 2:00 pm, I was surprised and happy to see 500-600 sign-waving members of the fourwheeling and dirt-biking community. IRC members manned the three entrances to the grounds in front of the Legislature building, collecting contact information from rally participants. They would be added to a land use mailing list that would keep them up to date on future developments. This was a fantastic idea. The key to us winning this battle is to stay informed and organized and this was an excellent first step.
The rally was hosted by Lori Hryniuk and before I go any further, I want to congratulate her for organizing such an incredibly professional and successful event. Her work today went a long ways towards ensuring the future of our sport in this province. Lori started things off by welcoming the participants and introduced the various clubs and organizations that were present. She gave a short talk about how we continue to lose access to public trails and explained the need for government-sanctioned off-highway vehicle (OHV) areas. Although the provincial government and environmental groups are very proud of the fact that we have the highest percentage of our land devoted parks of any other province, they neglect to mention that they are exclusionary in nature. Only those people who have the physical ability to hike these areas are permitted to enjoy them. The frail, ill or un-fit are excluded.
Editor's note: Mechanized recreationists don't expect all parks to be available to them. Our contention is that those areas we use frequently should be set aside for continued mechanized vehicle use. There are vast areas of British Columbia that are eminently suited to preserving as road-free areas. It boggles my mind that the T.L.C. and C.R.D. would instead, choose to pretend that the Harbourview area is a "virgin" area (even though it has a long history of logging, motor vehicle use, and even a paved road) and shut out the main users of the area: fourwheel drive enthusiasts and motorcyclists. They clearly have adopted the arrogant stance that they are the ones who are best suited for stewarding the area, even though their apparent knowledge of the area is sorely lacking.
Then she introduced Rob DeLange who read a
moving essay by an American, Richard Schaefer, who was dismayed by the successful and on-going attempts of US preservationist groups to close vast tracts of land to the general public.
Next, Rick Kasper (MLA, MALAHAT - JUAN DE FUCA) took the stage. He spoke about how the NDP government must consult with all stakeholders before allowing organizations such as the C.R.D. (Capital Regional District) and T.L.C. (The Land Conservancy) to become stewards of the land. By all stakeholders, he was including fourwheelers, equestrians, motorcyclists, mountain bikers, hunters, and aboriginals. He was a strong speaker and received a strong response from the audience.
Mr. Kasper then introduced another MLA, Steve Orcherton (VICTORIA - HILLSIDE). Like Kasper, he was also an talented public speaker. He re-iterated the call for consultation with all parties, not just the environmentalists. He made reference to the "war in the woods," the long battle to set aside 12% of Crown land for parks. But now that we have these parks, he said it would be a travesty to allow a "war in the parks" to occur by following a policy of exclusion, not inclusion. As expected, this elicited a strong and favourable response from the crowd. Mr. Orcherton went on to promise that on Monday he would speak to the Minister of the Environment on the topic of opening up the consultation process to involve all users.
My favourite speaker was Rory Brown, Treasurer of the Nanaimo Sidewider's 4x4 club and a past executive member of the Four Wheel Drive Association of B.C. (4WDABC). He reviewed the history of fourwheeling in British Columbia and explained the original reason for the formation of the 4WDABC. Of particular interest was his experience with trying to organize land access initiatives several years ago. At that time, the majority of the club members were unwilling to believe that the future would hold the spectre of trail closures. As such, proposals to take Sidewinder's action fell on deaf ears. Fast forward to the new millenium and that's exactly what's happening. Can you imagine what might have been if fourwheelers had prepared themselves for this assault on public access before land closures became the politically correct cause that it is today.
He made some damning remarks about tactics used by some preservationist groups. For instance, the T.L.C.'s remarks and advertisements about the Harbourview lands claim that the area is pristine and untouched by human use. Their publicized photos of the area are truly beautiful and do a fine job of omitting the fact that the area has plenty of ROADS that are used by many recreational groups. This "half-truth" imagery is used to lure the public into donating money to protect this "virgin" territory. Similarly, the Western Canada Wilderness Committee (W.C.W.C.) used to display photos of old clear cuts made according to old regulations, and present them as examples of current clear cutting practices. More manipulation of the truth.
Editor's note: This reminds me of the "Great Bear Rain Forest." Traditionally known as the mid-coast region, it was unofficially renamed by environmentalists who needed a rallying cry. In other words, they manufactured the name out of thin air and managed to get everyone to start using it and buy into the imagery of the name. The magnitude of their marketing muscle is truly fearful and is a clear indication of what we're up against. They will manipulate the truth to achieve their goals.
Rory also roasted SUV manufacturers whose ads go out of their way to perpetuate the false image that most fourwheelers tear up virgin ground and race through the woods. Derisive imagery is one of the strongest weapons being used against us and it is tragically ironic that the benefactors of the SUV's popularity, the auto manufacturers, are the same ones who our hurting our cause. He closed by telling us that we and we alone are the only ones who can change our bad public image. If we can change our image, we will have won a large part of the battle.
John Edgar of the Lionsgaters discussed his club's experience dealing with Lillooet and Williams Lake officials in protecting fourwheelers' access to the beautiful and remote Windy Ridge trail. He told of the hundreds of hours spent working with various government agencies and the immense personal and financial costs of making frequent trips to attend meetings. But in the end, their perseverance, participation and diplomacy paid off. They were successful in protecting the Windy Ridge trail and some of their suggestions were included in future policy decisions. He ended by telling us that if we're not willing to put in our own time into fighting for our rights, then how can we expect others to do the same thing?
Alex Smith of the Victoria Motorcycle Club made a brief appearance. He spoke a few sentences but what he said had a lot of impact: the Harbourview area has been logged at least twice. But even so, The Land Conservancy is still of the opinion that the area is a fragile ecosystem. Well, if it was able to withstand a couple of log harvests, one has to wonder why it can't continue to flourish with mechanized recreationists enjoying its unique trail system.
Pam Hansen, also from the Lionsgaters, read a letter from Theresa Huarte, the president of AURS (Alberta United Recreationists Society). Theresa's letter talked about the OHV parks in Alberta and land issues that they are dealing with, as well as their involvement with Shifting Gears, a government program to promote responsible off-highway vehicle use.
Tom Telford, a Warn representative and a member of the Jolly Jeepers from Oregon, took the stage next to talk about the economic benefits of mechanized recreation. His example was Moab, Utah. Once a soon-to-die community after its uranium mining industry went bust, the town turned itself around by focusing on its beautiful and unique 4x4 and mountain bike trails. Today, the town thrives on 4x4 and mountain bike tourism, an industry which has resulted in no negative impact on the area's natural beauty. Mr. Telford pointed out that a successful OHV park often achieves the same goal that environmentalists aim for: sustainable, environmentally-friendly industry. The only difference is that the OHV parks allow for shared use which, for many extreme environmentalists, is unthinkable. He urged us all to make direct and personal contact with environmentalists. By communicating openly and directly, we could show them, one at a time, that our sport is not the destructive past-time that they think it is.
Lori returned to the stage and thanked everyone for showing up. She implored us to write to our MLAs and other government departments and to continue writing. If with stick with it, eventually, eventually, our message will be heard. We all need to become involved with local issues and from this grass roots beginning, we will one day achieve the change we are seeking: public access to public land.
To end the rally, Rob Bryce stepped up and read the email he had originally posted to the BC4x4 mailing list. He made a persuasive case for putting aside our differences and getting involved. We must fight for our rights as a group or fall, one by one, as the gates are slammed shut first to fourwheelers, then motorcyclists, then snowmobilers, then mountain bikers and then equestrians.
Sunday, November 5, 2000
Environmental Groups Destroy Recreational Use of Public Lands
By RICHARD SCHAEFER
A day seldom goes by when I don't read of another loss of access and use of our "public lands." It's nearly always the result of a lawsuit by one of the many "eco-elite" or "environmental socialist" groups.
These groups are determined to close down any group or activity that
does not conform to their environmentally correct" agenda. Most
recently, the area closed down to off-road use was 48,000 acres of
Southern California desert. Off-road vehicles were banned in order to
protect the milk-vetch plant. The closure was the result of a lawsuit
brought by the Center for Biological Diversity. This organization is responsible for litigating to close many areas of "public" lands for one environmentally sensitive reason or another.
Now most people will say, "Oh, those four-wheelers are a destructive lot and shouldn't be allowed to tear across 'our desert." Personally, I
don't use an off-road vehicle. And I've met some off-roaders who are indeed irresponsible, and I've met others who spend the weekends picking up the trash of those who rode horses or hiked into the back country. I guess off-roaders come in all
types, just like the rest of us.
Now I used to take my two little boys fishing in Sespe Creek, in the
mountains above Ojai. Well, the Center for Biological Diversity
litigated on behalf of the arroyo toad, and
closed the campgrounds and access road along Sespe. I can no longer take
my children fishing where I grew up fishing and hiking. I guess my
children and I were a threat to these
Environmental groups are destroying the access and recreational use of
our public lands by an organized assault against all groups that don't
conform to their environmentally
correct, eco-sensitive agenda. It's the death of a thousand cuts, each
slash destroying the rights of a particular group or restricting access
to a certain area.
This ongoing war of attrition has spread across our nation, leaving in its wake a plague of locked gates, fences, closed campgrounds, and roads and signs that read "Keep Out," "No Fishing," "No Hunting," "No Off-Road Vehicles," "No Snowmobiles," and on and on.
The entire nation is infected with the disease of environmental
socialism. It's disenfranchising; farmers, loggers, hunters, fishermen,
RVers, equestrian groups, off-roaders,
snowmobilers, prospectors, fly-fishermen, home builders, boaters, scuba
divers, surfers, target shooters, recreational property owners and more.
Then there's the biggest group that's being forced from public
lands.It's the old, the very young, the infirm, the handicapped and the
out of condition among us. The public lands
shouldn't become the domain of only the young and healthy who are able
to hike with backpacks many miles.
The wild areas shouldn't be the focus of lip service by the wealthy
members of the "eco-elite" who jet off to the "eco-tourism" resorts
around the world while the rest of us crowd
into the few remaining campgrounds. It is supposed to be everyone's
outdoors. Yes, even the unattractive, unfit, politically incorrect,
aged, infirm, handicapped and families with
I hope Americans wake up before they find themselves fenced not just
from their land, but from their freedom and heritage as well.