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Why Tread Lightly! is essential to saving your access

A revolution is underway to protect OHV recreation from trail damage, misconceptions, and under-funded federal management of motorized activities.

By Lori McCullough

"Our job is to provide you with the tools and the inspiration to get others to change their behavior."

If Paul Revere were alive today, he'd be riding around the nation, probably in an SUV, warning us we're under attack. But it's not the British coming to attack the colonists. Under attack is an American lifestyle— specifically outdoor recreation— especially activities involving the use of off-highway vehicles (OHVs).

Now I'm sure you've heard of Tread Lightly!®, Inc. before. It's a nonprofit organization with an outdoor ethics message for wheelers. But Tread Lightly! is not just about protecting the environment, it's also about protecting your four-wheeling lifestyle from these attacks. Unless the four-wheel drive community embraces Tread Lightly!'s message, tools and restoration program, your access will fall victim within the next year to trail damage, misconceptions and under-funded management (especially regarding the new Travel Management Rule and the Recreation Site Facility Master Plan)

photo of trailer and banner
The Tread Lightly! education trailer

Changing Behavior

The Chief of the US Forest service named unmanaged recreation, especially OHV recreation, as one of the top four threats to the nation's public land. These beloved vehicles that sit so innocently in our garages right now can be major tools of destruction and ultimately trail closure if not handled responsibly.

This means staying on legal routes, refraining from illegal mud bogging, not driving up sensitive streams, etc. But you know all that. Our job is to provide you with the tools and the inspiration to get others to change their behavior. We've got educational materials, public service announcements, and a stellar training program ready for you to utilize.

The fact is right now land managers can't afford to restore damage and sometimes must close areas as a result, so we need your peer pressure coupled with our tools to prevent these closures. Remember too, only 5 percent of motorized riders are considered "renegades" but sometimes damage is caused by "good apples" who are 95 percent responsible and only slip-up 5 percent of the time. We can all do a little better.

Changing Perceptions

Although some closures are the result of environmental damage, many are the results of damaged perceptions. Anti-access groups are successful in gaining public and legislative support because there are preconceived notions about what four-wheelers do in the outdoors.

A radio public service announcement Tread Lightly! created was recently played by hundreds of stations across the country— in it, an Iraqi veteran pointed out that he, and most motorized recreationists, always tread lightly and stay on the trail. This is just one way Tread Lightly! is trying to alleviate misconceptions while motivating good behavior.

Additionally, off-roaders can improve perceptions by promoting their adoption of the Tread Lightly! ethic. A Tread Lightly! sticker on your bumper, a training certificate on your wall, a litter bag full of trash strapped to your ATV— all can help outsiders recognize a positive connection between environmentalism and off-roading. This connection is critical to getting the general public to allow our sport to continue.

Recreation Revolution

National leaders including the Chief of the US Forest Service have acknowledged the legitimacy and importance of OHV recreation on public lands. Unfortunately, funding for maintenance, repair, and management of our OHV areas and campgrounds throughout America has become woefully inadequate to meet current demand, much less keep pace with future needs. Sadly, this crisis is leading to the deterioration of and ultimately access to the special places we love and enjoy.

To sustain recreation into the future, federal agencies are implementing policies like the Travel Management Rule and Recreation Site Facility Master Plan. If you haven't heard of this new rule (nicknamed the OHV rule) and master plan, you should read about them. Hint— a synonym for "rule" is regulation and the "plan" is a cost-cutting measure. Both are already affecting access and opportunities and not in a good way. Up to a third of campgrounds may potentially close, and the United Four Wheel Drive Associations estimates a loss of 113,000 miles of roads.

UFWDA is leading the way to find and educate volunteers to provide proper public input on the OHV rule to save important trails.

Tread Lightly! is also partnering to make a difference— but with a different role. In addition to its efforts in creating behavior and perception changes, Tread Lightly! is starting a Recreation Revolution to help close the gap between needs and resources— and we're doing it through the private sector. Which means vehicle manufactures, outdoor foundations, and you.

The Recreation Revolution campaign is part of Tread Lightly!'s Restoration for Recreation program and will generate money for recreation sites in danger of closure due to under-funding. If you think the time for giving has passed, think again. You, the people, need to join the revolution before we lose a remarkable amount of recreation access and opportunities in America.

To donate to a specific US region, go to Tread Lightly!'s new donation page at Or for educational materials, training courses, and recreation tips, go to

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