The Great Land Debate We MUST Get Involved In

Should the recreational opportunities in the National Parks and other public lands in the future include us snowmobilers? That, indirectly, is the question being posed at a series of meeting across the country these days – and whether you can actually make it to one of the meetings in person or just want to make you thoughts known from afar, this is one debate in which you may want to get involved.

            The meetings are a entry point for the Obama Administration’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. When introduced, the initiative sounded like a solid idea – taking the time to review the recreational and conservation of public lands. Here’s what President Barack Obama said in April:

            “Even in times of crisis, we’re called to take the long view to preserve our national heritage,” Obama said, “because in doing so we fulfill one of the responsibilities that falls to all of us as Americans, and as inhabitants of this same small planet.”

            Of course, nothing initiated in Washington, D.C., and no topic as hot as use of public lands ever stays outside of the realm of politics and special interests. And the special interests that would just as soon ban all motorized recreation from public lands (and, generally, ban it overall) have been fairly loud and have a lot of friends in this administration.

            So, that’s where you and I come in. We could let the anti-motorized folks control all of the discussion at these meetings and risk losing wonderful recreating activities. Or, we could get off of our butts and join the discussion.

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The meetings for the Great Outdoors Initiative are called “Listening Sessions,” with the theory that top governmental and political leaders come together to listen to what their constituents believe on this vital topic. But, since they are bureaucrats and politicians, early reports say some of the meetings have been dominated by those airbags talking instead of listening.

            That said, it’s still vitally important for us to be heard. One of the Listening Sessions is occurring literally as I write this out in Los Angeles on Thursday, July 8. Next week is littered with meetings – Monday, July 12, in Grand Island, Nebraska; Thursday, July 15 in Ashville, North Carolina; Friday, July 16, in Denver and Grand Junction, Colorado; and Saturday, July 17 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

            I know what most of you are thinking right about now – “North Carolina? New Mexico? None of these places are anywhere near where I live.” Me neither. That doesn’t mean we can ignore the process.

            Instead, go here and submit your thoughts electronically. Here are the topics the Administration says it wants feedback on: 

  • Reconnect with the Great Outdoors: What are your ideas for helping Americans get outdoors and reconnect with the nation’s land, water, wildlife, culture, and history?
  • Private Lands Conservation: How can the United States better support the voluntary efforts of farmers, ranchers, and private landowners to conserve their land, water, and wildlife?
  • Public Lands Conservation: Which open spaces, watersheds, historic or cultural sites, wildlife habitat, or other public lands are most important to you, and what can be done at the local, state, or federal level to improve their management?
  • Challenges: What obstacles exist to achieve your goals for conservation, recreation, or reconnecting people to the outdoors?
  • What Works: Please share your thoughts and ideas on effective strategies for conservation, recreation and reconnecting people to the outdoors.
  • Federal Government Role: How can the federal government be a more effective partner in helping to achieve conservation, recreation or reconnecting people to the outdoors?
  • Tools: What additional tools and resources would help your efforts be even more successful?

 That may sound broad, but don’t feel like you need to touch on every topic. Instead, provide some feedback – any feedback – and keep positive, backing up the fact that snowmobilers like us are civilized, hard-working, positive people, not a bunch of earth-hating freaks, as we’re sometimes portrayed.

The non-motorized crowd is organized and getting its agenda heard – an email forwarded to me today included the statement: “Winter Wildlands Alliance, along with our partners at the Outdoor Alliance, are working with the Administration to turn out leaders from the people-powered recreation community at these events.”

It behooves us to turn out our people as well. Be one of those people – in person, or by submitted feedback. The future of our trails and riding areas may depend on it.

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