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"Closed Unless Posted Open" -- Good Policy or Recreational Racism?

By Don Amador


Every so often, the Forest Service (FS) under the leadership of our good friend Al Gore proposes a relatively new policy for managing (further restricting) off- highway vehicle (OHV) recreation. While I do not intend to impugn the many fine men and women of the FS who are dedicated to providing environmentally-sound multiple-use recreation, it has come time for the OHV community to rise en masse and denounce "Closed Unless Posted Open" travel plans.

Understanding it has always been within the scope of the FS to designate certain areas "Open" (with use sometimes limited to designated or existing routes) or "Closed" (except for maybe an OHV corridor, etc.) to motorized recreation, it appears that the "Closed Unless Posted Open" travel policy is gaining rapid momentum. The Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky has adopted this program (over the loud objections of the OHV community) and it is being proposed by the Stanislaus National Forest in California.

In order for our side to better understand where the momentum is coming from for these ill-advised (and maybe illegal) forest-wide edicts, I have talked with a number of former and current FS personnel who have told me that the "Closed Unless Posted Open" policy first started to be promoted on a large scale almost 6 years ago.

Not surprisingly, the Sierra Club first published in 1991 (updated 5/97) its blueprint for banishing OHV recreation called "A Citizen Handbook for Off-Road Vehicle Regulation." Also, in 1993 the Sierra Club called for a BAN of OHV recreation on public lands in its "California Green State of the State Report."

The multiple-use recreationist should not take such proposed Club BANs lightly. With timber harvesting on federal forest lands practically shutdown and taking into account that in California over 60 lumber mills have been closed in the last 7 years, we should remember that it was the Sierra Club who proposed a BAN for that industry as well. Similar BANs have been issued by green groups for sport utility vehicles and gas powered motorboats, tearing out the dams on the Columbia River, and for draining Lake Powell in Arizona.

Most disturbing about this issue is that it appears many in the OHV community misunderstand who is driving the agenda of "Closed Unless Posted Open." While I must admit that it is confusing and on the surface this policy appears "workable," the fact remains that under the current Administration this travel plan will most assuredly be strongly biased against the OHV user. The reason why some Forests and their green friends are supporting this option is because it will, once and for all, supposedly end trail controversy by "designating" ALL trails either "open" or "closed" to OHV recreation. According to the enviros, this plan will require the motorized user to verify their privilege to access public lands using a motor vehicle.

The most common scenario that a user group will encounter when a Forest proposes this plan is that the agency will ask the users to identify trails that they want to keep open. While that may seem to be a reasonable approach, the difficulty arises with the fact that NOBODY can identify ALL the trails (both system and non-system) that are available for "designation." Although many OHV clubs and organizations work hard to represent their constituency, it is virtually impossible for those groups to identify all the routes that are important to family recreationists, hunters, fishermen, rockhounders, sightseers, and other resource uses.

Besides unfairly singling out just one user group to be closed out of the forest, the policy seeks to foist an unwanted paradigm shift onto an unsuspecting public. Historically, the public has had basically unrestricted access to our national forest lands for traditional multiple-use related activities.

Telling the OHV community that they must now assume that ALL trails in the forest are "Closed Unless Posted Open" smacks of extreme prejudice or "recreational racism."

When a particular Forest is revising its OHV travel plan, the OHV community should insist on an "Open Unless Posted Closed" policy that designates all existing routes as open. This will then allow the Forest and OHV user community to carefully assess -- in a slow, orderly, and legal process -- all the trails for viability, importance, challenge, and potential site-specific environmental or cultural impacts that may have to be mitigated.

Just as racism should not tolerated when it comes to the treatment of our fellow man, recreational racism should not be allowed to flourish and become the cornerstone of our federal land management agencies.


Don Amador is the CA State Representative for the Blue Ribbon Coalition. He writes on environmental and land-use issues from his home in Oakley, CA.

i am more of a fan of open unless posted closed. I know some who say open unless you get caught. I am sure to not join them on those rides. As soon as i see a legit closed or no trespassing sign i will turn around as to not danger our sport.

Thank you Don! You have just inspired me to increase my donation! :D Thank You Blue Ribbon Coalition! I will be attending the march on July 11th in Sacramento. I urge everyone who can make it to show up. Oh, and don't be afraid to send a few bucks to Blue Ribbon. Better to pay a little now than to be crying in your beer later. :)

Thanks, Paul

Also, thanks for posting this themotoxguy.

[ July 08, 2002: Message edited by: PMAUST ]

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