How do we realize the vision of removing thrillcraft from our public commons? There are a number of strategies that are working around the country to address the growing problem of thrillcraft abuse.
Short Term Strategies
In the short term, we need to rein in thrillcraft. Currently national forests and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are beginning to put together travel management plans. These plans lay out which routes are legally recognized for thrillcraft use and which areas will be closed or remain closed to ORV use. It is important for citizens to become involved and participate in this process.
Another short term solution is to require license plates for all thrillcraft vehicles. For instance, Montana’s Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge restricts ORVs to designated roads. Under Montana law, ORVs operated on state roads must be street-legal and have a state license plate. This strategy provides a license number that assists law enforcement in identification of law breakers and eliminates all drivers under 15 years old (age that one can drive in Montana).
A third leg of this short-term strategy is greater law enforcement. Illegal creation of new routes and enforcement of existing limits will only work if there is an effective law enforcement presence on the ground. Currently most public lands are vastly under-patrolled due to funding shortages. Funding for thrillcraft law enforcement activities should not come from taxpayers. A tax on all new and existing thrillcraft, or other funding mechanism that obtained money directly from thrillcraft users, could fund law enforcement activities.
Long Term Strategies: Ban Thrillcraft
The only realistic long term strategy is to work towards a total ban on Thrillcraft. Use of land based machines like dirt bikes, four wheelers, swamp buggies, dune buggies, and the like should be banned from all public lands, except perhaps for use on existing roads open and available for regular highway vehicle traffic. Only these roads are engineered to avoid most (but not all) of the damage from thrillcraft. Of course, there would still be the pollution, noise, and general human intrusion factors that occur whenever thrillcraft are used. However, limiting thrillcraft to regular roads would go a long ways towards reducing their overall impact on the land and people.
Other thrillcraft like jet skis should be banned from public waterways. They are a nuisance and irritation to other water users, not to mention their dismal safety record and significant contribution to water pollution. They have no place on public waters.
Snowmobiles should likewise be restricted to existing road systems, though this would still leave us with the flush of pollutants when snows melt in the spring, as well as noise. They are inappropriate on national park lands, and other specially designated nationally significant lands such as national monuments.
Can we achieve a ban on Thrillcraft? Most emphatically yes! Smoking was once considered so widespread that banning cigarettes was considered impossible. But today most public places are free of smoke. In the long term this is the only strategy that makes any sense. Thrillcraft do not have a right to pollution, disturb, terrorize, vandalize, and otherwise degrade our public lands.
It’s time to put a halt to this menace!