Pollution and Environment Essay - Off-highway Vehicles on the Public Lands

Pollution and Environment Essay - Off-highway Vehicles on the Public Lands
Public land. ?Public,? meaning everyone owns it. Every United States citizen has a right to recreate on the lands preserved for us. So, what does that mean? There are a lot of us, and we all have different ideas of what?s fun to do outside. How do we decide which activities can be allowed without someone getting their toes stepped on? If the land belongs to all of us, and we have a responsibility to preserve it for generations to come, then how should we manage it?
Off-highway vehicles (ohv), which include snowmobiles, four-wheelers and dirt bikes, are the mode of choice for millions of Americans who want to experience the outdoors. They?re blamed for irreparable damage to the environment, and touted as one of the most enjoyable ways to spend time with friends and family outside. Environmentalists insist that much harsher restrictions of ohv use on public lands are vital to preserving fragile ecosystems. ohv users say they follow the rules already in place and don?t need any more.

Many members of each group see the issue as black and white. However, ohv use on public land is much, much more complex than that. Many parties are involved, ranging from government agencies, environmentalists, private landowners, various recreation user groups, and the public in general. It is not only possible, but also very necessary to include everyone when making decisions about a specific area of public land. Only through compromise can a plan come about that is truly best not only for all parties, but also for the land itself.

Environmentalists are some of the most argumentative and relentless people around. They view compromise in any form as a step backward. When the environment is compromised for anything, they say, we all lose. Their opinion isn?t unfounded. We all are a part of a global ecosystem, and whether we like it or not all of us are affected by what happens to it. Compromise means that the environment lost ground to something else, like oil companies or housing developers, which get profits at the expense of everyone else. When it comes to OHVs on public land, many major environmental groups like the Sierra Club are pushing hard for severe restrictions and even bans in some places.

Off-highway vehicle users tend to view a compromise the same way environmentalists do, but for different reasons. They consider themselves responsible citizens exercising their right to use the public lands. Their freedoms are just as important as anyone else?s, and they are afraid of having them taken away. When a compromise between ohv users and environmentalists occurs over a piece of land, the ohv users generally lose access to areas of land they previously enjoyed.

As difficult as each group seems to be, it is possible for them to reach a satisfactory agreement over land management. With the help of a mediator, skiers and snowmobilers in the Sawtooth National Forest managed to work together to come up with a plan for their area that designated where each activity was appropriate. Through compromise, they were able to come up with a plan more likely to be followed by each group because they were the ones deciding where the lines were drawn. Regulations that are followed by everyone also benefit the environment. The two groups not only came up with a plan they could all agree on, but they also learned to trust and respect each other.

Compromise among interest groups regarding ohv use is possible. Making a blanket statement that the vehicles are either permitted everywhere or permitted nowhere is not only useless and unfair, but damaging as well. No one likes to be told they can?t do something they like, and strict rules that can?t always be enforced aren?t likely to be followed. Off-highway vehicles do cause quite a bit of environmental harm, especially when they aren?t used responsibly. There are a lot of areas they shouldn?t be allowed in, but kicking them off of the public lands entirely isn?t a solution either. There are a lot of us, but there?s also plenty of room if we can learn to get along, and most importantly, to give a little bit.

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