Ninety years ago, Al Capone, was sentenced to eleven years in prison for not paying his taxes. He was never tried or held accountable for running Chicago’s crime syndicate of gambling, prostitution, bootlegging, bribery, narcotics trafficking, robbery, “protection” rackets, or murder. The crimes he committed that still keep his name in our collective memory nearly a century later.
It should be clear that the ability to remove the public nuisance achieved the goals society sought.
While the Offroad community is not composed of criminals, the same tactics are routinely deployed by those opposed to your right to responsibly recreate on your Public Lands.
Choosing the low-hanging fruit to limit access is easy if it is creating an emotional argument to protect the near-threatened ‘high desert flying pond leach’, or as is the case over in Grant County Utah, limit the use of OHV in their community citing noise complaints.
This is where it becomes a difficult position for those of us in access advocacy, as we generally believe in “home rule’ instead of passing the decision-making to the Governor or to the employees of the federal government, it is often best to have the local government set policy. Because no one knows -local- better than the locals. Yet Grant county’s decision to pass a noise ordinance, and then delegate the enforcement of that ordinance to a local group seeking a permit is misguided.
Yet like the Capone conviction, our adversaries were able to limit your right to assemble and access your Public Lands with whom you choose, at least during that one event.
The issue from an advocacy point of view is this is a missed opportunity by the county and a missed opportunity for our community as well. Instead of having a well-organized popular event that has the rules of participating clearly defined, and perhaps having the county do the individual enforcement actions rather than insisting that a nonprofit do the job of county law enforcement would have allowed the event to go on, and also weed out the bad actors, who we all know are the ones causing the problems.
These are the events where we can get our message out to help correct the problems we create, as we are always our own worst enemy, but it is clear that our adversaries don’t care how they stop your access for responsible recreation, just so long as they stop it.
A link to an article can be found here.