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Off-roaders have no reason to fear Badlands Wilderness designation

"I believe the majority of OHV users are responsible citizens who will support this effort to create the Badlands Wilderness"

Op-Ed to The Bulletin
by Robert Speik
June 7, 2003

Our desert public lands are for everyone.
I raced motorcycles in the desert in the 60s. I wore leathers, shin guards, and numbers. Our racers’ premise was that there was more than enough desert land in the Mojave, that we could track and tear up miles of sage and sand, doing our thing, and not hurt anyone. However, to protect our perceived rights, we respected others’ rights to have their desert miles set aside for horses, for birds, for kids, for backpackers and hikers, for climbers and for all the non-motorized uses they enjoyed. At times, this included our support of Congressionally mandated Wilderness areas, where by law, our motorized vehicles were not allowed.

As you may have noticed from over a dozen recent letters to the Bulletin, there is a local effort underway by citizens, landowners, conservationists, and over 100 local businesses to designate the Badlands--located just 15 miles east of town--as a Wilderness.

Sadly, a couple of motorized folks representing snowmobilers and motorcyclists, have written letters recently, that exaggerate the impact of the proposed Badlands Wilderness on their motorcycle and ATV trails and they have even implied that the general public would be closed out. They have not cited any facts to support their claims. Something did not sound right. So, I decided to research this issue and get factual information.

I obtained some information from the non-profit Oregon Natural Desert Association and confirmed those facts through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages the Badlands and large neighboring Millican Valley OHV trails area. I studied the several government OHV maps and guides.

The proposed Badlands Wilderness is just 37,112 acres of desert sand, volcanic rock, and narrow dry river canyons. I have hiked through a lot of it with friends. This area has been managed as a Wilderness Study Area (a defacto wilderness) by the BLM for years. Our own Oregon Legislators are now being asked by many citizens, to put a Bill through Congress to finally approve a Badlands Wilderness in 2003.

The Badlands desert has been closed by law for years to activities such as OHV use that might potentially degrade its wilderness characteristics. Despite this closure, the area continues to suffer from illegal activities such as off-road vehicle use, the stealing of valuable 1,500 year old juniper, partying and the vandalism of irreplaceable archaeological sites.

The delicate narrow Dry River Canyon area and adjacent land is included in the Badlands proposal. It is the only part of the proposal that is not currently managed by the BLM as wilderness. It contains about 10.6 miles of OHV trails that would be closed if the area is designated as wilderness. 10.6 miles would be closed, that’s all!

Adjoining the Badlands, OHV enthusiasts currently control about 200,000 acres with about 643 miles of trails that are mapped, heavily signed and rutted, and managed by dedicated Forest Service and BLM OHV Recreation Specialists. Nearly 100,000 of these acres and about 255 miles of these improved trails are in the BLM’s Millican Valley OHV trail system that is right next to the desert Badlands. Connected to the south of Millican Valley is the East Fort Rock OHV trail system, which ranges over desert lands, through quiet ponderosa forests and beautiful areas of grasslands. This area includes their other 100,000 acres and over 300 miles of these OHV trails! 

I think OHV enthusiasts will be content with their control of these vast areas. I believe that the majority of OHV users are responsible citizens who will actively support this grass roots effort to finally create the Badlands Wilderness. Local and vacationing hunters, hikers, backpackers, horseback riders, naturalists, runners, bird watchers, and yes, Ms. Joani Dufourd, even girl scout troops will have their small bit of land.

OHV lobbyists, currently fueled by Oregon’s OHV and tow vehicle gas tax dollars, would do well to protect their perceived rights to the control of over 200,000 acres of adjoining public land by informing their members of the facts, including the fact that only 10.6 miles of their 643 miles of trails will be moved, and to remember that our desert public lands are for everyone. Even for folks who want to walk quietly about and listen to the birds.
--Robert Speik lives in Bend

The Bulletin
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Leave No Trace
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  The Badlands Wilderness
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BLM's UDRMP plans for Badlands deal with exploding public use
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Deschutes County Commissioners fail to support Badlands Wilderness!
Deschutes County takes no position on Badlands Wilderness
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The Badlands have unique interest for the hiker
BLM guidelines for Geocaching on public lands
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OpEd - Geocaching should not be banned in the Badlands
Fee Demo groundwork may save Geocaching on our public lands
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Deschutes County Commissioners hearing on Badlands Wilderness support
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OHV use curtailed by new USFS policy decisions
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Hiking poles are becoming essential gear
Vandals destroy ancient pictographs in the Badlands
Senator Wyden tests support of Badlands Wilderness
Badlands Wilderness endorsed by Bend City Commissioners
The Badlands: proposed for Wilderness status
The Badlands unique geologic forms explained by Chitwood  pdf
The Badlands, a brief history
The Badlands pictographs reported 75 year ago


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