I have written articles about respecting the land and staying on designated trails. After talking with Jerrica Archibald, who is in charge of communications for the national Tread Lightly organization, I realize that it is about much more than trail etiquette.
Founded in 1985 by the United States Forest Service as an awareness program, Tread Lightly became a nonprofit organization in 1990. Today they are an organization 40,000 strong in members and supporters and receive financial support from 80 companies, including Ford and Toyota.
Archibald said, “One of our focuses is the motorized recreation user because their potential for impact on the land is greater than it is for the non-motorized user.” Their mission is, "to empower generations to enjoy the outdoors responsibly through stewardship to further the goals of responsible and ethical recreation.”
Their focus goes beyond the motorized community to responsible recreation in the areas of flying drones, water sports, biking, shooting, hunting, fishing, camping, geocaching and horseback riding.
The “tread” part of their name is actually an anachronism designed to help users remember Tread Lightly principles:
• Travel responsibly on the land by staying on designated trails. Cross streams only where the trail passes through. Don’t ride wet and muddy tracks and avoid widening trails.
• Respect the rights of others including land owners and other recreational users. Don’t do anything that would impair their outdoor experience. Leave gates the way you found them.
• Educate yourself about your machine, the trail you plan to ride, regulations and weather conditions.
• Avoid sensitive areas like meadows, wetlands, streams and delicate soils. Don’t disturb any historical sites.
• Do your part by modeling proper behavior. Dispose of waste properly and leave the area better than you found it.
I endorse these principles and I have some examples in my riding experience that I would like to share. Much is said about multiple use trails, but I ask myself, “As a hiker, how would I like to meet an ATV rider on the trail?” Would I dive for the brush as he roared by or would he stop and let me pass?
It is important to slow down and even stop to let a hiker or biker pass. They should be able to enjoy the outdoors as they choose even as you are enjoying the outdoors in the way you have chosen.
I have felt the appreciation of horsemen I have met on the trail who have seen me stop, turn off my machine, remove my helmet and speak to them. A rider moving on a machine wearing a helmet is not a common sight to a horse. Letting the horse know that you are human being and not a space alien will allow the horsemen to remain in control of his horse.
In approaching cattle drives, I do the same thing and wait for the driver to give me instructions on how to avoid disturbing his drive. A person who is not willing to be considerate of other users will not be welcome in the backcountry.
Tread Lightly is an organization actively promoting not only respect for the land but also other recreationalists. Tread Lightly is in need of volunteers to help meet those goals. They have completed 42 restoration projects removing 100 tons of trash with 2,236 volunteers. Tread Lightly actively supports the Ride on Utah, Restoration for Recreation, and Respect and Protect programs.
Ride on Utah is a cooperative effort between the Utah Divisions of Natural Resources and Wild Life Resources, the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and the State School Trust Lands administration, providing opportunities to learn where to ride and how to ride safely.
Restoration for Recreation is a Tread Lightly program that repairs roads, trails and bridges. The program also improves maps, signage and access points while also revitalizing recreational facilities. The Respect and Protect project is designed to prevent looting and vandalizing of historic sites.
Being a member of Tread Lightly has its benefits, including discounts on tires and new vehicles. Go to www.treadlightly.org for information on volunteer opportunities and more of the benefits of being a paid supporter of this great program.
When you go take plenty of water, keep the rubber side down and Tread Lightly.
You can email Lynn Blamires at firstname.lastname@example.org.