Being a former Air Force officer and co-chairman of the Colorado Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, I find it extremely troubling when non-veterans purport to speak for those of us who have proudly served our country, and who today are fighting to protect our nation's public lands heritage from the likes of off-highway vehicle overuse and abuse.
We hear the excuses: "All-terrain vehicles allow the old and physically limited to hunt or access our public lands." We're all for responsible access, but the 17,700 miles of Forest Service roads in Colorado provide plenty of access. In addition, an estimated 98 percent of the American landscape is within one mile of a road or motorized access.
Besides, any game warden will tell you that nine out of 10 folks on all-terrain vehicles are young men in their 30s, healthy and fully capable of walking. They make a conscious choice to use all-terrain vehicles - cutting corners and doing things the easy way.
As 85-year-old World War II veteran Bill Sustrich says, "I recognize there are some physically challenged vehicle users. Visit any nearby Veterans Administration hospital for some good examples. However, the majority of present-day off-highway and all- terrain vehicle users are young, healthy and fit."
As hunters and anglers, we want reasonable access to quality habitat. If our motorized traffic degrades the habitat, what's the point of easy access? What's the point of access to hunt on land where the game is driven off or access to fish in waters too polluted or over-exploited to support good fishing?
Motorized recreation advocates often twist "access" to mean "motorized access." That becomes the license to drive whatever vehicle wherever one wishes whenever the urge strikes.
That is a dangerous bastardization of freedom: freedom divorced from responsibility.
As stewards of land, water and wildlife, we are fools to maximize motorized traffic. No rancher would allow uncontrolled motorized access to his pasture land. Why should we expect less on our public land?
David A. Lien
co-chairman, Colorado Backcountry Hunters and Anglers