Bill Burke’s Moab Jeepo Safari 2005 Letter to Errant 4-Wheelers

1 April 2005
After visiting EJS 2005 – my thoughts!! – By Bill Burke

I am displeased, disgusted, angry and afraid!! Why? I just returned from the Moab area after two weeks ‘wheeling around and spending time with new and old friends and my family. I spent some time on the hard as well as the easy routes and what I saw (witnessed actually is the term) incited me to come up with the adjectives I started this diatribe with and believe me I toned the adjectives down!

I have been guiding/training in and around Moab for about 18 years and have attended as many Easter Jeep Safari events. I have attended many national and international events and have been lucky to ‘wheel in some of the most pristine world class areas as well as some garbage dumps! What I saw this last week really sickened me and makes me wonder why I continue to be aligned with this sport and the people that purport to really care where and how they drive on designated 4-wheel drive routes in public access areas. I am not talking about the OHV parks or the Rock Crawling events on private lands, I am expressing this disdain about the “guests” that are invited to ‘wheel in my back yard where I work, live and play. They basically left the toilet full of effluence, no toilet paper, the sink full of dirty dishes and soiled my finest linen – that is how I see it. Here is how I actually saw it!

Displeased! Following “rock crawling” type built rigs along Pritchett Canyon, these overly built rigs couldn’t make the rock pile so they drove into the wash and the illegal by-pass made by other weak-kneed wannabees that can build a rig but not drive on a difficult obstacle. HEY! You made the choice and selected the VDL hard core route, deal with the obstacles. Take a strap or use the winch, but stay true to the route. If you can’t do the original route don’t drive up Pritchett! Better yet stay home on the porch ‘cause you may have a “big dog” rig but you are certainly not up to the “big dog” task!

Disgusted! Driving along the route called Metal Masher, my son and I observed where there used to be an obstacle that was (still is) quite challenging — a large slick rock face steep and tall. It was obviously not enough for the “rock rig wannabees” since they had to move over foot by foot to assault the entire ledge for the next 25 yards sideways. The big moment of disgust was when I saw that the Juniper trees (maybe as old as 125 years) that happened to be in the way were crushed and broken in pure indolence and with complete disregard to the natural habitat of the revered old flora. Just wasted the two trees ‘cause they couldn’t hurt the tube frame and already dented body panels. Ammunition for the SUWA folks!

Angry! To put it mildly! I was with clients along the routes of Gold Bar Rim, Bull and Little canyons and we stopped repeatedly to pick up trash along the miles of routes we ran that day. We picked up 53 beer cans, 14 plastic drink bottles, cardboard beer cases, a cooler top, and 2 tee-shirts, among other items. We buried 4 piles of human effluence and exposed toilet paper and tried to smooth over 5 different impact areas where vehicles had driven over prime Cryptobiotic forests leaving tire prints and destruction for really no reason at all other than to “rip it up!” This was only on one of the many days that followed. There is no excuse for that type of wanton destruction, especially since there is so much information in the public arena about the fragile Cryptobiotic soil: DON’T BUST THE CRUST! It is everywhere, just like the plentiful information about HYDRATE OR DIE! Do these people drain the oil on their living room rugs? Do these people even care about ethics?

Afraid! Yes, I am afraid that these people have reinforced the already bad image the general public has about 4-wheelers. So now I have to hang my head down in shame when I visit the local business people in Moab because of the stigma attached to what a few (not as few as one would think) bad apples have done to the desert roads. It just gives groups like SUWA, Sierra Club, the BLM and USFS more ammunition for road closure and to establish more Wilderness Study areas. Because, if those that use it don’t care enough and continue to abuse it, the privilege to recreate on primitive roads in pristine back-country regions will be easier to close and certainly easier to legislate Fee areas and restrictive access. We might as well as start building private OHV parks like the East Coast regions have to do. Or do we restrict the buggy types to only OHV parks and enforce lift, bumper height and tire diameter laws. Or do we close “it” all and just stand against the fence and sigh away the hours?

So, yes, I am afraid! Because these uncaring individuals that actually make up a large group are threatening my livelihood, recreation and environment. We should all be afraid what these people represent. I am sure SUWA loves it.

All the insightful diatribes from the vociferous ‘wheelers about boycotting this establishment or that business amounts to NOTHING and falls on deaf ears when ones backyard is so scurrilously vandalized by what Edward Abbey once coined as “SLOBIVIUS AMERICANUS” are doing to our sport and our land.

Everyone that operates a motorized vehicle should be required to read “Desert Solitaire” by Abbey, in order to get a license. There needs to be a resurgence of a new ethic for the way ‘wheelers should treat this fragile land we are loving to death and closure.

If you build a “rock buggy” type rig so you can attack and conquer, then by all means use it to that end in the area or park made for that. But when ‘wheeling on established 4wd routes, stay on the road and enjoy the journey not the thrill of conquering big rocks off the route and smashing trees and rolling over Cryptobiotic soil. Back country travel and 4-wheeling is about the journey, not fighting nature with machine. If you are one of those that needs to fight nature then go SWIM WITH THE SHARKS! I am sure they will have fun with your body. And we that share an environmental ethic will not even remotely miss. Can you say: “Gene pool selection” and Darwin awards?

Displeased because these “slobivius americanus” exist and recreate with impunity.

Disgusted these people can actually hold a driver’s license and call themselves 4-wheelers.

Angry there are so many of these “bad apples” that the numbers are getting larger and those that care about ethics seem to be getting smaller.

Afraid that the actions of these uncaring, indolent, boorish imbeciles will drive the general public and land managing agencies to start really pushing for road closure, vehicle build restrictions and more government interference.

We should all be afraid. We should all care about environmental ethics and appropriate behavior when operating motorized vehicles on public access lands especially in fragile remote regions.

We need to WAKE UP and start working on the tarnished image that seems to be getting more tarnished as we drive along.

Bill Burke