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A Chronology of the BlueRibbon Coalition

Editorial by Clark Collins,
BRC Executive Director

This story actually starts with the involvement of Idaho motorized recreationists in local issues and events leading up to the 1986 re-election campaign of Senator Steve Symms. My off-highway vehicle (OHV) activism began as a leader in the Idaho Trail Machine Association (ITMA), a statewide group representing motorcyclists and ATVers.

While testifying at a Wilderness hearing in 1984, I heard the testimony of our local Sierra Club representative and approached him after the hearing to see if we could work together. I got local snowmobilers and 4x4 enthusiasts involved in our little "working group," and it seemed to be working fine.

Then suddenly local politicians and our Governor at that time, John Evans, were expressing their support for Wilderness designation of one of our local riding spots, the Mink Creek area of the Caribou National Forest. I asked the Sierra Club representative what was up and he said, "we have political support for Wilderness designation of this area, so we're going for it."

That taught me two things:

1. You can't trust Wilderness advocates because they want all the Wilderness they can get. Historic recreation use of an area should be sacrificed to Wilderness in their view.

2. Recreationists had better get more politically involved or we're going to get overrun by the Wilderness juggernaught.

Working with other recreationists, we were able to reverse virtually all the political support but the Governor. When I met with Governor Evans personally, he told me that "motorized recreationists are politically insignificant." He said local Wilderness advocates had worked hard on a proposal to have Wilderness designated near Pocatello, and this was where they wanted it. It didn't matter to him that there were several trails there that were open to trail bikes and a regularly groomed snowmobile route. I even took his legislative aide on a trail bike tour of the area.

After that personal tour, the aide said that he understood why we were fighting so hard to preserve our access there. His parting words were, that when he returned to Boise, he would find out why such a proposal was ever considered. That aide hasn't been heard from since. Really!

The next word from the Governor's office was that he had a different natural resources aide. The Governor's comment about our political ineffectiveness really motivated me to correct that situation. I got motorized recreationists more involved in state politics and interested in Evans' political future. His next political race happened to be against U.S. Senator Steve Symms. Senator Symms took an interest in recreation access issues and asked for our support. Motorized recreationists played a significant role in that election, and Senator Symms was re-elected. Evans hasn't been considered a serious candidate for office since.

We proved that a coalition of recreation groups can be politically significant if they try. By the way, we're still riding in the Mink Creek area. It's still shared by motorized and non-motorized trail users alike. It's become popular with mountain bikers now, and they weren't a factor during the Wilderness threat. They would have been excluded, too, if it had become Wilderness. In 1986 my wife gave me a computer for Christmas. Before that I was hand writing letters. The computer was like a communication amplifier, enabling me to send fifty letters on an issue with little more effort than for one.

In the winter of 1987, I was working on a volunteer basis with other recreationists in Idaho seeking passage of legislation to update Idaho's OHV recreation program. To assist with this legislative effort, I received a grant from the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA). I was a construction electrician, and since this was during a slow time for construction,I was unemployed at the time.

I formally incorporated the Idaho Public Land Users Association in February 1987 to help with that state legislative effort. We also got involved in broader land use issues and worked closely with Idaho resource industry groups. Then Darryl Harris, publisher of SnoWest magazine, contacted me about going national with our organization and calling it the BlueRibbon Coalition. He would publish our newsletter, BlueRibbon Magazine. We incorporated the BlueRibbon Coalition in April 1987. The motto "Preserving our natural resources FOR the public instead of FROM the public" was selected to illustrate our mission.

I served as President of the organization, but had to return to work full-time as an electrician, doing BRC work in my "spare time." For a while, I was working a twelve hour night-shift and commuting 140 miles a day by bus. I learned to get my sleep on the bus, so I could do BlueRibbon work during the day. I still get sleepy when I see one of those buses go by. Grassroots' support for a unified national motorized recreation organization was strong from the beginning, with no other organization attempting to fill that void. We agreed then, as now, that it was important to also work closely with our natural resource industries on a national level.

At our first annual meeting, November 1987, we elected our initial Board of Directors and officers. However, membership dues fell far short of being enough to support any paid staff.

The Idaho legislative effort failed in 1987, but we were successful in 1988. Idaho Wilderness advocates targeted our proposal as one of their top three priorities for defeat, but we beat them soundly. Their opposition actually helped us gain support from multiple-use legislators. Pro-Wilderness legislators even supported us because it would increase funding for responsible OHV management.

In late 1988 the Coalition finally received additional financial support from the OHV manufacturers that enabled me to be hired full-time as Executive Director. I ran the organization from an office in my home.

In 1989 Adena Cook became our second paid staff member as Public Lands Director. She had been our volunteer secretary since the first Board was elected in the fall of 1987.

In 1990 Harris withdrew as publisher of the BlueRibbon Magazine. The Coalition assumed the total responsibility for BlueRibbon Magazine and has been publishing it since that time. Editorial staff were added and a stand alone office established.

In 1990 the Coalition increased our focus on passage of a national trail funding legislation, The National Recreational Trails Fund Act, which passed in 1991.

The grassroots effort leading to the establishment of this program is considered by many to be the single most significant trail funding legislative effort in the country. (See the sidebar on this program NRTFA/RTP).

In 1993 we received information on the Back Country designation concept from one of our member organizations-the Northwest Motorcycle Association. We began promoting this concept as a means of preserving the back country character of some of our public lands while still allowing a broad range of recreation uses.

In 1996 the Coalition began operating from a Strategic Plan developed at our Spring Board meeting. Later that year we established our Legal Action Fund and in early 1997 retained the legal firm of Moore, Smith, Buxton and Turcke to help defend our recreation access in the legal arena.

That's the high points of our first 15 years. We recently moved into our third office (not counting home office) and now employ 8 full-time and 2 part-time people. We have many members and friends who appreciate the access protection work we do. We also have anti-recreation enemies who say nasty things about us, so we must be an obstacle to them accomplishing their "lock-it-all-up" agenda. I'm proud of how far we've come.

--Clark Collins is a co-founder and the Executive Director for the BlueRibbon Coalition. For questions or comments on this article, or on other OHV issues, he may be contacted at the BRC main office: P.O. Box 5449, Pocatello, ID, 83202. Phone: 208-237-1008, Fax: 208-237-9424. Email brclark@sharetrails.org.


NATIONAL RECREATIONAL TRAILS FUND ACT (NRTFA)/ RECREATIONAL TRAILS PROGRAM (RTP) TIMELINE

1988: BlueRibbon Coalition receives information on a concept for a national trail funding program from Bob Walker, Chairman of the International Association of Snowmobile Administrators (IASA). This proposal was being considered at that time by the American Recreation Coalition (ARC), American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) and International Snowmobile Industry Association (ISIA), but was never introduced in Congress. We work with Chuck Wells, Idaho Dept. of Parks and Recreation, on a rough draft of actual legislation for this type of federal program.

1989: BRC Executive Director, Clark Collins, makes first trip to Washington D.C., to lobby on the proposal and talk to U.S. Senator Steve Symms (R-ID) about sponsoring it. Collins makes three more trips to D.C. in 1988 to work with Senator Symms' legislative aide, Trent Clark, on possible introduction of NRTFA in Senate. BRC establishes contact with the American Horse Council who are interested in helping us with this proposal.

1990: At a Washington D.C. press conference and reception hosted by the BlueRibbon Coalition, U.S. Senator Steve Symms (R-ID) and U.S. Representative Larry Craig (R-ID) introduce The National Recreational Trails Fund Act as S-2150 in the Senate and HR-4040 in the House. Later that year Collins makes a presentation at the National Trails Symposium, sponsored by American Trails and garners support for the bill from American Trails (a national group representing both motorized and non-motorized trails users). Symms conducts a field hearing in Idaho in preparation for including the NRTFA in the reauthorization of the Highway Trust Fund scheduled for 1991. "By enacting the National Recreational Trails Funding Act, not only do we improve the trails for ATVs, horsemen, hikers, 4X4 drivers, bikers, snowmobilers, and cross-country skiers, but also we bring divergent groups to the table to discuss a common purpose." --Steve Symms

1990 1991: Collins makes several trips to D.C. to work with Symms' staffers on the legislation. The final trip was during the House/Senate Conference Committee deliberations on the bill. A favorable vote of the Committee followed Senator Warner's (R-VA) suggestion that the bill be named after Senator Symms who had worked so hard for its passage. On December 18, 1991, President George Bush signs the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), which included the Symms National Recreational Trails Act of 1991.

1992: Contrary to what was thought, the National Recreational Trails Act was not automatically funded. This results in a complete lack of funding in 1992.

1993: Senator Symms secures, as a temporary measure, $7.5 million from the transportation budget to set aside for the National Recreational Trails Act.

1994 & 1995: Senator Symms retires. Senator Dirk Kempthorne (R-ID) takes over the battle, but despite his diligent effort, is unable to secure funding for the years 1994 and 1995.

1996 & 1997: Senator Kempthorne secures funds for the Recreational Trails Act for $15 million in contract authority (no appropriation required), and a 50/50 match of federal and state funds for these years.

1998: Thanks again to Senator Dirk Kempthorne, reauthorization of the Recreational Trails Program was granted through the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) for the full values of $30 million for 1998, $40 million for 1999, and $50 million for each year from 2000 through 2003.


EXAMPLES OF MAJOR LAND USE ISSUES BLUERIBBON COALITION HAS BEEN INVOLVED IN

1988: Worked with Montana Congressman Ron Marlenee and Montana recreation groups to get President Ronald Reagan to veto a bad Montana Wilderness bill sponsored by Montana Senator John Melcher. Melcher was subsequently defeated by Conrad Burns in the race for that Senate seat.

1990: Networked with a broad range of multiple-use interests to overturn The Yellowstone Vision Document that would have implemented drastic access restrictions in the entire Yellowstone region.

1991: National Recreation Trails Fund Act passed.

1992-2000: Clinton/Gore/Dombeck/Babbitt years

  1. Began networking with recreationists and other multiple-use interests to highlight the importance of RS-2477 as a tool to help maintain public land access.
  2. (a defeat, but we gave it the college try) After years of working with a broad range of interest groups to hold back the California Desert Wilderness push, the so-called California Desert Protection Act is passed locking up over 8 million acres of public land.
  3. Called reasonable people's attention to Clinton's Monument excesses.
  4. Held back a national "Closed Unless Open" blanket policy for U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands.
  5. Only national access group that was a plaintiff in the lawsuit that stopped the Roadless Initiative from being implemented.
  6. Key leader in the battle to save snowmobile access to Yellowstone Park.
  7. Currently working with the Bush administration to revise the Clinton era "Road Transportation and Planning Rules" to reduce its negative impact on recreation access. 2001-2002: A lead recreation organization in battle against unreasonable aspects of Sen. Boxer's Wilderness proposal in California-offering our Back Country concept as an alternative.
June 1, 2016 3:10 PM

POCATELLO, ID (June 1, 2016) – Sharetrails.org/BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) is pleased to reveal that its long-time partner in the fight to protect recreational access, Rocky Mountain ATV-MC (RMATV-MC), has agreed once again to generously match each dollar* raised to support BRC at the upcoming annual COW TAG event hosted by Klim, another long-time partner for access.

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April 26, 2016 9:54 AM

POCATELLO, ID (April 26, 2016) -- Sharetrails.org/BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) is pleased to announce the recent release of issue #4 of the BlueRibbon Magazine. This issue is packed with outstanding winter articles and a variety of recreation topics.

Hard copies of the BlueRibbon Magazine should be arriving at doorsteps this week (if they have not already arrived). If your copy has not yet arrived, there's no need to wait! The digital edition of the BlueRibbon Magazine is available today, in FlipZine or PDF versions.

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April 13, 2016 10:04 AM

It's time once again for the annual COW TAG event! Please join KLIM and the Sharetrails/BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) at this one-of-a-kind ride to be held on Saturday, June 25 at Kelly Canyon, ID. Proceeds benefit trail organizations and Sharetrails/BRC. Enter to win a 2016 Beta 300RR Race Edition!...

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March 31, 2016 12:13 PM
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December 16, 2015 10:43 AM
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December 15, 2015 12:02 PM
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