My Advocacy Journey

Don Amador

My Advocacy Journey

My trail advocacy journey started in the late 1980s when I started to see a lot of popular OHV routes being closed on public lands. Little did I know that a perfect storm of anti-access legislation and regulations had formed that would impact both my personal and professional life for decades to come…

by Don Amador
Western Representative
Sharetrails.Org/BRC

My trail advocacy journey started in the late 1980s when I started to see a lot of popular OHV routes being closed on public lands. Little did I know that a perfect storm of anti-access legislation and regulations had formed that would impact both my personal and professional life for decades to come.

I felt pressed to get involved in an effort to protect trail access, so I started to look for an organization to join that shared my concerns. While perusing numerous off-road magazines, I kept coming across ads for the Sharetrails.Org/BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC). It looked legitimate, so I booked a flight and traveled to their 1990 board meeting in Salt Lake City, UT.

At the meeting, I met BRC’s founder, Clark Collins, and their public lands director, Adena Cook. After spending some quality time with Clark, Adena, and various board members, I made a commitment to jump into the land use arena with both feet.

Over the last 26 years, I have worked to use and develop my skillset to carry out Sharetrails.Org/BRC’s mission to champion responsible OHV use of designated roads, trails, and areas.

Compared to other professions such as a wildlife biologist, medical doctor, college professor, or airline pilot, professional trail advocacy was a new career path.

There were no college degree programs that trained a “trail advocate” to operate successfully in the late 1980s-era land-use arena where they were often matched up against or with environmental lobbyists, 60-year-old conservation organizations, powerful regulators, arbitrary statutes, extractive industry interests, and entrenched politicians.

The Cambridge Dictionary describes a professional as someone who has worked hard in the same type of job for a long time and has become skilled at dealing with any problem that might happen.

Development of my trail advocate skillset has evolved over the last 26 years by being intimately involved in many state, regional, and national public land campaigns. Those seminal issues included the Northern Spotted Owl, ESA Reform Movement, stolen funds from the CA OHV Program, Timber Wars, Bruce Babbitt’s Biological Survey, Ecoterrorism, Private Property Rights Movement, Wilderness Designation in CA’s Deserts, 1995 Forest Service Planning Triad, Politicization of Federal Land Agencies, Clinton’s National Monument designations, and the Clinton/Gore Roadless Rule.

While OHV realized some victories in those battles, history has proved that many of them were costly and counterproductive. There had to be a better way.

Over time, the two most valuable land-use skills/tools a trail advocate accrues are relationships and experience. They are the foundation blocks upon which effective advocacy are built.

Many of my personal and professional relationships today are based on my 1990s-era interaction with environmental leaders, agency staff, government officials, regulators, politicians, media, conservation groups, OHV clubs, recreation groups, and resource industry representatives.
That network of contacts first proved its worth in Sharetrails.Org/BRC’s legal effort to challenge the Clinton/Gore Roadless Initiative in court. Information gleaned from that network helped form the foundation for our legal fight that led to the now famous Judge Lodge injunction against the Roadless Rule.

Later, I worked with conservation groups and Congressmen Richard Pombo and Mike Thompson in 2005 to help create bipartisan legislation that designated Wilderness while at the same time protected, in statute, legal riding opportunities including those at the BLM’s Cow Mountain Recreation Area.

That effort was the inspiration for H.R. 1838, a 2016 bipartisan bill to reopen the 70,000 acre BLM Clear Creek riding area to OHV. Just like the 2005 legislation, it too had a Wilderness component as part of a win-win compromise with conservation groups.

In 2007, my legislative experience was used again as a member of a team to draft up a new bill for the CA OHV Program. That effort (SB742) created a modern comprehensive program that provides for new trail construction, facility maintenance, planning, restoration, law enforcement, and safety.

My experience with the Northern Spotted Owl in the 1990s helped BRC craft an early proactive OHV strategy in 2010 to address the Greater Sage Grouse which many believe is the desert version of the Spotted Owl. It is the basis for our ongoing fight to preserve and protect both permitted and casual OHV use in the desert from grouse-based arbitrary closures.

In 2003-2004, I worked with BRC staff and legal counsel on various strategies to address deficiencies in the 2005 Forest Service Travel Management Rule. Those efforts almost 14 years ago now provide the foundation upon which the Sharetrails.Org/BRC legal program defends good FS travel plans and challenges the closure-oriented decisions.

Sharetrails.Org/BRC is also using its legislative prowess to address a much needed effort in Congress to address reform of the event permitting process. In fact, Sharetrails.Org/BRC is currently working with congressional staff and other recreation groups on statutory relief for this issue.

Whether I am testifying before a Congressional committee, writing comments on a management or travel plan, meeting with stakeholder groups, participating in a collaborative process, or working with a club on an access issue, be assured that I am pressing forward on your behalf.

Max DePree states, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.”

Using my experience to champion responsible OHV recreation and empower local riders to be in charge of their own trail destiny is what you can count on from me each and every day. Thanks for your continued support of Sharetrails.Org/BRC!