Penalize mud-boggers who rip up the land

This is a guest opinion from Writers on the Range published inHeadwaters News. Penalize mud-boggers who rip up the land. By Mike Beagle.
June 13, 2007.

The essence of the argument is that because law enforcement is sporadic in the hinterlands, these increasingly and deliberately destructive people need to be dealt with harshly in order to put an end to this.

The writer’s perception is that they are generally young men who deliberately destroy the land and waters of the backcountry. My perception is that they usually get a bit drunk too.

Because they are often men who can barely afford their huge tricked up pickups, confiscation would probably be a huge deterrent.

Boulders erected on the Caribou National Forest (SE Idaho) to prevent further mud-bogging. Photo by Ralph Maughan. May 2007







  1. be Avatar

    i have a neighbor who likes to wait ’til just after it rains so he can “really tear it up”

    you know that feeling where you’re sitting there, biting your lip listening to this nonsense when you know that you should be piping up?

  2. tcwriter Avatar

    Yeah, but look at the advertising for SUVs on television; without fail, they show the damned things plowing through streams (as a fly fisher, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that), tearing the hell out of soft, muddy trails, and (inevitably) overlooking some scenic vista from what is pretty clearly a roadless peak or bluff.

    Just once, I’d love to tear up the front lawns (after a rain) of the ad and auto industry executives who broadcast this crap.

  3. d. Bailey Hill Avatar

    This is going to really old and worn out, but most people wouldn’t tear up their own yard. They go “tear up” the parks and forests. {Or maybe the yard of the neighbor who “pissed them off”}. THEY don’t care if no one else wants to see the mess.

  4. d. Bailey Hill Avatar

    Whether in our forests or in the city vandalism and destruction of property should be treated as the crime it is. A few month ago on Oregon Public Broadcasting, a show about this problem was aired. If I remember correctly there are only two BLM officers for all of eastern Oregon. There are people who regularly dump garbage there, set up permanent campsites, tear down unique geological features, just to name a few of the illegal activities. Those officers never know what situation they may walk into. They really don’t have anyone to call for back-up. But that doesn’t stop them from doing the best job they can. Some individuals are repeat offenders that are known to be armed. It’s difficult to catch the garbage dumpers. It’s a really crazy situation to say the least.

  5. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Being federal law enforcement on the public lands, or a state conservation officer (i.e., “game warden) is a very dangerous job because of the remote locations, lack of backup, and the assumption that whoever you approach is likely to be armed

  6. jewel Avatar

    Im surprised this wasnt blamed on cows. But then its pretty obvious its people destroying land not cows.

  7. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I appreciate your sarcasm.

    Western public land ranchers generally dislike the abusive use of these machines as much as most other folks, but once again they seem to take little initiative to join with other groups to deal with the problem.

  8. Vicki Avatar

    could that be because they spend all their money trying to pay for the politicians they own? or maybe because they don’t have time, you know, because they’re out peacefully chasing off all the renegade wolves and curing all the bison of burcellosis? oops, i forgot, they lost all their money when they had to pay each of us for the dmage their cattle caused to our public lands.
    anyhow, the jerks that tear up land by vehicle or by over grazing are obviously not concerned with the world they live in, i doubt they’d be honest enough to pay fines…. i’d raher pay to feed them in jail, then have a collection agency track them down for years.

  9. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    These people are going haze a buffalo over a person or into a house or vehicle.

    That’s is the time a big injury lawsuit will happen. Unfortunately, someone is going to have to get hurt or killed.

  10. Eric Avatar

    I wish I had photos of some of the destruction caused by those atv entusiasts. Particularly in McCubbins Gulch by the White River in Mt. Hood National Forest. It’s already pretty overgrazed but still beautiful and remote, especially the canyon. But the ORV area is ridiculously trashed. Here in Illinois they rip up some of the most spectacular ribbons of wilderness left in the northern part of the state as well. It’s all legal I guess. Just seems so wrong to me. I loathe those idiots but they have a right to do so I guess. But, good that it’s being brought up. I agree with some harsh penalties for those who go off their designated ORV trails and rip new trails.
    Ralph, will you ever stop giving me stuff to get active about??
    Don’t worry, I’m not mad at you.

  11. Mike Wolf Avatar
    Mike Wolf

    I have a personal experience with this I’d like to relate.

    Two years ago, I spent the summer living at the border of Potlatch and IDOL land (on the Idaho side fortunately, unfortunately…depends.)

    This was my home for some 8 weeks. On some weekends, despite being 15 miles from the nearest residence, my peace and quiet was disturbed by, yup, ATVs. I had to witness the fire road being torn up by them, ATVs, and yahoos with trucks.

    I decided that reporting it to the company in charge of maintaining the roads and owner of some of the lands would be fruitless, but that I’d just do it anyway, if for no other reason than to at least tell someone so I didn’t have to feel alone in my frustration and anger.

    To my surprise, Potlatch responded very positively. They thanked me, told me they were having many problems such as those I witnessed, and that it was costing them.

    Two years later, this year, Potlatch now charges for access to their lands. Kudos to them!

    ATVs are losing face as more and more people start to realize the realities: that many people abuse lands and the peace and serenity of the wild areas with them. Hopefully someday soon, hunters won’t be able to use the lame excuse of wolves as being detrminental to their hunting success. It’s no coincidence that ATVs started being used in hunting in massive numbers in the mid 1990s…when wolves were reintroduced. Hunters just don’t seem to understand that elk can’t hear a wolf puttering through the woods and associate that sound with a hunter. Nor can hunters understand that wolves eat elk, and aren’t going to either eat themselves out of a meal, nor are they going to stampede all the elk out of the area so they have no food.

    When I go elk hunting (deer hunting is for whimps), I’ll go where the wolves are…because where there’s wolves, there’s wolf food.

  12. Mike Wolf Avatar
    Mike Wolf

    By the way Ralph, I agree that confiscation of rigs would be a hugely effective penalty. You’re right, I lived in a dumpy trailer park in Moscow, and my neighbor told me he paid $800 a month for his truck; but $135/mo. lot rent on his trailer.

    I tried not to be mean about it when I told him my truck, a 1991 four wheel drive diesel suburban, cost just over three of his truck payments.

  13. Monty Avatar

    The old cliche is so true, 10 percent of the citizens–or thereabouts–create 90 percent of the problems. And as our population grows, the 10 percent keeps increasing. The only satisfaction I have is that as gasoline prices increase, these folks have to pay more for their “recreation”.

  14. MikeH Avatar

    The midwest states really have no use for wildlands at all. Even with the absolutel tiny amount left, they don’t care if you rip it up with off-road gear.

    I can understand kids and teenagers enjoying “mudding” that’s just how kids are. They like to do stuff like that. But when I see the adults doing it, I shake my head.

  15. be Avatar

    40,400 ATV-related ER visits for kids under 16 in 2005 – May 14 , 2007 – Newsweek –

  16. Vicki Avatar

    global warming, wars over oil, and astronomical gas prices,,,, sadly people use gas-guzzling polution machines to trash what beauty remains. why not find a better hobby? it’d probably be cheaper as well.

  17. Mike Beagle Avatar
    Mike Beagle

    You’re right on the mark with your comments. ATVs are here to stay and we can’t change that. What we can do is demand more FS and BLM law enforcement officers, strict penalties for the abusers and travel management plans that prohibit motorized cross-country travel for game retrieval or any other instance.

    In Oregon, ATVs have to have a tiny sticker placed upon them. A motor cycle-sized license plate would provide citizens with an option of calling in the plate number if that ATV is out of control.

    This is why our last remaining backcountry areas are so damned important. Calving, antler growth, thermal cover, forage and security are all provided in these areas. And that’s where hunter success is greatest. The further ya get away from the roads the better your chances. Ya gotta work for it but that’s the way it should be.

    Cheers to you all.

  18. d. Bailey Hill Avatar

    There are many Rangers who are working together to put strict regulations on ATV use and abuse to our public land. There are 3 new entries on the PEER home page that you should check out, as it is very interesting.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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