ATV Anarchists — enjoying the freedom to destroy

Driving: Making Tracks, Making Enemies By JASON TANZ, NYTimes

Another front has opened in the land-use war. For more than four decades, greenies and gearheads have been battling in parks, courts and state houses across the country over off-roading on public lands. But factions among off-roaders, a group that includes A.T.V. riders, four-by-four enthusiasts, snowmobilers and motorcyclists, are also squaring off.

On one side are self-styled responsible off-roaders, usually members of local clubs that promote following existing land-use rules and minimizing environmental impact. On the other are the renegades, who see such an approach as environmental appeasement. …

Many off-roaders say that the obnoxious behavior had overshadowed efforts by off-road clubs to organize cleanups of popular trails and teach their members techniques moving fallen trees off the trails instead of driving around them, for instance to minimize ecological impact. In 1990, Tread Lightly, a program formed by the Forest Service to promote responsible off-roading, became a private nonprofit organization, managed and financed by companies like Ford Motor and Toyota. Today, Tread Lightly leads awareness workshops and restores trails. “Our mission is to empower people to enjoy the outdoors responsibly,” said Lori Davis, the president.

“I think the majority of people who use motorized vehicles believe in the concept and the ethic of Tread Lightly,” Ms. Davis said.

Clearly, she hasn’t been talking to the sport’s more libertarian fans. “I think Tread Lightly is just a veiled form of extreme environmentalism,” said Brad Lark, publisher of extreme4x4.com, a Web site devoted to off-roading. …

A writer on the Web site off-road .com, writing as “Davey the Endangered Desert Tortoise,” expressed a similar view with less subtlety in a February 2002 column: “I don’t Tread Lightly. I trample. From tree-huggers to their totalitarian signage that follows. I trample all in the path of freedom’s future.”

The writer continued, “I don’t tread lightly on treason, and that’s exactly what the Greenies are hereby accused of when they take a stab at our America’s freedom my family’s freedom to enjoy the outdoors.”