Don Amador is fighting for your right to ride.

So many of us go out and ride in legal offroad motorcycle areas, but don't give a second thought to how we got the right to be there. Often there has been a battle fought, and large amounts of money spent, just for your freedom to enjoy the outdoors on your motorcycle. We can thank Don Amador for getting involved in those battles and fighting on behalf of all of us that enjoy offroad motorcycling to keep areas open and safe.Dirt Rider: It is always great to see the Rangers and offroad riders working together for positive outcomes in recreational areas. As the Western Rep for The Blue Ribbon Coalition, you are a big part of many different agencies coming together for positive results. Give us an idea how you got involved in this work.Don Amador: While trail riding once a long time ago I had an epiphany. I was just your average trail rider when I came across a trail closure sign. That was when I realized that I needed to get involved and find out what was going on. It was an awakening. As I researched who was involved in the battles to keep trails open, I kept running into the Blue Ribbon Coalition. I paid my own way back to their board meeting in Salt Lake City to find out what they were all about. I realized they were on the right track, and that I wanted to be involved with them. In 1992, I started to learn more about the trail issues, and it was apparent that all the land use decisions were political. So, I joined Congressman Bill Baker's Congressional campaign. I got involved in California politics and the Republican Party, and worked real hard to get him elected in 1992. I realized we needed a "pro access to land" governor so I got involved in Pete Wilson's campaign. I worked hard for the party, and the Pete Wilson administration appointed me to the Off Highway Vehicle Commission in 1994. I served as Commissioner from 1994-2000, and as Chairman for a couple of years.DR: Is that the first time that working on these projects became a job?DA: Well, other than a small per-diem when you are at the meetings, these titles are just volunteer. Still I was volunteering for the Blue Ribbon causes because I believed in them. It was in about 1997, I told myself that I need to make a career choice here and do this but get paid for it. I went to work part time for Blue Ribbon in '96 part time for about 2 years, and then in 1998 I went full time with the BRC.DR: Where do you call home?DA: The East Bay Area, by Concord and Walnut Creek. I cover California, Nevada, and Oregon, but I took lead on a national level with the "Roadless Battle" when we fought the Clinton Administration. So I do get involved with National issues, but because of the shear volume of California, and the number of offroaders in this state, it really warrants one person dedicated to this area.DR: What other organizations do you work with?DA: We work with the American Motorcyclist Association, we have one of their representatives on our board, National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council, Motorcycle Industry Council, American Trails, American Sand Association, and also a lot of state and local officials, and clubs all over the country. We have a law firm on full time retainer to help us with our battles.DR: Is there a battle that you are particularly excited to have won?DA: Yes, we were the lead recreation group fighting against the "Roadless Battle", we beat that back and held it from being implemented. The biggest feather in our cap is that we got Lake Powel re-opened to personal watercraft. The Bluewater Network successfully sued and closed it. We went in and reopened it with a near precedent setting law suit. They settled instead of losing and setting a precedent in law that would shut down a lot of what they do.DR: How will the new administration at the top of California government affect these issues?DA: I don't know yet what Governor Schwarzenegger plans to do. I can tell you that we look forward to a more fiscally conservative leadership. We are always willing to work with Democrats, but we now look to make programs a little more efficient. Right now we have hardly any money going for trails, and facilities maintenance all going for restoration projects that the Sierra Club and Wilderness Coalition want. We think this is out of balance, and not working very well. We will get it back in balance.DR: Tell us what your main battles are.DA: The two issue that we are facing right now are the Federal Routing program or trail designation, and the other is loud bikes. The Federal government is taking inventory on what trails to keep open. The good news is that BRC with the help of Dirt Rider magazine and some other proactive folks, are ahead of the eight ball, and we offering solutions. Instead of just saying no, we don't want a closure, we are saying no, let's manage these trails, get the resources to take care of the land, and we will have the sport forever. Its exciting to see positive results for all this effort. Blue Ribbon has been taking the lead on the sound stuff, and we are in communication with the Chief of the Forest Service managers as they are developing their recreation program. The good news is that we are going to be around for a long time.DR: Do you feel that the government is cooperative, that they want to help in a positive way?DA: Yes, they are searching for answers. For instance, there was an issue in Wilson Canyon Nevada, a real popular offroad area, where there was illegal riding and hillclimbs. Riders were wrecking the camp sights, and riding into the creek. Rather than closing the area down, we met with the Forest Service, County Commissioner, and the BLM, and suggested that we adopt the 96 decibel sound limit, find some funding to help organize the trails, and close off the hillclimbs along the road. Because of our efforts there, we have riding there today.I'm convinced that if we had been around in the 70's, there would be a lot more riding areas open today because we would have been proactive to work together with the agencies that wanted to close riding areas. The other thing that I wanted to mention is that over the last 4 years, we have sold a million ATV's and 300,000 offroad bikes. There has been a huge increase in traffic and that has caused some challenges primarily dealing with sound issues. That is kind of good news bad news. We are happy that the sport is growing, but we have to do something about these issues. There a lot of people out there in jeeps, trucks and bikes. So we need to stay ahead of the eight ball and address these issues before they become problems.DR: What are the key goals for the Blue Ribbon Coalition?DA: To help guide the BLM and Forest Service so they can make the correct decisions as they go to designating roads and trails. We need to get our local constituents involved in the planning process. In other words, we want locals to help the Forest Service identify what trails are important and what trails are not important. It is very important for local people to get involved. Blue Ribbon can't be everywhere and at every battle.DR: What are the most common activities you are involved in?DA: Oh it could be anything like helping to sound check a bike at a national enduro, meeting with local people as they go through the trail designation process, working with the AMA, OHV commission meetings. I also try to promote quiet bikes. No two days are the same, but every day I'm protecting and promoting the sport of offroad riding.DR: What are you doing for us tomorrow, here at the Dirt Rider 24 Hour?DA: I'll be working with the Forest Service at the sound check station, checking bikes before they leave here and go out on the trails. Also, I'm part of the partnership that Ken and Karel came up with a few years ago to try to reward people that donate their time protecting their sport. Such a large number of people wanted to be here for this event that Dirt Rider suggested riders donate 25 hours of service to The Blue Ribbon Coalition, or another agency in the preservation of our sport. Whether they are doing office work or volunteering at a track, if they show that they are committed to this, then we want them to come to this event and enjoy it. There are people here from Florida, Minnesota, Iowa, Montana, and other states that are here because they volunteered time to be able to come. Isn't that great?DR: Yes, that is fantastic. I hear this question asked often, "If we do address the sound issues and designate the trails, will that actually help preserve riding opportunity?"DA: I hear that too. The answer is yes, and I have an example of a success story on that topic. Not too far from hear, in the Los Padres National Forest, there was a "skag" riding area on National Forest Service land. Trails were going every which way, and resources were being impacted. It got so wild and out of control that the Secretary of Agriculture was going to come out and order it all shut down. Luckily we had some pro-OHV Forest Rangers step up and push for keeping it open and managing it properly. They wanted to designate trails, and keep it open. Because of that proactive management, and forward thinking Forest Service Ranger, it is open today. Funds to manage this come out of funds dedicated to recreation, and they do get some green sticker funds.On the sound issue part of that question, one of the best success stories was in the Oregon Dunes in southern Oregon. Through the '70s and '80s there was so many loud dune buggies and motorcycles that the local ranger was getting 20 to 30 phone calls a week from area residents complaining about noise. In the '90s they enacted stricter noise regulations of 93 dB in a desperate attempt to keep the place open for off-road traffic. Now, instead of getting all those phone calls, they maybe get one call a month. That place is open because of somebody being proactive. If we get a handle on sound, and designating roads and trails, then we can have riding open for a long time to come.DR: Thanks Don for being our ambassador. The moral of the story is get involved. Dirt Rider encourages all our readers to check out any web site you can to learn more about rider's rights, and watch for chances to get involved in your area. Also, be good offroaders, respect private property and the envirnoment. Also, always be courteous to law enforcement. More information on The Blue Ribbon Coalition can be found at:www.sharetrails.orgOther web sites of interest.