Wild places will never remain that way if protections placed on them aren’t recognized and respected. One would think this simple fact would resonate among all users of public lands. Unfortunately, it doesn’t.
On Labor Day this year, I wrapped up a few chores early with plans of heading to the woods northwest of my home in Gunnison, Colo., to hunt dusky grouse with my bow. Expecting most trailheads to be crowded over the busy weekend, I set my sights on a little-used section of singletrack leading to a prominent peak that I figured wouldn’t see much traffic, even on a holiday.
From the trailhead, it appeared my assessment had paid off. A single vehicle was at the parking area when I set forth on foot toward a ridge leading to the peak where I expected to find grouse. The first couple miles are mostly flat before a spur of the trail veers south up a steep, rocky ridge only suitable for foot travel and which is closed to motorized and mechanized users.
In the past, this particular trail has seen little use even among hikers – at least compared to some of the more popular routes in the area. That’s why I did a double-take when rounding a turn in the trail I saw a Polaris Ranger parked on the ridge just off the singletrack.
“What the heck? How on earth did that get here?” I thought. With the nearest legal OHV route many miles away, I struggled to imagine how the vehicle had arrived where it rested, with its driver nowhere in sight. Upon closer inspection, tell-tale tire tracks showed the OHV must have come from private land to the west but illegally crossed a large swath of public land before arriving on the ridge.
With the driver nowhere to be seen, I decided to document the location of the vehicle with my cell phone camera, also taking a picture of the vehicle’s registration tag. Upon returning to town, I texted Brandon Diamond, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the photos I had captured along with coordinates for where the OHV was located.
Later that evening, Brandon notified me that he visited the site but, unfortunately, when he arrived the vehicle and driver were gone. Nonetheless, Brandon assured me that he would continue looking into the matter and would let me know how things turned out. The next weekend, I received word from Brandon that U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer Mike Fuller had tracked down the OHV’s owner and issued a citation.
Not long after, BHA’s State Policy Director Tim Brass reached out to inform me that a $500 check was coming my way through the organization’s OHV Reward Fund. Through the program, BHA offers rewards for reports or information leading to a conviction of illegal motorized users – an incentive to help encourage sportsmen and public land users to continue our longstanding tradition of policing our own ranks.
I thanked Tim for the gesture but as a longtime member and supporter of BHA and its cause, I told him I would be happiest seeing BHA keep the money – knowing that every cent spent keeping up the good fight to protect our public lands and waters is of much greater value to me than a wad of cash in my pocket.
- Will Shoemaker, Colorado BHA Member
To help encourage sportsmen and public land users to continue our longstanding tradition of policing our own ranks, BHA offers up to $500 in rewards for reports or information leading to a conviction of illegal motorized users. By collecting the vehicle identification number, the location where the offense occurred and any photographs that would be helpful in weeding-out those who threaten our sporting heritage and namesake. Report illegal OHV use to your local game warden and/or land manager (see info. needed below) and help ensure that we continue to have quality habitat, hunts and access for all.
- Date, location and description of the incident - when, where, what and who you saw. Collect as many details as possible, including: GPS points, name of road or trail head, etc.
- Photos of the identification number from the OHV's permit, serial number, and/or the license plate of the owner's truck.
- Photos, supporting statements from other witnesses and any other documentation that you can gather.
If you are interested in claiming a reward through BHA's OHV Reward Fund Program, please send us an email with "OHV Reward Fund" in the subject line. Please include the information listed above, in addition to details on:
- How your report helped lead to the conviction of the illegal OHV user.
- Name and contact information for the officer that made the conviction.
- Status/result of prosecution.
*Note that this is the same information that you should collect and provide to the local land manager to help ensure a proper conviction can be made. Get as much information as you can safely, more is better then not enough, but do not risk your own safety while getting the information.