Over the years, NOHVCC has developed many positive and
productive partnerships with OHV riders, agencies and organizations across the U.S., as well as in Canada
is on that list.
In late November, at the invitation of that country's OHV
riders, Russ Ehnes, NOHVCC Executive Director, and Tom Crimmins, long-time
NOHVCC workshop presenter and author of "Management Guidelines for OHV
Recreation," spent five days at meetings and rider workshops in Iceland.
"We've long been interested in helping people outside the U.S.," said
Ehnes. "The NOHVCC board formally recognized that we're now an international
organization, so this trip fits in with our mission and purpose. The riders in Iceland needed
help and the snowmobile, motorcycle, 4WD truck and ATV communities came up
with the money and paid for all of our expenses."
Over the years, a number of off-highway vehicle (OHV) enthusiasts
have attended the NOHVCC annual conference. Recently, legislation being
considered by Iceland's
Parliament regarding land use prompted them to ask NOHVCC to fly to Iceland, meet
with government officials and put on a series of workshops for OHV riders.
"Their Parliament is considering a nature law, equivalent to our environmental
law," said Ehnes. "The intention and purpose statement of the nature law is
very good: to preserve the Icelandic countryside so that future generations can
make a living. Unfortunately, there are some things in the law that are
reminiscent of mistakes we made in the U.S."
OHV use is a relatively new activity in Iceland.
Motorcycles have been in existence over there for only about 20 years, said
Ehnes. "You've got a pretty sizable land mass with only 300,000 people on it,
and there really haven't been a lot of restrictions or rules or concerns. But
in the last few years, the people of Iceland have decided they needed to
do some planning. They established some national parks, and now they're looking
at more spatial planning, right down to a county-by-county level.
"In general, there's a lack of understanding of OHV
management in Iceland
because it's a new use. The public doesn't realize there are techniques to
manage OHV recreation. They are where we were 30 years ago, where land managers
were faced with this looming problem and the only thing they knew how to do was
either ignore it or close it."
Arranging the trip for Ehnes and Crimmins were two members of
a 450-member motorcycle and ATV club called Feroa og utivistarfelagio
Slooavinir (translated: Outdoors Club Trail Friends): Asgeir Orn Runarsson,
club chairman, and Jakob Thor Gudbjartsson, club founder and treasurer. "We
have about 8,000 off-highway vehicles; that includes ATVs and motorcycles,"
said Runarsson. "And we have about 8,000 motorcycles that are fully road legal,
but that number may include some off-highway vehicles. We have about 5,000
snowmobiles in Iceland."
A small area close to Reykjavik
is designated for motorcycle and ATV use and good for beginning riders.
Otherwise, OHVs are used on roads and user trails, adds Runarrson. "Until now,
`road' has been broadly defined and pretty much open to all use, sometimes with
friction between different user groups," he said.
Over the course of five days, Ehnes and Crimmins held three
meetings with government officials and seven workshops around the country with
OHV riders. They were condensed versions of the OHV Recreation Management
Workshop, and focused on four areas: OHV riders needs and desires; "The 4Es"
(Engineering, Education, Enforcement, Evaluation); basics of OHV planning; and
the new Iceland
In discussing the new bill, called the Natural Protection
Law, Ehnes and Crimmins addressed three main issues with both government
officials and OHV riders. They are: 1) A requirement for maps but only printing
what's open to motorized vehicles, instead of having a map that's useful for
navigation. 2) There is no guarantee that people who are using the land will be
considered stakeholders, even though there's a requirement for stakeholders
being involved. 3) The government's wilderness definition would be expanded,
creating massive buffer areas that would become non-motorized around wilderness
areas. That will affect the actual value of the wilderness areas and degrade
the value of that term. NOHVCC suggested an alternate definition such as "near
natural" or "back country" that would allow people to enjoy it and still
protect it from additional development.
Ehnes reports that the reception to their input was good,
and that Parliament members were generally supportive of the ideas offered by
NOHVCC. The messages on OHV management were also well received. "We're lucky to
be in a position to help them avoid some of our mistakes and learn from some of
our successes," said Ehnes. "We were able to offer them some alternatives and
solutions that I think opened their eyes. They have a long way to go, but there
was a definite interest to listen, and if the Icelandic OHV community continues
to beat the drum with positive messages, the outcome can be very positive for
them in the end."
Runarsson said the meetings and workshops were very helpful
to the Icelandic OHV community. "All the experience that is gathered and
accessible to us from Tom, Russ and NOHVCC helps us a lot and may shorten the
time we need to gain some level of respect for what we love to do," he said.
"We plan to translate the NOHVCC workshop PowerPoint presentations and adapt
those to Iceland
with domestic pictures. We plan to keep up the dialogue to the 60 persons we
reached with Tom and Russ, and reach out to the political society to be heard,
so that our interests are understood and recognized."
Here are the websites for the OHV and snowmobile clubs whose
members helped arrange and contributed to the NOHVCC trip to Iceland (for those
of you who speak Icelandic):
A 450-member OHM/ATV club: www.slodavinir.org.
A travel club for Jeep owners, with more than 3,000 members: www.f4x4.is.
A national club for snowmobilers, with 640 members: www.liv.is.
A fourth club: www.skotvis.is.
Finally, encouraging us all to keep the fun in our efforts
for OHV advocacy, an observation from Russ on this, his second trip to Iceland: "If
you are at a gas station near Selfoss and someone offers you meatballs that
look sort of like ground up Spam and hot dogs on cabbage, have something else."