Archive for September 8th, 2007

Everyone’s A Victim

by Rebecca Schmitz

In today’s Missoulian there’s an article about yet another conflict between motorized and non-motorized National Forest users that turned violent. One of Stevensville’s best citizens, Tim Turner, was riding his motorcycle in a designated roadless area on the Montana-Idaho border known as the Great Burn Wilderness. Thankfully, he was caught on camera by a local Sierra Club group on an outing in the same area. Not unlike a D-list celebrity attacking some paparazzi, Tim chose to intimidate them by running down the man behind the camera, Bob Clark of Missoula. In the finest tradition of defense lawyers everywhere, Tim’s attorney, Thomas Clark, turned Tim into the real victim:

“He (Turner) was just trying to get out of their way when they pushed him over,” said Thomas Clark. “Some of them were kicking him. Some were hitting him. It was a frightening experience for him. These were environmental people and he was in an area where he shouldn’t have been,” he said. “It was a bad situation pretty much for everybody.”

Oh dear, environmental people. Poor guy. I’m sure being attacked by folks wielding Nalgene water bottles and Patagonia fleece must have been pretty traumatic.

This reminds me of the oddly unsympathetic response to an earlier incident this year, when Bill Burgund of Darby was run over by an ATV user illegally riding on a trail near Lake Como. After the article appeared, several letters written by local off-road enthusiasts appeared in the Missoulian. Almost all adopted the same argument used by rapists everywhere: we asked for it. Mr. Burgund, the Forest Service, and the public asked for illegal motorized use and the potential for violence by gating logging roads and not creating special ATV and motorcycle trails.

Bullshit.

If you have one, two or seven of them around your house, go get a Forest Service map. I’ve got ones for the Lolo, Bitterroot, Clearwater, Nez Perce, Gallatin, Flathead, Beaverhead-Deerlodge, Helena, Salmon and Kootenai National Forests. Open it up and spread it out on your dining room table. See all those logging roads with the dashed or solid lines? The ones not indicated as “A”, “3” or “D” and thus closed from October 15 to June 15 or whatever? There are plenty of ungated logging roads on our National Forests open to motorized recreation–hundreds of miles in western Montana alone. In Tim Turner’s case, all he had to do was look at a map of the Clearwater National Forest. Mine’s open right now, and I can see dozens and dozens of roads right up to the very edge of the Great Burn. Tim and his friends had plenty of places to ride their motorcycles.

After today’s article, I suspect that those same folks will again write letters to the Missoulian. This time they will tell us that it was Bob Clark who asked for it. In their minds, off-road users are the real victims here, victims of “environmental people”, the Sierra Club, the Forest Service, Hillary Clinton, the moon in Aquarius, and, above all, their own illiteracy–because they can’t read a goddamned map.

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