An Interview With Clark Collins

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Clark Collins (right) meets with then Senator Dirk Kempthorne to discuss important recreational land use issues such as the Recreational Trails Program (Dirk Kempthorne is now U.S. Secretary of the Interior).

We took a moment to sit down with Clark Collins, Founder and first Executive Director of the BlueRibbon Coalition, for an interview of how it all got started. What follows is a personalized look at the first 20 years of the Coalition.

BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC)
Clark Collins (CC)

BRC: Who were some of the folks that helped in the founding of the BlueRibbon Coalition?

CC: I had a lot of help starting the Coalition. Some of the key players were Darryl Harris and Steve Janes at SnoWest Magazine, Adena Cook, John Butterfield, Carl Atamanczyk, Senator Steve Symms and his Pocatello field office representative John Hatch, Joani and Dick Dufourd, Kay Lloyd, The American Motorcyclist Association, and the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC). It was a team effort.

BRC: What is your take on BRC entering the legal arena?

CC: Our involvement in the legal arena was a turning point in the evolution of BRC. We considered that move very cautiously and deliberately. Legal involvement is very expensive and led to the downfall of many other organizations. It is not the "Silver Bullet" that some folks think it is and should only be used as a last resort. However, it has become more and more necessary, as just the threat of a lawsuit from the anti-access organizations has prompted closures in the past. It is a necessary component of our ever-growing involvement in keeping public lands open to the public.

BRC: What are some of the major legal battles that BlueRibbon has won over the last eleven years since the Legal Action Program was set up in 1997?

CC: Our legal team has done a wonderful job picking and choosing the right battles for BRC. But for sure, some important ones were the Supreme Court (i.e. SUWA v Norton - Montana Wilderness Study areas; Yellowstone Snowmobiling; Lake Powell personal watercraft access) and our intervention in the Eldorado (Rubicon and Rock Creek) lawsuits.

BRC: What would you say are some of the major efforts that BlueRibbon has been a part of in the battle to maintain access to public lands?

CC: Some key efforts were: the Montana Wilderness bill in 1988; RTP establishment and funding; Roadless Rules, Intiatives, etc.; many Wilderness threats all over the country; nationwide USFS OHV planning (Travel Management) rule; helping to educate OHV recreationists nationwide on how to be more effective in defending access; promoting and recognizing recreationist volunteerism, promoting teamwork among diverse recreation groups; and discouraging recreation group "elitism" in favor of more unity.

BRC: Explain how the BlueRibbon Coalition "Backcountry designation" will help to maintain access to our public lands?

CC: The Backcountry concept gives us user-friendly land use designation, trails and recreation management that is less expensive than Wilderness, more volunteers to assist with maintenance of trails, and encourages cooperation between different recreation interests. Backcounty also provides a more "user-friendly" alternative to other restrictive designations. It further allows existing recreation users to work together instead of pitting them against one another.

BRC: Explain how BlueRibbon has worked to make sure motorized recreationists get their fair share of the National Recreational Trails Funds (RTP)?

CC: It all began with deliberations about the final form of the National Recreational Trails Fund Act (NRTFA), when some non-motorized interests attempted to have all the funding dumped into the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Motorized wouldn't have gotten anything. Since we worked to get secure funding for the program, we've assisted many OHV organizations with the grant application process. There are several shining examples of motorized recreationists putting this funding to good work. Some examples include the Texas Motorized Trails Coalition; Logandale OHV Trails System; several places in California, and other states as well. This program is currently authorized for $75 million.

BRC: Clark, BlueRibbon is 20 years old this month. What were a couple of your proudest moments as Founder of this great organization?

CC: I am proud of everything BRC has accomplished in the last 20 years. Our key involvement in the establishment of the RTP was, by far, our most significant accomplishment. Building the organization from nothing to a million dollar a year organization makes me feel like we've really done something special, and to build BRC to the point where it could outlive my involvement and be turned over to a new Executive Director really shows how well established BRC is.

BRC: What is your take on the next 5 years and what the important tasks will be for BRC?

CC: The threat of inappropriate (bad) Wilderness proposals was one of our key reasons for forming BRC in the first place. That has always been a threat and it is becoming even more so. BRC needs to educate more recreationists on this threat and get them working together to head off the Wilderness juggernaut. Our next five years should focus on this and the education and empowerment of our members and partner organizations.

--For questions or comments on this article, contact the BlueRibbon Coalition, 4555 Burley Drive, Suite A, Pocatello, ID, 83202; Phone: 208-237-1008, Fax: 208-237-9424.

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