SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (December 6, 2012) - Tread Lightly!, a national nonprofit advocating outdoor ethics, is honored to be awarded its first grant from Utah State Parks through its Recreational Trails Program (RTP). “Heightening individuals’ sense of good stewardship is a critical yet daunting task in the quest to conserve our nation’s natural resources,” said Lori McCullough, Tread Lightly!’s executive director. “For the most part, conservation education has lacked adequate funding, prioritization and integration. However, this generous $100,000 grant is the maximum award permitted through Utah’s RTP and speaks volumes to State Parks’ commitment to actively manage outdoor recreation in Utah.”The critically needed funding will help implement education and outreach strategies in 2013 as part of a multi-faceted plan developed through the recently announced partnership dubbed RIDE ON Utah. By fostering good resource stewards, Tread Lightly! and its partners in RIDE ON Utah are trying to proactively protect access and opportunities to enjoy outdoor recreation in the great outdoors, especially activities involving the use of motorized vehicles. Preliminary research confirms Utah’s registered Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) owners enjoy everything from pleasure driving to fishing, camping, hunting and more.
“Everyone at Utah State Parks and Recreation is proud to be one of the first funding partners in this very timely campaign,” said Chris Haller, Off-Highway Vehicle Program Manager. “We are excited about the positive changes we can make as we integrate and disseminate the messages of Tread Lightly!, especially the new RIDE ON Designated Routes message throughout our public lands.” “Conservation education is a cost-effective and proven tool in reducing behaviors that cause resource and property damage and increase social conflict,” added Haller, “so this investment is a no-brainer.”The message RIDE ON Designated Routes was originally created by Tread Lightly! at the request of the U.S. Forest Service to communicate the importance of driving motorized vehicles only on routes or in areas designated as open to motor vehicle use. The partnership RIDE ON Utah is the first of its kind and unites Tread Lightly!, the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Utah Division of State Parks and Recreation, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and Utah’s School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration together in an effort to spread a consistent message across boundaries.RTP was authorized by Congress in 1991 as part of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act and is a critical lifeline in providing funding for recreational trail maintenance and trail building throughout the nation. Program revenues are generated from gas taxes and distributed to the states through the Federal Highway Administration. The recipients of RTP grants must match the funding at minimum of $1:1.“Considering the current controversies surrounding Utah’s public lands, we should have no problem growing a consortium of industry and nonprofit partners supporting shared and respected access to Utah’s public lands,” said McCullough. “We’ve been amalgamating funding from the private sector with public agencies’ resources from the onset of Tread Lightly! joining this partnership.”To better manage the use of motorized vehicles, commonly referred to as off-highway vehicles or OHVs, many agencies managing America’s natural resources have recently transitioned or are in the process of transitioning to regulating OHVs to a system of routes designated as open to motorized vehicles. Prior to implementing this tested management style, OHVs were considered unmanaged and were able to travel on any open road or trail unless posted closed. So, new travel management rules are a significant management shift – making it vitally important to communicate to the public that driving on designated routes is not only good for the environment, but also now required on most public lands.More information about RIDE ON Designated Routes and the RIDE ON Utah campaign can be found at http://www.treadlightly.org.