February '19

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6 THE SHOP FEBRUARY 2019 E xcitement is mounting. You've picked a 4x4 destination and perhaps even registered for an event. Weeks have been spent paging through trail maps, planning out a course and preparing the rig for action. While a great majority of off-road vehi- cles coming off of dealership lots will never experience real trail use like this, the allure of trail-ready is nonetheless arguably at an all-time high. Fortunately, for as many rigs in pristine garage-kept condition, there remains an active off-roading community ready, willing and able to conquer every corner of the United States. Ironically, as the off-road community grows in size and scope, available public land continues to shrink. Environmental groups have been advocating conservation efforts since the 1970s, and with good cause. No reasonable person would argue against leaving Mother Nature in better shape than which she was found. Tucked right alongside the trail maps and essential off-road gear should be one's integrity and a sense of responsibility to explore without harming the natural habitats that are under foot and tire. As aftermarket professionals, it pays to remind consumers of the importance of playing by the rules in order to ensure long-term access to our favorite off-road playgrounds. OUTDOOR USE FOR ALL Started by the U.S. Forest Service in 1985 and having evolved into a nonprofit in 1990, Tread Lightly! is a well-known orga- nization that seeks to "balance the needs of the people who enjoy outdoor recreation with our need to maintain healthy eco- systems and thriving populations of fish and wildlife." While many off-road enthusiasts are familiar with Tread Lightly! for its pro- motion of safe and responsible wheeling, the organization also offers programs, training and educational materials related to hunting, fishing and boating. Under- standing that every impression counts and having a little consideration goes a long way—it is an integral part of the off-road lifestyle. Few enthusiasts take issue with the mis- sion of groups like Tread Lightly! The cur- rent political landscape surrounding the topic, however, is twofold. Disregard for proper trail etiquette puts a presumptive bullseye on the back of every off-roader. These days, all it takes is one ignorant, inconsiderate trail rider to act irresponsibly and the whole situation goes viral, with backlash from opinionated social media users around the globe. Simply consider the response following last year's Jeep Super Bowl ad that featured a Cherokee driving up the middle of a creek as an example. "The ad seems to promote the idea that it's OK to drive up a middle of a stream. It's not. It's never OK to do that," Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited, told The Drive. On the flip side, perception of environ- mental overregulation has the potential to muddy an otherwise positive mission and cause resentment within a community Responsible off-roading will ensure that 4x4 enthusi- asts always have access to their favorite trails and playgrounds. (Photo cour- tesy Yokohama Tire Corp.) RESPONSIBLE F-ROADG Remind customers to respect the trail to ensure long-term access. By Stefanie Galeano-Zalutko

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