4-Wheeling Billings Canyon — A Day Off from Skiing

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | May 12, 2005      

While waiting for the backcountry snow to settle in the highcountry, we headed down to Grand Junction, Colorado yesterday to wheel our Jeep Willys CJ2A “Rumblebee” in Billings Canyon, an extreme rock crawling jeep trail that was recently opened on BLM land in the Bangs Canyon recreation area.

Vacation from backcountry skiing.
Day off from backcountry skiing — wheeling Billings Canyon.

Billings Canyon trail is only about 1 1/2 miles long, but takes up to a day to drive. It is challenging and incredibly fun. I won’t get into the details since that’s for a 4-wheeling website, but what I find relevant to backcountry skiing about this is the multiple use and land management aspect of the rock crawling power-sport.

Coming from the point of view of a backcountry skier, hiker, hunter, mountain biker and more, I’m amazed at how little trail motorized 4-wheelers have, how much we have to fight for it, and how heavily people oppose such trails and try to shut existing ones down. This tiny trail in Western Colorado took years of negotiations to open, and is still highly controversial. Many enviros would love to see it closed, and you can bet a number of them are working on making that happen. It seems to bother some people that a few miles of trail would be used by folks with wheels and motors, and that the rocks and dirt would get moved around a bit by something other than flash floods, horses, or mountain bicycles.

Lately I’ve been reading about a concept termed the “death of environmentalism.” In a nutshell, folks in the “green” crowd have been doing some heavy self examination. Beyond concerns about how environmentalism is now a huge money hungry industry, some seem to be realizing their negative sky-is-falling anti human attitudes might have turned off a few people over the past decades. HELLO!

At least a few die-hard enviros are examining the concept of shifting their ethos more to that of a “conservationist.” They’re looking at the idea of conserving our resources and managing them wisely, while still welcoming human use into the equation. Billings Canyon jeep trail is a good example of such use. It’s carefully managed and closely watched. It is a good example of conservation in action, allowing human recreation but doing it smart.

From the “Death of Environmentalism,” by By Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus:

“Environmentalism is today more about protecting a supposed “thing” — “the environment” — than advancing the worldview articulated by Sierra Club founder John Muir, who nearly a century ago observed, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”

Some of those “things” that John Muir called attention to are people and their needs.


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