John Stewart devoted his career to the Navy, and his extra time to Land Use. A lifetime advocate for using public lands, John continues to use his time to keep the government and others from closing off our recreational access to public lands. Listen up to find out where the fight is now, and what you can do to help.
9:05 – I joined the Navy and visited the world
13:08 – I got out of the Navy and then two months later went back to work for the Navy
17:30 – Hey, wait a minute, you close these areas off and we got a lot of problems
23:55 – getting local businesses to really stress what the economic impact would be helps
28:17 – lawsuits are a last resort
34:31 – it’s an easy sell in downtown NYC
40:16 – the difficult part is to get them to understand what we are losing
51:55 – why do you want them to have the permit? Why not?
1:07:02 – the Hot Topics right now are in Utah
We want to thank our sponsors Maxxis Tires and 4Low Magazine.Support the show
[00:00:06.370] - Big Rich Klein
Welcome to conversations with Big Rich. This is an interview style podcast. Those interviews are all involved in the offroad industry. Being involved, like all of my guests are, is a lifestyle, not just a job. I talk to competitive teams, racers, rock crawlers, business owners, employees, media and private park owners, men and women who have found their way into this exciting and addictive lifestyle. We discuss their personal history, struggles, successes and reboots. We dive into what drives them to stay active and offroad. We all hope to shed some light on how to find a path into this world we live and love and call offroad.
[00:00:53.790] - John Stewart
Whether you're crawling the red rocks of Moab or hauling your toys to the trail, Maxxis has the tires you can trust for performance and durability. Four wheels or two? Maxxis tires are the choice of champions because they know that whether for work or play, for fun or competition, Maxxis tires deliver. Choose Maxxis tread victoriously.
[00:01:20.290] - Big Rich Klein
Have you seen 4low magazine yet? 4low Magazine is a high quality, well written, four wheel drive focused magazine for the enthusiast market. If you still love the idea of a printed magazine, something to save and read at any time, 4Low is the magazine for you. 4Low cannot be found in stores, but you can have it delivered to your home or place of business. Visit 4lowmagazine.com to order your subscription. Today
[00:01:47.050] - John Stewart
On today's episode of conversations with big rich, we have John Stewart. John works the four wheel drive industry from pretty much the land use side. We will get into all of that with his history in four wheel drive and off road and find out more about John than he probably really wants everybody to know. But that's what we do here. So, John, thank you so much for spending some time and talking about yourself with us.
[00:02:16.290] - John Stewart
Well, Rich, thank you for the invite and I appreciate working and getting the message out. And I've listened to a couple of your podcasts and it's good information.
[00:02:27.510] - Big Rich Klein
Well, excellent. Okay, so let's start off with the easiest and basic question. Where were you born and raised?
[00:02:36.490] - John Stewart
I was born in Boise, Idaho, and spent up through high school and starting college in Idaho. Joined the Navy and basically left Idaho almost over 50 years ago and really haven't lived there since.
[00:02:53.890] - Big Rich Klein
I spent a couple of years in Idaho.
[00:02:57.370] - John Stewart
Yeah. Well, I said I was born in Boise. I still have a brother over in Bruno and a few other cousins in the Boise area that I graduated in high school out of Pocatello. I lived all over the state. We moved around quite a bit as a kid and I got to see a lot of the state. It's a great area. In fact, I got out into the deserts and the mountains and that there before a four wheel drive was popular.
[00:03:31.210] - Big Rich Klein
All right, so let's talk about those early years. Boise was a lot smaller if you left there about 50 years ago.
[00:03:41.890] - John Stewart
Yes, it was the area around Boise back there, what was it? Last fall? And I could not believe the amount of growth in the region. It's a far cry from what it was when I was a kid growing up in that area. And we'd go up to Stanley Basin. We would have run of the areas of places that then Smiley Creek and some other place up the headwaters of Salmon River. And you go up there now, and it's their close off, either wilderness areas or protected areas. No fishing, no getting near the streams. It's sad to see the changes that have occurred.
[00:04:27.910] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. And that part of the state is, I believe, the only part that votes blue Ada county in the whole state. I lived in Blackfoot for a couple of years before Shelley and I decided to take we rock full time on the road and do Dirt Riot and all that kind of stuff, and it was a nice place. The winters were way too cold for me. When I was a kid. Cold winters didn't matter, but as I get older, cold winters matter.
[00:05:04.990] - John Stewart
Oh, I hear you. And I feel every bit of the cold temperatures as they come rolling around. And where I live now, you can't get down into teens, and I said, that's cold enough for me.
[00:05:18.790] - Big Rich Klein
Right. And the teens is still a lot better than what Idaho can get.
[00:05:24.070] - John Stewart
Yeah. I remember days, some winters that it will be going 30 below, and it get up to zero, and we'd be out running around in short sleeves saying, hey, it's a bright, sunny day. The sun's out. It's a great day.
[00:05:41.260] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. So growing up back then, that whole area was pretty rural unless you were, like, downtown. Right. Was school close enough for you to walk or ride a bike, or did you have to bus or what was the whole thing? Or were you guys riding horses?
[00:06:02.170] - John Stewart
No, we weren't into horses. We mostly lived pretty much in the suburbs, but up until high school, I was always within walking distance of school, and once I hit high school, then we were living just almost just under 2 miles from the high school. And their distance radius for the bus service, I believe, was about a mile and a half. So in high school, it started being the bus rides to and from school.
[00:06:40.750] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. And school was a lot different for me back in I graduated high school in 76, and it's a lot different now than it was then. And you preceded me by a couple of years. So what was school like? What kind of classes was it just core?
[00:07:04.910] - John Stewart
Well, you had your core classes that you had to take. You have a certain number of credits of science plus English and math that everybody had to take. Then you would get one or two electives classes per year, or maybe it was three but anyway, you had the core classes, the basic reading, writing, arithmetic type thing, and the science courses were required. Biology, chemistry. Yeah, that was my first introduction into physics senior. I had a physics class, but the standard go rounds of algebra, a couple of years of algebra, geometry, and then advanced math classes, all of your standard English classes. And they had other electives, I recall, were some business home economics. That's long ago. I can barely remember what was going on.
[00:08:20.490] - Big Rich Klein
I get it. Did you have any shop classes?
[00:08:24.210] - John Stewart
Oh, yeah, we had shop. In fact, I got into architectural mechanical drawing as a sophomore in high school, and we had woodworking shop classes, and there was also the auto shop classes. And FFA, Future Farmers of America had a series of classes for those that wanted to get into more of the agricultural and shop type basis for the mechanics.
[00:08:55.990] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. And you said you went from high school?
[00:09:05.170] - John Stewart
I went from high school, stepped out of high school, and right on into college up at Idaho State University for about a year and a half, but college and I did not agree because I didn't have to study to maintain my high average in high school and graduate with an A student. But college is a lot different environment in there. You have to put forth an effort to it. And I just wasn't ready. I got tired of the school and the deal and dropped out of college and joined the Navy and visited the World.
[00:09:49.970] - Big Rich Klein
in the Navy. Okay. What did you do in the Navy?
[00:09:55.610] - John Stewart
Well, throughout high school, I picked up a knack for an interest in electronics.
[00:10:00.380] - Big Rich Klein
[00:10:00.840] - John Stewart
And I ended up when I joined the Navy, I went through all the aptitude tests, and they got me into an electronics based setup. And actually my grading rating was an electronics warfare technician by the time I got out of the Navy, spent nine years in It. But I was always involved in electronics and technical aspects of what was going on. My career duties spent almost five years on ships home ported out of Yukuska, Japan. So a lot of things from up just northern tips of the islands of Japan all the way down south of the equator. Wow.
[00:10:57.590] - Big Rich Klein
What was life like on a ship?
[00:11:02.250] - John Stewart
Life on a ship, man, that is something that you're on a strict regime of going from duty watch or station watch, and then during the daytime, there's always standard working details. You're either painting or repairing or something going on. You're never busy, and the shower lines are there, you're up, you're fed well. And I was on the old tin can, so life was a lot different for them at that time because you're crowded into bunks, your berthing spaces. You didn't have a lot of room. The ships made their own water through evaporating systems to make their own fresh water. And there were many times where you would be limited on the amount of water times that you could shower because of problems with the evaporators or inability to really produce enough water to keep everything going. But we learned how to adapt, and everybody had a certain amount of camaraderie that we always had a good time, met a lot of good people on the ships and a lot of good memories from that time.
[00:12:34.670] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. And then you said you spent nine years in the military or in the Navy, which is, of course, the military. That was dumb. So what did you do after that time?
[00:12:48.950] - John Stewart
Well, my nine years in the Navy, I was finishing up shorter in San Diego, and I got tab to work on an electronics warfare training program and development training age for rate training.
[00:13:06.890] - Big Rich Klein
[00:13:08.210] - John Stewart
Well, by the time I was ready to reenlist, they kept wanting me, pushing me to re enlist and say, yeah, you passed the chief's test. You'll be a chief, you'll be in a great spot. And they said, but you've got to go back overseas. And I said no. No way. I was married with two kids, and there was no way I was going to leave San Diego. And they wouldn't even let me stay in San Diego. So I got out and I got another Navy. About two months later, I was back working for the Navy, doing what I did when I was in the Navy.
[00:13:39.750] - Big Rich Klein
Probably at a higher rate, a little bit more pay. Yeah.
[00:13:44.690] - John Stewart
And I spent the next several years working with the training age program with a Naval Education training support center out of San Diego and left that place and moved over to because by then I had advanced a point. I was the It department manager. That small Navy activity. Then I had a chance to move over to get a pay raise and move over to a different activity where I became an It security manager for a larger Navy activity in San Diego.
[00:14:30.210] - Big Rich Klein
[00:14:34.290] - John Stewart
I've been involved in the computers and It security, let's see, almost 40 years now.
[00:14:43.740] - Big Rich Klein
Wow. Okay. That's awesome.
[00:14:47.430] - John Stewart
[00:14:48.170] - Big Rich Klein
So have you retired from regular work or consulting work?
[00:14:56.010] - John Stewart
Yes, I have retired from any kind of paid consulting work. You graduated 76? I graduated ten years before you. I'm here at the point where I had a chance for a lifestyle change and the way things were going in California with my consulting with the California Four Wheel Drive Association and California's laws about everything, and it became question of whether they could afford to have consultants and be forced or forced to bring them on as employees. Well, I knew they could not. They could not afford to bring on any employees with all the attendant costs for an employee. And that all happened at a time when my current wife and I, we had a chance to invest in some land here in Middle Tennessee for her son and daughter in law and they're in the process now building a wedding venue in Tennessee.
[00:16:09.180] - Big Rich Klein
Oh, very nice. And you say Middle Tennessee like Crossville Middleton.
[00:16:16.410] - John Stewart
No, about 50, 60 miles south of Nashville.
[00:16:21.040] - Big Rich Klein
[00:16:23.610] - John Stewart
And we ended up with almost 29 acres of land, raw land out here. There was not a road into the place when we started. Now we've got almost 2 miles of road around here. Wife and I have a house on the property. Stepson and daughter in law have a house here and then a nice big shop. And the wedding venue is the foundation is laid for it, and we're trying to get the funding together and everything together to begin a concrete pour for the slab and get the building erected.
[00:17:03.770] - Big Rich Klein
Excellent. That's cool. I like that. So let's talk about those years that I guess you are still doing the computer consulting and all that, but you got involved in off road. Did that happen before the military going into the Navy, or did that happen while you were in San Diego?
[00:17:30.270] - John Stewart
Well, I always developed a love for the hunting and fishing and camping when I was a kid growing up in Idaho. And I be getting back to Idaho on a periodic basis over the years and keep seeing these things where willingness signs keep popping up and willing to study areas. And all this was happening. And places being closed off, places where I used to go hunting and fishing as a kid were now being closed off. Came a time in the late 80s when I started looking around and seeing more in California where the Desert Protection Act was coming up in play. And I started saying, hey, wait a minute. You close these areas off and we got a lot of problems. There's no place to go. So I started getting involved in the late 80s into what was going on and learning a lot about it and seeing that as offroaders. And with the recreation community in general, whether you're an offroader or mountain bike or fishermen or hunters, we were all stuck in a point where places were just being closed off and continuing those activities was becoming very difficult. So I got involved in that.
[00:19:02.550] - John Stewart
I'm soon joined Cal Four Wheel and the Blue Ribbon Coalition, some other places, just to help support these organizations. And all this was time when I was still working for a living and finally came to a point where I was able to retire from a daytime job and took on land use issues on a full time basis. And that's when I spent 17 and a half yeah, a little over 17 years representing California and Four Wheel drive interest in California was a lot of.
[00:19:36.360] - Big Rich Klein
That in meetings, in courtrooms, things like that.
[00:19:46.190] - John Stewart
I spent a few times. A few hours in courtroom sessions listening to what was going on. But many hours in meetings. Group meetings or small meetings with Bureau of Land Management or the forest Service or the Fish and Wildlife Service and in meetings anywhere all throughout California. But most of us from Sacramento south and a number of times up into Las Vegas. Several times. Over to Phoenix Flagstaff area and even over into Albuquerque and Santa Fe. New Mexico on a couple of times. And even as far as El Paso. Texas. All with issues dealing with California. Oh, and the water issues are prevalent within the state.
[00:20:38.490] - Big Rich Klein
And how did you find the agencies? Were they receptive to motorized recreation or I should say anything besides pedestrian recreation, meaning bicycles, horses, that kind of stuff? How receptive were they?
[00:21:04.350] - John Stewart
When I first started in that I found the agencies were not very receptive because a lot of ways they did not understand what was going on. There were a few exceptions, like within the Sierra National Forest, there's a couple of groups and the clubs from California that had built a lot of good personal relationships with the Forest Service up in that area. And they had a lot of good things going and still have a lot of good things going, even with a lot of the problems that management problems cropped up in that area in recent years. And this was back in a time when the Rubicon Trail, the crown jewel of everything, was being looked at with a lot of scrutiny and there was some bad feelings there. And it was some of the initial Forest Service and recreationist interaction.
[00:22:10.110] - Big Rich Klein
You're not telling me anything.
[00:22:15.130] - John Stewart
I remember being on a lot of conversations with a number of people and they finally got their act together. They've got the Rubicon Trail Foundation and the Friends of Rubicon spun up and going, and they've got the county behind them and backing them. So they have developed some good working relationships. But it's one of those things where 1520 years ago, those good relationships and those interactions were not there. And that's one thing I've always encouraged the local groups to do is sit down with the local ranger or Leo or whoever is managing your lands in the areas where you are interested in and see what their concerns are and let them know and explain what you want to do and how you can help them. Buy them a cup of coffee, buy them a beer, get to know them.
[00:23:17.950] - Big Rich Klein
Right. I always thought that the best way to influence the decisions or the mindset of those federal employees was through the local county, city business leaders, the representatives, congressmen, county officials, whatever, and try to get them to understand what the financial impact was so that those people had more of a say with the federal employees.
[00:23:55.670] - John Stewart
Yes, and that is one of the I agree wholeheartedly with what you're saying, because one of the things where we made a lot of intros in the Neo National Forest with some of their management points was under travel management. When Neo released their original plan, they had an estimated 5000 miles of travel routes on the Eno National Forest. With their plan, they were only going to keep and maintain less than 300 miles of routes by the time myself and several other people in the, in your area, and this was businesses we got together in the final travel management plan that they submitted and that everybody agreed on it. This was Sierra Club. The Frenziano who is affiliated with the center for Biological Diversity we came across. Came up with about 26. 700 miles of routes that would be open with an additional almost over 1000 miles of routes that would be kind of held in reserve and essentially looked out for the impact and with the opportunity to open them up with some road maintenance or trail maintenance assistance over the coming years. Okay, so this was a point where it was getting the local businesses in there to really stress what the economic impact would be if they close this down to the motorized recreation community.
[00:25:45.370] - John Stewart
There are a lot of people, they really wanted to have the hikers and the non impact sports in there, but we showed them that, hey, you get a hiker, come in there with $20 in their pocket in the backpack, and they'll leave with the empty backpack and still have their $20 in by the time they leave the area.
[00:26:10.700] - John Stewart
But I don't need any money. Your four wheel drive, your hunters and the fishermen, they will be there for some time. They're going to buy gas, they're going to buy fuel, they're going to spend the money in the area. And that's where a lot of those local businesses help. When the support from the Forest Service to keep a lot of those roads open.
[00:26:44.070] - Big Rich Klein
I know that was getting the county involved, eldorado county involved with the Rubicon was huge to have that backing.
[00:26:59.770] - John Stewart
[00:27:00.800] - Big Rich Klein
One of the things that always drove me nuts and why I kind of walked away from all of that was I thought that we needed to fight the way we were being fought. And that was always real aggressive with threats of lawsuits. Most of the time the government was like, okay, we don't want to be sued by the center of Biological Diversity or the Sierra Club or any of these other green groups. It was more like, okay, we'll just bend to them so that we don't get sued. And then the offroaders and all of us. Anybody else that had something besides your foot, pedestrian, I call it, took it in the shorts. We ended up giving it up. I don't know if that's a fair assessment, but it just always seemed like there was a lot of, well, okay, if you give us this, we'll go ahead and not fight you over that kind of thing.
[00:28:17.150] - John Stewart
Yeah, it's always been a problem and I've always felt that lawsuits are a last resort. And if you end up in the lawsuit, you're in a crapshoot and the house is controlling the loaded dice, right. It's not a good position to be in. There's no quick answers and lawsuits typically will take three to four to five years to work them out. A good example of that is look at snowmobile access to Yellowstone Park. That snowmobile access was beginning and ended up in lawsuits in the mid 1990s and it was almost 15 it was over 15 years before final decision came out of the courts, which basically opened up in unlimited access snowmobile building into Yellowstone Park. Lawsuits are not the answer. They're sometimes necessary. And the place that we really need to build up is in the legislative side with the federal lawmakers. When you're dealing with the terminology and with the laws that govern the federal grounds and the federal lands and also work very closely with the state, where you have state lands where the state can come up and rule and make their own decisions. It's something where it all but it all boils down to the administrative executive branches of the government that implement poorly worded laws.
[00:30:20.080] - John Stewart
And this is where you have good relationship with the Forest Service, land managers, BLM and Fish and Wildlife. You can sometimes win a lot of good points on there if you are friends with the people on the ground that have to interpret the laws.
[00:30:37.570] - Big Rich Klein
Right. That makes sense coming from the enthusiast side. And I'll say on the extreme side of that, it always felt like we didn't have a chance. You might say, I don't know if that's a fair assessment, but it always just seemed like there was never and I don't know if it was a communication thing or that maybe some of us that were more on the extreme side just quit paying attention is why we didn't feel like we were being heard or whatever.
[00:31:25.790] - John Stewart
Well, a little bit of history tough in here is back in the 1920s there was a group that first thought about the idea of protecting public lands and that group is now known as the Wilderness Society. The Wilderness Society was the driving force to create the Wilderness Act, which was not signed into law until 1964. And then it took several years for the Wilderness Act to really be implemented or determined what it really means and how it's going to be enacted on the ground. By the time this happens, you have the Willing Society, the Sierra Club, and all these other kinds of extreme conservationist organizations spinning up and moving forward and organizing everything they had and everything they want to protect and protect resources. But here you have the recreationist, the enthusiasts, the common person on the ground was getting shut out right and left with no effort behind organization. And it wasn't until Ed Waldheim with California Off Road Vehicle Association and Ed Duncan, some other California Ford Drive Association, some of these other groups started spinning up and started doing some organizing that we started to get a small group of people in tune to what was going on.
[00:33:14.170] - John Stewart
And it's been a tough fight ever since just to try and play catch up. And that's what we've been doing, just playing catch up. How do you win when you're playing catch up and you're not well funded? You don't have the glitzy advertising or the big support that the conservationists have come up with. And if you really look at a lot of the willers acts and these bills that are put forward that hammer the hell out of the recreational enthusiasts, they're highly supported by East Coast representatives or congressional people that probably have never seen or been to the areas that they're voting to close off.
[00:34:07.340] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. And most of their funding is coming from absolutely from the large, densely populated centers, large cities, and have no idea. I've never been out there, never fished, never hunted, never seen a redwood tree, never been out in the desert.
[00:34:31.770] - John Stewart
Yeah. And it's it's an easy sell in downtown New York City to get somebody to donate to save these magnificent, beautiful trees that they're shown blowing pictures of when all they see is just dirty buildings and trashy streets.
[00:34:53.170] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. And they don't realize that the pictures that they're being showed of devastation by offroaders or motorcyclists or the bicyclists mountain bikers or even the equestrian groups, they don't understand that that's such a small area.
[00:35:18.910] - John Stewart
Yeah. And a lot of those derogatory pictures have been proven to be doctored pictures that are in that. So it's very selectively edited.
[00:35:30.940] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. It's that whole advertising mentality all being run by I think it's just lawyer firms that just found a cash cow.
[00:35:43.930] - John Stewart
Yeah, that's pretty much it. And so, like I said, it's been a fight in order to get people organized and get the businesses to realize that, tony, you make some great parts, but if you don't have a place or people don't have a place to buy and use your parts, they soon fall out of favor of spending this little extra pocket money they have for these high cost parts. So Tony Pellegrino jen rides have been great supporters. A lot of others, racelined wheels, terrific supporters. Metal Clock have been a big help over the years in order to help fund and help get the organization going and get the word out.
[00:36:39.850] - Big Rich Klein
Because if people don't use their vehicles on the weekends to get out, they're not going to be spending the parts to either fix them or to build them up the way they want to. So all that aftermarket has a chance of diminished returns.
[00:36:58.250] - John Stewart
You might say it has diminishing returns, but I recall I don't recall the shuttle's name, but he was with daystar and we were in a conversation in a meeting one day. He flat out stated that about less than 25% of Daystar products ever see off road use. Most of them are the dress products that go on the show and shine vehicles and the daily drivers that people just want to look good.
[00:37:33.590] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, I guess that's the case. But I don't know, I see more and more enthusiasts getting in to once they get that vehicle dressed up, then they start looking at where to go.
[00:37:53.250] - John Stewart
Yes, living in Southern California and being heavily involved in the offroad community out of San Diego area, I would see the vehicles being driven and also see the tier of those old desert safari and other places on the desert. Throughout there you can see, well, a lot of these vehicles been taken care of and there's a lot of work, a lot of money going into them, but a lot of times you really didn't see that many of them being driven around town. I get out here in middle Tennessee and throughout this area here and you will see a lot of jeeps on the roads on a regular basis. A lot of them have running 35, 37 inch tires, nice lift, gets really good looking vehicles. And I started looking around and said, well, okay, what kind of clubs are out here? What's going on? And I find there are a number of clubs out here and some big clubs. And there are quite a few poor willing areas that people go to. I've been working their conversations with the people that are building up in OHV area with Tennessee funding just about 40 miles south of me here in Tennessee.
[00:39:17.170] - John Stewart
So it's something that there are people that are building the rigs, they're buying the bling, they're putting them on, but for everyone you see, they're not all going out onto the being used like they should be.
[00:39:34.040] - Big Rich Klein
Right? I truly think the farther east you go from. Say. California and you start moving east. Especially once you get into the Rockies or after the Rockies. Where you don't have the public lands and everything becomes private. That you have a lot less. You have a lot less enthusiasts that are actually using their vehicles on more of the extreme side. But you also have less that understand what we're losing in the west and.
[00:40:16.910] - John Stewart
That'S the difficult part is to get them to understand what we are losing and what we stand to lose. And yes, you may have wind rock, you may have land between the lakes or some of these other places. You may have those areas, but those are all points that are at risk of being shut down at any time because some of that is reclaimed mining land or potential future mining operations in there. It's not really public land. It is land that is being set aside for a recreation right now because it's not private land. So, yeah, it's open. Not private land under individual private ownerships. It's under private land because there's somewhat of a corporate ownership and the corporate ownership is deemed as well. It's okay for us to manage it this way for. The time being in order to use the land, make the profit, but being able to expand it and really go full bore and lot of things and to combine a fishing and hunting opportunities with four wheel drive opportunities, those are limited.
[00:41:41.060] - Big Rich Klein
Right, I agree.
[00:41:43.750] - John Stewart
If you want boating, boy, there's boats all over the place.
[00:41:47.020] - Big Rich Klein
[00:41:52.810] - John Stewart
The TV Tennessee Valley Authority with the size of lakes and number of lakes they have around here and yeah, I've been out to a couple of TV places and lakes here for weekends and it's a lot of fun on the water but you're seeing the same thing there that the four wheelers have. Is there's a lot of restrictions on the type of boat boats that can be run where you can run them all in no wake zones being set up. It's challenges all over.
[00:42:33.610] - Big Rich Klein
Yes, it is and I think it boils down to I think it boils down to education. It's the people I don't know getting the people that aren't enthusiasts or owners or even the ones that are but aren't necessarily enthusiasts to understand that you know what they're doing going to a private park in Pennsylvania or somebody that has a land lease out there or anywhere else where there's not real public lands like out west. That as we lose more and more and more of this that the opportunities for the future. Not only for us that are of age doing it now but for our kids or grandkids or whatever is going to become more and more limited without their involvement.
[00:43:36.150] - John Stewart
Right. And to me and the strength of the economy has a lot to do with it, with what it is. And when you look at an enthusiast well, what is an enthusiast? Because is it the guy that just goes out once or twice a month or the one that goes out every other day? It's tough to really make that point. And when you have a family and kids and you've got two incomes trying to pay for the housing, put food on the table, there's limited time to really do much other than take care of the daily needs. So the education is a big part of it. And being able to approach that topic of what people stand to lose with people that are so mindset, with trying to carry on daily life and get out on a weekend, that's kind of tough to do because they don't understand what is really there. They just want to go out, want to have that availability but they really don't understand the implications that they do, what decisions they make and what they buy, who they vote for, how it's going to impact their opportunities. Education on the political side and education on what their actions are going to impact the environment or create a situation where people show a negative light.
[00:45:17.990] - Big Rich Klein
Right. It's such a hard concept for so many to grasp. If they've not experienced that opportunity to be out on public lands and be able to just drive. And in California, all your public lands except for pretty much Johnson Valley is so highly regulated that you can go down this dirt road, but you better have GPS that shows that this area that you're bordering is wilderness and you can't go down the other dirt road. And luckily Nevada is more wide open, but the rest of the states are all getting throttled down and it's a shame, it really is.
[00:46:27.790] - John Stewart
Yeah. And that's where I'm still highly involved with the Blue Ribbon Coalition with programs that they're doing. And right now we're looking at Utah and specifically in central Utah from Moweb West over to the Canyon Lands area, bryce Canyon, Zion and that and all that big desert area out there. The BLM now wants to do a massive closures out there just because they don't want to fight a lawsuit from the Utah. So the Utah will insuliance and we're slowly making in roads to show that. Hey BLM, these roads, as you say, are not there. Actually, they do exist on the ground. See, these maps are here and oh, by the way, you can drive out here. Well, maybe there's been a little bit of sand blown over, but you can see the tracks into it. And 100 yards up there you can see the tracks coming out of that. So the roads are there and we're slowly making some progress there. Arizona, similar type of things. Foresee wants to close a lot up in the townhouse, Ram area and that tough place there in southern area around Tucson, a lot of problems there. Currently in discussions with National Park Service where they want to begin limiting the number of people going into Toro we've overlooked over the Grand Canyon.
[00:48:19.250] - John Stewart
And the Park Service wants to say, oh well, our management plan, let's just have only 20 people a day. And this includes the filling up. I think there's ten dispersed camping sites in your primitive camping area there. So you have ten there that you can only have ten other people. So you're now putting a major impact because they claim there's 30 to 40 vehicles a day into that area.
[00:48:53.010] - Big Rich Klein
[00:48:56.470] - John Stewart
It'S things like this where the agencies are still not completely receptive to it. For the agencies, it's easier for them to close roads to manage it than it is to have roads open where they might have to have somebody go out and physically drive a road in order to see if anybody is stranded or in trouble in these areas.
[00:49:20.950] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, I had a BLM recreational planner that I dealt with out of the Carson City office. She has been retired for many years now, so I can talk about her, I won't say her name, but she told me we were sitting out there. I was running Valley Off Road Racing Association at the time and also had opened up moon rocks for competitions. And so I had permits going all over that area, and probably like, seven active permits going for races and rock crawls. And she goes, well, you know, it's a lot harder and a lot more work for us to say no than it is to say yes. And I looked at her and I was, like, speechless. My jaw dropped, and I was like, okay, explain to me how that works. If I put in an application for a permit and you say, oh, don't even bother, I'm going to tell you no. So don't even bother putting that application in for that new race course within the same area that I've already got permitted, or this rock crawling area, you're going to have to do all this stuff to make it happen. Don't even bother.
[00:50:50.300] - Big Rich Klein
How is that no? So much more difficult than saying yes. You guys charged me cost recovery back then to do everything. I didn't understand the concept that she was trying to put forward. Of course, she couldn't give me a valid argument except to say that, oh, yeah, cost, it's a lot harder for us to say no.
[00:51:22.570] - John Stewart
Yeah, you bring up the topic or permits, that's always been a problem that I've based and argued countless times with BLM in Southern California, and I've been on the winning side of a lot of the arguments. I know, first couple of years, that Dave Cole with his big adventure on getting permits for his rock rolling there.
[00:51:53.500] - Big Rich Klein
For King of the Hammers.
[00:51:55.100] - John Stewart
He has the King of the Hammers boy, he almost didn't get it one year. And I know I got in and argued and helped him, and they BLM granted the permit, and I had somebody come back, somebody from BLM catch me later, and they said, Why do you want them to have that permit? I said, Why not? You've got an opportunity to do your cost for coverage, to help build us. And they bring people in that, and it's a good venue for them to put everybody in under control. And Dave is a constant salesman, and he built that event up with good staff to support him. And over the years, it has thrived, and BLM has realized it's not really a problem to them now. It actually helps them and helps the image.
[00:52:50.450] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, it's a cash cow for them, too.
[00:52:53.050] - John Stewart
[00:52:55.990] - Big Rich Klein
It's one of the things with the cost recovery people listening to this. If you don't know what cost recovery is, when you get a permit with Bureau of Land Management, your permit is say, it's $250 for a standard permit to do something like an event. If your event permitting, the time that they spend on it doesn't go over 50 hours.
[00:53:25.650] - Big Rich Klein
At the 50 hours mark, that as soon as it hit 50 hours, then you have to start paying additionally for every hour from zero up to whatever it is that they put into it. Now, you have no way to know how much they actually spend or how much time they spend on it or what they're actually charging you for cost recovery. And what I mean by that is like, what they're going to charge you for law enforcement to be at your event. If you have if they deem you have to have law enforcement. Now, you can bring in sheriffs and pay the sheriffs to be in there and go, okay, so then we don't need your BLM because we have sheriffs. And they're like, oh, no, you still are going to have this many people. You're going to have to have this many Bureau of Land Management law enforcement officers as well. And if we have to bring them from out of the district, then you have to pay for their travel, their per diem, their stay for every single hour that they put into that event. And you have no way to control those hours.
[00:54:54.630] - Big Rich Klein
One time out of the Tucson office, we're trying to get a permit for a rock crawling competition that was actually outside of Apache Junction in the Florence area, but it's controlled by the Tucson office. And they said, well, you're going to have to have an owl study. And I'm like, all right, tell me about this owl study. And they said, okay, well, what we do is we hire this company that goes out and they call and then count owls. So when was the last time an owl was seen in this area? Well, one, we've never seen any owls in the area, but it's prime habitat if the owls decide to move in. And I'm like, So right now there's not been any owls. When was the last time you guys looked? Oh, well, we'd look periodically. They wouldn't give me an exact time. And I said, So what you're going to do is you're going to charge me to pay somebody to go out there for whatever period of time that you guys deem is the right amount of time, and call owls into an area where there's no owls existing now. And if an owl comes into that area, then I don't get a permit.
[00:56:22.690] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, that's right. And I'm like, how in the hell does that make any sense?
[00:56:29.110] - John Stewart
Yeah, I hear you. I've heard that story that happened in other places. And in fact, I can tell a related story where San Diego four wheelers do their superstition on run in Yuhan Desert in Southern California. It's a needle area and one year for their permit. BLM was saying, oh, well, we have to have an archaeological study, an archaeological survey of the area. Okay, do you have a staff archaeologist get her out there and take a look at the area? I said, well, no, our archaeologist is booked up and we just don't have time. You don't have to contract somebody. And this is us working with Richard Jackson, with San Diego forward this time. And we were in a meeting with the BLM manager out of Central Office, and he was telling me this. I looked at Tom, what you're talking about is extortion. And I said, you want us to actually find some money to hire somebody to do your job? He kind of sheepishly looked at me and said, well, yeah, but all right, I'll tell you what, we'll do that. So within a month, Richard and I have the contacts together. We had funding for an archeological survey to be done.
[00:58:05.870] - John Stewart
And it was with a consultant that BLM certified, BLM approved. And BLM, who was saying, oh, well, we don't have paperwork. Guess what? They paid for it anyway. But they paid for it because they were funding the Gateway Development Agent Grouping, which was trying to build the businesses and the business aspects and the four wheel drive and the sandbaggy aspects within the Glamus Dunes and all this. So it was brought into county and this Gateway Development that they're the ones that use the BLM money to fund it. So they got their permit and they've had it every year since.
[00:59:00.230] - John Stewart
And the local managers in the different offices for a while. California had a lot of problems out of the Rich Grass Field office getting their permit done for. And finally that manager retired. The next guy that came in finally got a permit through one year and came back the next year. And I got ready to go in and have a sit down meeting with him. And he said, Why are you coming? It's pointless for you to come in here every year and do this. I said, yeah, how about would you do this now? It'll be good for five years. So I got them a five year permit for that event. Then all of a sudden, other places throughout the area began to southern California, even over in Arizona, began issuing multi year permits. But it was not something that happened immediately. It was something that took some changes in the personnel managers there in order to create that type of foresight, in order to make that kind of decision that, no, let's just go ahead with the standard. Then we'll do a review for one year and then bing, bing, bing, which you come back through five years later, we'll see what's changed and what we have to change.
[01:00:30.720] - Big Rich Klein
Right? Go ahead.
[01:00:34.250] - John Stewart
For the clubs, this really helped them out, really gave them a lot of stability on their ability to plan for and manage and conduct the events correct.
[01:00:44.730] - Big Rich Klein
And we have the same thing down in Farmington, down in Choke Cherry Canyon, the Glade area for Brown Springs, for our rock Crawls. And they gave us a five year permit. I had the same thing with Vora. The Valley Off Road Racing Association up there in Northern Nevada through the Carson City office. And then I did the same thing with moon rocks. So I was in one event, a year for five years after I paid for the NEPA study, I paid for all the different studies that had to be done. And back then, I'm talking the early two thousand s, it was like 15 or $20,000. But I looked at it as a five year investment in using that area.
[01:01:41.350] - Big Rich Klein
Well, I used it the first year. I let Arka use it the second year. That was Ranch Pratt, who, you know, and then DLM came in and took the permit away and they said, well, you guys don't have enough you haven't had enough volunteers to control parking. And I'm like, okay, how do we tell the locals that are coming to this event that we have to control parking? You're only allowed to park here when the whole state is an open area and they can park anywhere they want any other day. And they look at my volunteers and say, Screw you. I'm going to park over here because I'm allowed to park here on Monday. I'm allowed to park here on Thursday. Why can't I park there Friday, Saturday and Sunday? Rightfully so I came back to BLM and I said, well, then you guys need to have your leos that are on site that you require us to enforce that, because as private citizens, we can't enforce that if it's all the rest of the year, it's wide open. And they wouldn't do that. And they pulled the permit and of course, there was no refunds.
[01:03:05.450] - Big Rich Klein
So I talked about suing them. I just made that threat. I said, well, this is perfect rounds for a lawsuit. I put all this money in the investment into it, and then you guys just come up with an arbitrary reason that we can't continue this after you've already collected the money and done the studies and whatever, and paying that cost recovery and all that stuff. And so because I couldn't you know, it wasn't me hiring the people to do the studies. BLM was doing them, but I just had to pay for it, right? So then they came after me on the desert racing side on Vora and found a reason. I mean, they worked hard to find a reason to pull my five year permits. And what it was is that there was a bundle of like twelve wooden stakes that have arrows attached for our racers to know where to go. And we had this kid that went out on his UTV. He has special needs. I told him, just go up the first 2 miles up to the beginning of the canyon in the yearrington area and then come back. Well, he kept writing, and what he would do is he'd get a bundle of stakes that he could manage, and then once he couldn't manage them, he would just set them down on the side of the road, on the side of the race course.
[01:04:33.390] - Big Rich Klein
That was fine. We went and found him when he didn't come back when he was supposed to, and we found him a few hours later and he was out there and he was disorientated. He didn't know where he was at, of course. And so we picked up the stakes along the way and we got it all cleaned up. Well, unbeknownst to us, he had gone partway down a paved road from a road crossing and dropped off a bundle of stakes, twelve of them, with arrows in the bar ditch. Well, I never drove the paved road because I'm on the racetrack. I'm cleaning up stuff that from years before, rims and tires and stuff that's not even race related, but that I know that needs to be cleaned up. When they saw somebody called it in, or the recreational planner, she had seen the photos, or she'd taken photos of these twelve wood stakes and then sat on it for 30 days and then charged me with littering, pulled my permit, and at that point it was like $1,000 deposit that we had on the five year permit. And they took that as a penalty, and they got rid of my permits, and I had to do a permit for every single race, five races a year.
[01:06:00.690] - Big Rich Klein
Needless to say, I was a little upset.
[01:06:04.290] - John Stewart
Oh, yeah, I remember some of that arguments and discussions. That was point in time, if I remember. I thought the deal had some new people came in, especially in Nevada, that were pretty much anti Ov and trying to shut down the Barstow to Vegas, race or not, the barstow reno to.
[01:06:29.620] - Big Rich Klein
Vegas and they were also trying to close Sand Mountain and everything else. I think the standard BLM uniform out of the Carson City ended up changing to flower print or tie dye.
[01:06:52.390] - John Stewart
[01:06:55.670] - Big Rich Klein
So what else is going on? What's the hot Topics right now?
[01:07:02.390] - John Stewart
Well, the Hot Topics right now are utah is the biggest thing right now, and as we talked about earlier, education, trying to get out an educational message of how your actions unbeknownst to you may impact negatively how recreation is perceived. But a lot of it is back into kind of a travel management type concept of trying to figure out, yes, these are existing roads. Yes, they've been here and they should continue. Well, no, they don't have 30 or 40 vehicles a day going through them. But yeah, they do require, maybe they require a high maintenance vehicle or high clearance in there, but they still are important asset for people. This is the standard kind of thing that's still going on ongoing and getting people to believe or understand that they can be part of the solution if they're part of an organized group that is active in maintaining the lands and in relationships with their land managers. We're seeing a lot of success with clubs out of Pacific Northwest and a lot in California. There's a growing point where people are being more and more involved with keeping their forest routes and their favorite routes open.
[01:08:33.220] - John Stewart
So we're seeing a lot of positive things, but it's a slow but sure deal. The cobalt issues have locked down for the past couple of years, have really screwed up everything and changed the dynamics and the type of discussion. The ongoing inflation issues with a high cost of fuel is starting to impact people, and it's a matter of trying to gear up and say, all right, let's not lose any ground. Let's try and at least maintain the ground. Let's defend the ground that we have and start looking towards the future. We know that any changes in the future are going to have to be congressionally or legislatively managed changes. And it's a matter of making sure we get recreation friendly representatives elected to Congress and the Senate to support us.
[01:09:31.130] - Big Rich Klein
Right. And one of the things that I want to tell our listeners is that all you guys on the East Coast or the Midwest that do not have you don't even know what Bureau of Land Management is, okay? When we're talking about BLM, we're not talking about what's in the news right now is BLM, but we're talking about the Bureau of Land Management. It's a government agency, and they're not open for the most part to motorize recreation of any kind. Even though you don't live in an area that has that land, it's extremely important to all of us. If you ever want to come out and wheel Moab, wheel, sand, Hollow, Wheel, Johnson Valley, come up to the Rubicon, come to all these places that you hear about or see about in the magazines that are in the west. If you ever want to plan a vacation someday, you need to help these organizations out.
[01:10:40.230] - Big Rich Klein
An organization like Blue Ribbon Coalition that steps outside of a state boundary corva the CALfour wheel drive. Some of these state agencies, they don't really do a lot outside of the state because that's where their concentration is. But if you ever want to go, like to visit Pismo and drive on the beach there in Texas, we get to drive on the beaches, but you can't drive on the sand dunes. Well, if you ever want to drive on the sand dunes along the beach, pismo is a great place to do that, but we're losing it. And without the financial aid to help fight that, it's nearly impossible. So all of our Eastern listeners, talk to your clubs, talk to your locals. I mean, there's Jeep clubs in Texas that are thousands strong, and all they do is go to one or two local parks and look beyond that. Look what's happening nationwide. And understand that if you ever want a vacation with your Jeep and you want to come west and see the stuff that has been around forever and still be able to drive it, we need your help.
[01:12:01.770] - John Stewart
Yeah. And one big thing on the East Coast here, eastern side of states that we're finding is state senator Mark Meadows up in West Virginia has pulled together a good coalition. So West Virginia is now developing a four wheel drive system of four wheel drive trails with county and state land support. And a lot of this is some of this branches off the Hatfield McCoy trail system and some other points with linkages. So there's even some east west trail systems building through West Virginia and into Kentucky. And that where you've got this overlanding opportunity coming up where you can go almost from coast to coast on a dirt road.
[01:12:57.090] - Big Rich Klein
But we need everybody to understand freedom does not come cheaply or free. We always say that in America. Those that have preceded us and fought our wars or what keep us free, well, we still need that. The war is just a little different.
[01:13:22.170] - John Stewart
We need your involvement, your support, whether it be financial support, moral support, it's so important to look and understand how your actions will affect everything. And if you ever dream about something, then help us by keeping that dream alive, by keeping these lands open, right?
[01:13:48.350] - Big Rich Klein
So look to your state, look to national organizations like Blue Ribbon coalition and help and by help that's financially, just a few dollars here or there, a tank of gas, or even a partial tank of gas, a loaf of bread, whatever you can donate, it does go to a good cause. It goes to keeping our lands public, lands open to the public.
[01:14:16.450] - John Stewart
Yes, that's true. And that's the message and what we're trying to get out and get everybody to thinking about, there's no one right answer and the only wrong answer is to do nothing right.
[01:14:33.530] - Big Rich Klein
And I hope that everybody listens to that and takes it to heart. And John, I want to say thank you so much for agreeing to come on and talk to us about your history and also land use. And again, thank you. And thank you for being a friend for so long.
[01:14:52.750] - John Stewart
Well, it's been nice knowing you over the years and I hope to get back out west here soon for a little bit more time out in the deserts. I'm getting a little bit mildewed up.
[01:15:04.310] - Big Rich Klein
Here in Tennessee, I understand. All right, John, thank you so much for spending the time.
[01:15:10.720] - John Stewart
Okay, you have a great one.
[01:15:12.150] - Big Rich Klein
Okay, you too.
[01:15:13.110] - John Stewart
You have a great one.
[01:15:14.080] - Big Rich Klein
All right, thank you. Bye bye. Well, that's another episode of Conversations with Big Rich. I'd like to thank you all for listening. If you could do us a favor and leave us a review on any podcast service that you happen to be listening on or send us an email or a text message or a Facebook message and let me know any ideas that you have or if there's anybody that you have that you think would be a great guest. Please forward the contact information to me so that we can try to get them on. And always remember live life to the fullest. Enjoy life is a must. Follow your dreams and live life with all the gusto you can. Thank you.