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RED ALERT: [Landuse] eco suit threatens NC/GA 4 wheelers

Grape Ape

Active Member
November 20, 2001
Reaction score
City, State
High Point, NC
Year, Model & Trim Level
'97 Ford Ranger S/C 4x4
This something that just came to our attention, via Southern 4WD Association. We are trying to figure out how to respond. with letters/emails and such to discourage actions from being taken.

Original message below

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Date: Fri, 3 Oct 2003 05:27:07 -0700

Damn the trees, full speed ahead
Lawsuit seeks to knock four-wheelers off mountain

Any given weekend, weather permitting, ORV enthusiasts -- that's off-road vehicles, for you Volvo owners -- from across metro Atlanta and north Georgia flock to a trail that begins a couple miles northeast of Ellijay, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The trail, called the Rich Mountain Road, is a favorite because it's so damn rough. Four-wheelers, Jeeps and Land Rovers have been shredding the
woods there for so long that it's less a road and more of an earthen obstacle course.

"The part we particularly like is near the opening to the trail. It's very
rutted, very rough," says Herb Geozos, president of the off-road club,
Southern Jeeps. "The [U.S.] Forest Service has deemed it quote, unquote
unpassable. However, we regularly show them that's not true."

There's just one problem. It's highly likely that Geozos and the rest of his club should never have been allowed to drive on Rich Mountain Road in the first place.

A lawsuit filed Sept. 17 in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of
Georgia, Gainesville Division alleges that the Forest Service has violated
the Wilderness Act, the National Forest Management Act, and its own ORV
rules by allowing off-road vehicles to penetrate the Rich Mountain Wilderness Area of the Chattahoochee National Forest.

The lawsuit is the latest battle between weekend off-roaders and environmentalists, who point to a 2001 U.S. Forest Service study that
concludes four-wheelers and ORVs have seriously damaged about 700 miles of the Chattahoochee National Forest. This lawsuit, however, concerns a stretch of forest just nine miles long.

Filed by the Turner Environmental Law Clinic on behalf of the conservation
groups Georgia Forestwatch and Wilderness Watch, the lawsuit asks the court "to immediately close the Rich Mountain Road until adverse environmental effects are eliminated."

Until recently, off-roaders like Geozos believed it was perfectly OK to
drive around in the Rich Mountain Wilderness Area of the Chattahoochee National Forest.

Gilmer County claimed ownership of the so-called road on Rich Mountain, and as is the case with many North Georgia counties, commissioners there ignored the warnings of environmentalists and allowed four-wheelers and off-roaders to chew up vast sections of the mountains.

In January, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners relinquished its claim on Rich Mountain Road. In May, Forest Service attorneys concluded that the land did indeed fall under the jurisdiction of the Forest Service, which, according to at least three federal laws, is required to maintain wilderness-like conditions for areas under its control.

"Despite the Forest Service counsel's opinion, and plaintiff's repeated requests, the Rich Mountain Road remains open," the lawsuit says. "The
Forest Service has not attempted to prevent illegal ORV use on the road, or the surrounding Wilderness Area."

Geozos says he hasn't been on the Rich Mountain Road in six months, but
other members of Southern Jeeps went up there in mid-September.

About 75 families pay $49 a year (plus a $25 one-time initiation fee) to be
members of Southern Jeeps, one of five off-road clubs in the metro area.

Once a month the club sponsors a trail ride that draws between 15 and 30 vehicles.

Besides Rich Mountain Road, Southern Jeep's website recommends these and other ORV trails: Anderson Creek, near Amicalola State Park; Beasley Knob, outside Blairsville; and Tellico, near Murphy, N.C.

With that many tires on that many trails, it's no wonder 700 miles of the
Chattahoochee National Forest are severely damaged.

Some of the torn-up banks on Rich Mountain Road are 4-feet high. For an
off-roader, that's a fun climb. But for the forest, it's an open wound.

Vegetation, when present, filters and absorbs rainwater. Without it, rain
erosion has eaten away at some of the trails, making them too difficult to
drive except for the more experienced drivers. But novices forge new trails to bypass the tough ones.

A couple rains and a club outing later, the new trail is deep enough to be
labeled expert only, and the novices carve new bypass trails, and so on and so on.

The result of that repetitive process is gashes, ditches and culverts in the forest floor that snake for miles through the Rich Mountain Wilderness Area.

Thus it's probably not surprising that even off-roading aficionados agree
that their pastime has some ill effects on the forest.

"We enjoy our sport and we understand that there are impacts on the
environment," says Geozos. "We're not just a bunch of rednecks in
trucks. We want to minimize those impacts wherever possible."

But the lawsuit says it's too late to minimize impact, and time to stop off-roading -- at least on Rich Mountain Road.

"We think [the Forest Service] has a duty to close the road, period," says
Larry Sanders, the Turner Environmental Law Clinic attorney who brought the case. "But they have some discretion on how they manage their land in the long-term. For right now, that thing is a mess and until they figure out how to fix it, they need to shut it down."


Southern Four Wheel Drive Association, Dir. of Legislative Affairsx
East Tennessee 4WD Club visit us at: 4
Visit me at: for all your 4X4 needs x
and for all your saddle and tack needs
National Rifle Association (Life Member) 4
Blue Ribbon Coalition x
United Four Wheel Drive Association 4
United 4WD Environmental 4-Wheeler of the Year '98 x
International Practical Shooting Confederation 4
Tennessee Hunter Safety Education Course Instructor x
Tennessee Handgun Carry Instructor 4


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Grape Ape, are you on the board of SFWDA? I just got back from the Dixie Run, I think I was the only Explorer there LOL.

Thanks for the post but I am unaware what we should do in reply. If SFWDA coordinates an email response or some other reply I will make sure we all join in and help.

ok.. i just went back and re-read that article.. now i'm in a pissed off mood.

the "creative loafing", the paper/magazine that published that is a very liberal paper. i really like how they made sure to use words like "been shredding the
woods there for so long" and "off-roaders to chew up vast sections of the mountains."
"With that many tires on that many trails, it's no wonder 700 miles of the
Chattahoochee National Forest are severely damaged.

sfwda does trail maintenance on these trails all the time! i don't see any enviro weenies doing the same thing! i've seen southernjeeps group take construction equipment in and do maintenance and trail cleanup before.

Southern Jeeps was set up. That writer requested an interview from Southern Jeeps and the person thought it would be a chance to get positive exposure, not knowing that no matter what he said it would be twisted to say what the writer wanted it to. I looked on the Southern Jeeps site and noted that writer selectively picked out what he wanted to quote and made no mention of things such as the stats provided to him of all of the trail cleanup efforts and attendance at those to maintain the trails, etc.

It's no use replying to the liberal writer. We do need to address any legislative issue that arises from this to prevent it from happening. Grape Ape, is Blue Ribbon Coalition or any other group in on this yet?

Hey Jason,

No I'm not on the board, just a member through clubs. I didn't know this was already out there, just got that email from SFWDA. Not sure if BRC is involved yet, but I'm sure they are in some ways by now.
Yeah, I noticed the article was from "Creative Loafing", and didn't quite understand why. Normally that stuff isn't in there. Maybe mountain biking stuff occasionally.

Yeah, I wouldn't respond to "C L", because I doubt anything would every get put in writing! It did seem like the guy had all his comments twisted and posted in ways to make it look like we destroy stuff and don't care. I don't think it even said anything about the volunteer trail maintenance either. Sheesh!?

I did hear of one Ex at the Dixie Run, but wasn't sure if that was you or not. They said it was a fairly new (like 2002) EX with plenty of trail scares.


Those liberal tree hugging hippies just never stop do they. I watched it earlier this summer over at Southern Jeeps and they were saying the same thing, I just wish the greeners would open their eyes and minds and see what is really happening. I wish they would go up there and see how southern jeeps helps the trail and how they do not harm the trail and surrounding areas nearly as bad as they make it out to be. Talking to the people about saving the trails is like talking to a brick wall, they have their minds so made up that they just dismiss anything that they get in letter or phone call form from people that like to use the trails.

yeah grape.. i'm gonna guess they were refering to geralds truck. he has PLENTY of trail scars. :)

BRC = bounty runners ? if so.. i'm sure they are involved by now too. the email i sent was to the rangers back in the beginning. i should probably join sfwda one of these days so i can play a more active part in these things. i think i'll go do that now.

rich mtn is a fun ride and there aren't many around here. they are already talking about getting rid of anderson creek too. don't these people realize that if they do sue to get everything closed, more folks will eventually start riding illegaly on non-orv trails and will "chew up the mountain" even more? what am i asking.. they aren't capable of thinking like that.