The Star Tribune did a good job of detailing the petitioners' arguments in urging the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to conduct an environmental review of the Border-to-Border Touring Route (B2B), and in questioning the agency's decision to reject that petition ("Border off-road route plan pushes on," April 23). As project cosponsors, nobody asked us to weigh in, but we have some thoughts on the matter.
Foremost, if you are one of the tens of thousands of Jeep, Land Rover, Subaru or other four-wheel or all-wheel vehicle drivers on the road today, you are going to love this project — and the others we've got moving forward. The Minnesota Four-Wheel Association and its partner organizations are building a brand-new, state-of-the-art, regionally significant trail and touring route system in Minnesota to rival those in any other state or province on the continent.
That's big news and it starts with the B2B, from the shores of Lake Superior to the point near Pembina where North Dakota, Minnesota and Canada meet, with a whole lot of Explore Minnesota in between.
The DNR was right to reject the feigned concerns of the stodgy, just-say-no, institutionalized organizations like the Sierra Club and Izaak Walton League. Nobody drives sedans anymore and the touring-route concept is for friends and families to discover the outdoors in highway-licensed vehicles on roads that already exist.
Stop the project to conduct an environmental assessment of roads that are already there? Thankfully that didn't make sense to the DNR, and it won't make sense to you, unless your view of our vast and beautiful outdoors is that they are yours alone to determine who does or does not get access. Talk about privilege!
It's impossible to build in this country anymore, or at least it seems that way. The B2B concept started seven years ago when the DNR sounded the alarm about the outdoors fast becoming foreign territory for the first time ever to a whole generation of young Minnesotans who were more interested in video games than Lake Vermilion.
It takes energy to keep a vast natural resource system vibrant, and the old guard just wasn't getting it done anymore. We'll bring families, friendship and funding to deep rural areas that need it most, and build new friendships along the way.
In the story, opponents of the route called us scofflaws who spew air and noise pollution while we intrude on bird-watchers, hunters and sightseers. The truth is, we are those bird-watchers and sightseers. Our vehicles meet the same noise and emissions standards as theirs, and we're not going anywhere near hunters during hunting season. That's the law and plain old common sense.
It's highly unlikely you'll run into a scofflaw out there — DNR enforcement wrote 10 citations in 2020. That's 10. Total. Statewide. But if you do see violations, you've got a local problem and we want to know about it because we put a lot of money into education and enforcement both locally and through the DNR.
We're serious about the system we're building and we've funded the first-of-its-kind statewide master plan to address local, cultural, environmental and economic concerns so we have a better chance to get it right. We've also hired a B2B administrator so anyone with a problem or idea to make the route better is just one call or click away from a decisionmaker. We've also put revenue into a maintenance fund to help address impacts that may occur on the roads along the route.
We're not the people that story made us out to be. We're family-oriented, community-minded, welcoming to all, and we're building something special in this state. Check out the Border-to-Border Touring Route on the DNR web page and pack up the kids. Be sure to try and buy your supplies at the local shops. This is going to be one sweet ride!
Rick Langness is president, Minnesota Four-Wheel Drive Association.