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By:  Robert Janis

Off-Road Riders Association

Off-Road Riders Association Assists in the Never-Ending Battle to Protect Black Hills Riders

For any state off-road or off-highway association to be successful, it needs the strength and assistance of local clubs. An example of this is the Off-Road Riders Association (ORA) and how it assists the South Dakota Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition and all off-road riders in the state of South Dakota.

The Off-Road Riders Association was officially born on November 27, 1991 when off-road dirt bike riders Mike Batista, Mike Sterling, and Ross Brown as well as others pulled together the largest gathering of dirt bikers outside of a major motocross race. “With a lot of effort, in our first year of existence, the Off-Road Riders Association prevented more than 50,000 acres of land in the Railroad Buttes area from being closed,” began Ross Brown of the ORA. “The ORA began creating relationships with the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. We put up signs and installed cattle guards and gates to prevent uninformed riders from leaving gates open and upsetting cattlemen. In the Victoria Lake area of the Black Hills a joint U.S. Forest Service/Off-road Riders Association team--three representing the Forest Service and 60 of us--set an efficiency record that’s still talked about today. A hill was badly eroded from 4x4s trying to climb it. Our friends from the Forest Service estimated the project to restore the hill would take several days. Under the direction of the Forest Service, ORA volunteers carried logs and steel posts up the steep hillside, drove the posts into the ground, set the logs in place and shoveled dirt and rock against the logs to divert runoff. The whole project took one hour!”

The Structure of ORA

ORA is a grassroots, not-for-profit organization formed to create a positive, long-term future for the Black Hills off-road community. “We encourage safe, environmentally sustainable riding practices and cooperation with other motorized and non-motorized users of the forest,” said Brown. Although it does not get involved with promoting the racing segment of the sport of off-road, it does fight for the rights of racers who ride and practice on public lands. In addition, it typically holds several non-competitive poker runs and other events throughout the year. “This provides our members the opportunity to meet other riders and learn about new trails in the Black Hills,” said Brown.

The Off-Road Riders Association is run by its four officers, a seven-member board of directors with representatives from throughout the Black Hills region and an active core of approximately 50 members. This hardworking group supports a total membership of over 1,000 individuals who believe in the mission of the ORA.

The group also partners with the South Dakota Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (SDOHVC) concerning many issues involving the Black Hills off-road community. It also works closely with the BlueRibbon Coalition when significant issues arise. “We have worked hand-in-hand with our state and national partners on a great many projects, comments, and submittals to keep land managers informed of the needs of the motorized recreation community,” said Brown.

Working with the U.S. Forest Service is a major focus of the group. “The Off-Road Riders Association has worked closely with members of the Black Hills National Forest and the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands with the hopes of ensuring an extensive, high quality trail system in the region,” added Brown. “Our members and other volunteers from the South Dakota Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition and BlueRibbon Coalition GPSed thousands of miles of roads and trails over the past several years and submitted them to the Forest Service with detailed descriptions of what we want in a trail system.”

ORA is working closely with the Forest Service in the creation of a Trail Ranger Program. Once the program is put in place, “Volunteers will assist the Forest Service with trail-related maintenance, public education, and so on,” said Brown. “Our labor will translate to matching funds that can be used for the trail system.”

Also, in order for them to stay in constant touch with and to influence what government is doing concerning off-road/- highway issues, the Off-Road Riders Association monitors and submits comments to land managers, county commissioners, and state and federal legislators. The group also monitors Action Alerts from the BlueRibbon Coalition, the SDOHVC, NOHVCC, AMA and others.

Sixteen years ago, the ORA was a dirt bike club. It now welcomes anyone who enjoys motorized recreation in the Black Hills and Grasslands of western South Dakota . . . .  “While most of our members ride dirt bikes, ATVs, UTVs and dual sorts, we support the entire off-road community,” said Brown.
The annual fee for family membership is $20. According to Brown, members are entitled to information ORA publishes on its website, access to informational e-mails, newsletters, and notices of events and issues facing the off-road community.

We’ve kept our membership dues at $20 for many years and don’t plan to raise them. Yes, costs go up on everything, but to us it’s more important to have as many like-minded people join our cause as possible!

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