Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Short History of Boondocking

This is a short history of boondocking.  A history of boondocking??  Well, yes; but mostly it's about the reasons why each federal agency treats boondocking differently.

If you are saying to yourself, "What in the heck is boondocking?" I'll explain. This is a term coined by rv'ers who like to camp in secluded areas away from campgrounds and rules (ie. dogs on leash at all times). You may notice these places while out exploring. Boondocking areas are where you see a rock fire ring and a large enough level space for a truck and trailer, usually not far off the dirt road.

The National Park Service was founded as an economic development tool early in the 20th Century.  The federal government and the railroads built the park system to encourage tourism in the West by linking the parks with railroads, and building grand lodges for the rich and famous.  Now high class tourism is about being feted, wined and dined.  Is is not about boondocking on your own.

As the vacationing American public discovered the National Parks in the 1950's, the Park Service rapidly started constructing campgrounds and adopting rules and regulations to "protect" the Parks.  People accepted the Parks as different, special, and places where you PAID to visit.

So boondocking never got established in Parks, with a few exceptions, primarily in the National Recreation Areas that are managed by the National Park Service.  But otherwise, be prepared to huddle with the masses in the campgrounds, if you can find space large enough to accomodate your rig.

The National Forest has a totally different history:  Founded to provide sustainable economic development for small rural communities.  Most of it revolved around mining, grazing, and timber harvest.  Recreation was an afterthought in the view of Congress.  The visitors were also different. They were primarily hunters and fisherman that did not need or want much handholding from the Forest Service. 

However, as use increased and areas became overused, the Forest Service started building campgrounds.  But the agency never lost sight of the fact most of their users are fairly independent and experienced in outdoor activites.       Campgrounds are expensive, so in the late 1970's the Forest Service decided to emphasize dispersed camping or boondocking.  It became official agency policy to encourage boondocking. Now, the Forest Service is slowly moving away from the policy, but it is still part of the agency culture.  In most National Forests it is accepted and, in some, even encouraged.

The Bureau of Land Management came to the game in the late 1970's, when Congress finally gave them their Organic Act.  But they have the same money problems as the Forest Service has.  Congress gives all the MONEY to the Park Service.  On many BLM lands, the public was there using the lands before the BLM had much of a presence, so they were playing catch-up.

The Long-Term Visitor Areas were a response to overuse on BLM lands.  The boondockers were well established and BLM came up with a system to protect those lands.  The interesting part is that the LTVA's were designed by fairly low level BLM employees.  So keep talking to those folks working on public lands when you meet.  Give them your ideas.  You never know which one will get "legs" as the say goes.

We will talk more about state wildlife areas in the future.  These are great boondocking spots, particularly for large rigs.  If you are a hunter and fisherman you already know about these areas, but birders, rock climbers and hikers are also finding these lands.

My goal is to provide information and support to all users of our public lands. Pass it on.


Anonymous said...

thanks for this nice post 111213

Anonymous said...

thanks for this tips