Op-Ed by Don Amador
After 25 years of working in the land-use arena, I believe the single most important key to effective advocacy for the long-term viability of OHV recreation on public and private lands is developing personal and professional relationships with important stakeholders.
There are no short-cuts in the relationship building process. Relationships with supporters, sponsors, colleagues, agency staff, conservation/environmental representatives, media, and legislative staff are developed over many years and even decades.
Here are the three main relationship building blocks.
Regardless of who you are dealing with, they must be able to trust your word when it comes to confidentiality. Advocacy leaders must never breech that tenet as it will tag you permanently as somebody who cannot be trusted. The degree of your effectiveness is directly proportional to your ability to honor privileged conversations.
If you expect to become a reliable source for correct information, one should make every effort to research a topic before offering information that may be factually incorrect, misleading, or false. One should resist the temptation, in an effort to appear knowledgeable, to supply inaccurate information that may actually harm your position. In addition, the most successful advocates have a core group of “advisors” where their ideas can be vetted.
There are no silver bullets. The most common assumption that new advocates make is that it will only take 1-2 years of a concerted effort on their part to set everybody straight, correct all problems, and then get on, or in, their OHV of choice and ride off into the sunset.
The stakeholders you interface with want to know that you are committed to building a strong professional and/or personal relationship with them. They want to know their effort in this two-way process will not be a waste of time and resources.
If one adopts these three building blocks, they will find that agency staff will be more likely to work with you on trail issues. After all, government officials are people too and they have a lot of discretion when it comes to providing, or not providing, high-quality recreational opportunities.
Sponsors and supporters will be more likely to fund your land-use efforts. You will also find conservation leaders more willing to work with you on joint projects that directly enhance or maintain trail access and protect resources.
I believe these concepts, if adopted and put into practice, will establish you as a credible leader and valued friend.
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Don Amador is owner of Quiet Warrior Racing/Consulting and is a contractor for the BlueRibbon Coalition where he serves as their Western Representative. Don works from his office in Oakley, CA and may be reached by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org