May 25, 2018
John Holyoke Latest News | Poll Questions | DHHS Report | Islesboro Ferry | Election 2018

Tread Lightly spreading outdoor ethics message

By John Holyoke, BDN Staff

Steve Salisbury has presented seminars on low-impact use and outdoor ethics on behalf of Tread Lightly across the state over the past two years. The business manager at a local store that sells ATVs, among other motorized vehicles, Salisbury said the reaction to the sessions has been positive, although it sometimes takes a while for attendees to really figure out what’s being asked of them.

“About three-quarters of the way through the day [at one session] somebody raised his hand and said, ‘Who’s going to get out this message?’” said Salisbury, a master tread trainer for the organization. “And the whole point is, that’s what [attendees] are there for, is to learn how to get out the message.”

Tread Lightly’s message is broad, but simple. Among the tenets: Everybody who enjoys recreating in the woods can learn to do so in a more responsible manner. ATVs and four-wheel drive enthusiasts often get the brunt of the blame for rutted roads and torn-up trails, but Tread Lightly seeks to provide a consistent message to everyone, no matter what form of transport they’re using.

“The reality is, [land] is a resource that’s to be shared by everybody, and we all need to do whatever our side of it is, correctly,” Salisbury said. “And [Tread Lightly provides] a message that’s across all uses, that’s relevant no matter how you go out there — on foot, wheels, sleds or skis — to all off-road users or trail users.”

The organization, which was formed by the federal government 20 years ago and now exists as a partnership between federal and off-road vehicle industry officials, is trying to enlist as many people as possible to take their message to the masses.

To that end, a “Responsible Recreation” course will be held at the Caribou Recreation Center on Oct. 23. Those interested can call Salisbury at 841-8434, email him at, or call Kathy Mazzuchelli at 493-4224. Information on the organization is also available at

Tread Lightly has produced tip brochures dealing with more than 20 activities, from hiking, hunting, fishing and equestrian trail use to ATV, snowmobile and four-wheel drive use.

Al Cowperthwaite, executive director of North Maine Woods Inc., which includes 3.5 million acres of commercial forest held by private owners, praised the Tread Lightly effort.

“I appreciate the opportunity to provide support for the Tread Lightly program as it pertains to private and publicly owned lands in the North Maine Woods program,” Cowperthwaite said in an email. “The timing couldn’t be better to get the Tread Lightly message to hunters that will be heading into the Maine woods this weekend as bird-hunting season begins and for moose hunters heading north over the next two months.”

Tread Lightly’s five core principles:

Travel responsibly.

Respect the rights of others.

Educate yourself.

Avoid sensitive areas.

Do your part.

Salisbury said a national access advocacy group calls people who do most of the damage in the woods “five percenters,” referring to the fact that the 95 percent of recreational users are doing things right. Salisbury has another label for the offenders, and thinks 5 percent might be low.

“I call them ‘the knuckleheads,’” Salisbury said. “And I think it’s the 15 to 20 percenters. The job of getting through to those people is enormous and it always will be.”

The potential for problems is obvious when it comes to motorized vehicles, like the ones he helps sell.

“It’s human nature [among some people. They think,] ‘You give me a throttle, it’s all mine, and I’m going to do what I want with it. I’m going to point this thing wherever I want to go,’” he said. “And we’re not Pollyanna-like. We realize that will be an ongoing task forevermore.”

What’s important for all trail users to recognize, Salisbury pointed out, is that they all face the same outcome if everyone doesn’t buy in to ethics messages like those Tread Lightly holds.

“If we don’t behave ourselves, we won’t have a place to recreate. Especially in this state. We’re privately owned [for the most part],” Salisbury said. “And if private owners say ‘No,’ it’s over.”

Cowperthwaite agreed with Salisbury’s sentiment.

“It is important for hunters and others visiting Maine forests to tread lightly today if they want to continue to tread at all in the future,” Cowperthwaite wrote.

Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

You may also like