They Wouldn’t Compromise. Why Would You?
Our forefathers did not want to compromise with our liberties. They didn’t want our country founded on compromise. To compromise means to give up something.
In their case, they were building something, not giving up something (other than oppression). But if you’re new to the land use and access battles, then the idea of compromise might have a significantly different meaning to you.
Often, I hear from two very different sides of the fence. One side says never compromise…it only means we lost something in the process – and we’ve lost too much as it is. The other side says we must compromise in order to gain ground – that it’s only fair to play give and take.
The “give and take” of compromise can end up in the court room costing way too much money!
If you’re negotiating for a look-alike Rolex in a third world country, you might experience compromise at its best. The seller starts pretty high and you counter really low. You “compromise” in the middle somewhere, most likely close to where you both wanted to be in the first place. It’s built into the process. We expect it to go down that way. But is this how our access should be negotiated?
Let’s look at this from the other hand perspective of no compromise. If the “hacker of fine wanna-be Rolex’s” sets a price that we didn’t want to pay, we are left with two choices – take it or leave it. So, is this how our access should be negotiated?
After thirty-five years of doing this land use and access stuff, I find myself wanting to compromise less and less. Oh, I still do it alright. I just do it less and less. And for sure I like it less and less.
I look at the picture of our forefathers who built this country and I don’t see a lot of compromise in what they set out to do. Nowadays, our local, state and federal agencies are completely focused on finding compromise (with us and those that oppose us). So just how should we negotiate our access?
Don Amador, a 30 year veteran of many land-use battles including some important victories, states, “Over time, I have adopted the concept of strategic or principled compromise or collaboration as an effective tool to help ensure that current and future generations of off-roaders have access to high quality OHV recreational experiences.”
“Strategic compromise takes a hard look at relevant factors such as political realities, rules/regulations, engaged or commitment level of local users, agency leadership/staff capacity, potential litigation, and ways to create a ‘win’ for those project opponents,” Amador continues.
Don Amador, Quiet Warrior Racing and Post Wildfire OHV Recovery Alliance, as well as LEO for District 36, AMA
“I think it also helps OHV leadership to understand that ‘ALL OHV TRAIL DECISIONS ARE POLITICAL DECISIONS.’ And, that science, hard data, soil surveys, and other environmental or economic studies often have nothing to do with what decision is made,” Amador said.
“Acquiring and keeping a seat at the land use table where you show your commitment to key OHV stakeholders for ongoing management and planning activities is highly effective and is the best way for you to promote and protect your access to sustainable motorized recreation on public lands,” Amador concludes.
Kurt Schneider, noted land use advocate who helped us save Johnson Valley and started Friends of El Dorado to save trails, has this to say:
“If you are in the 6th grade and you let a bully take your lunch money, he is going to keep on taking it. If you kick that bully in the balls and keep your money, he won’t keep taking it. That is exactly why our Government has a strict policy about not negotiating with terrorists. We shouldn’t either.” (You have to remember Kurt provided this comment on the day we remembered 9/11).
Kurt Schneider, noted land use advocate, high school teacher, and ModernJeeper contributor/author.
Bottom line when it comes to our trails: I am here to tell you, it’s time for less compromise for compromise sake. Politicians make a living by slinging compromise – that is what they do. Let’s not get too mad at them for that; heck it’s their job.
Along those same lines, agency bureaucrats go to extensive training sessions to learn the art of compromise. I suppose we should not blame them either as they always have a dozen different interests pulling at them. So, who is left to blame for compromises that leave us holding the bag? Us? I think so.
If you’re reading this thinking, “Boy, Del, you’re sending a mixed message,” then you’re right. I am. I say when you have a good politician or a good agency bureaucrat who is trying to make things fair by offering compromises to several different sides, then work with them. Find some compromise you can live with. Learn to compromise smartly in this case.
On the other hand, find your line in the sand. Define your fundamental principles. Do not compromise them. Hold firm. But also remember this – your “holding” position is only as strong as your ability to hold it.
You can quack all day long and threaten all sorts of things, but if you don’t have the membership and money to back your play, then, well, I hate to say it, but you’re just another duck in the noisy pond!
This leads me to my best advice for this dilemma.
First: after you define your principles (line in the sand), figure out your real room for negotiating. Include a list of things you want to gain — not just those things you’re willing to give up. Far too often volunteer groups go into negotiating sessions with agency folks and radical protectionists thinking only of what they might have to give up. Learn to think in terms of wins and gains as starting points.
Second: clearly articulate the consequences of your choices – what will happen with each choice you face. It’s important to face the reality and consequences of your choices before you make them if you want to be successful in the long run.
Third: objectively analyze what you can really live with and what is best for the cause.
Fourth: ascertain just how much clout (membership and money) you really have at your disposal. It’s almost like playing poker, there’s only so many hands you can win with bluffing and bluster. Real clout and real wins come from a strong support base.
Fifth: build support for the plan of action you choose and make it happen! If your support base is not strong enough, then build it up.
Our forefathers did their own form of compromising – they compromised amongst themselves and their constituents. They had to in order to build this country in a democratic-republic fashion. However, they clearly did not compromise with their fundamental principles, and I think that is where we need to land more often.
I suggest that your job is to figure out where you fit in these battles and where you stand on the idea of compromise; then to make sure you help those efforts that make sense to you.
Whatever you do, don’t compromise your rights away by not even being in the game.