Parked in the back lot of the Forest Service office in Delta, Colo., is a skinny little bulldozer that looks almost like a toy.
Designed to build trails, the Swepco
450 is tricky to maneuver since 8,000 pounds of steel balance on
tracks only 48 inches wide. The back is equipped with a
three-clawed ripper to obliterate old trails; the front has a blade
that can push away most stumps and rocks.
machine sat idle last year because the Forest Service didn't have
enough money to pay an employee to operate it. That spurred Earl
Monroe, a member of an ATV club that donated the bulldozer to the
agency in 1995, to offer his time.
"It's sort of
a giving back," says Monroe, a retired teacher. "I had appreciated
the forest all my life."
Monroe, 64, got hooked
on ATVs after coming down with two foot diseases that made it
difficult for him to walk. He usually feels like he's standing on
hot marbles, but when he sits on his ATV, he feels
Monroe's first task as a Forest Service
volunteer was to work on a trail the Western Slope ATV Assocation
had adopted. With help from another bulldozer, which was paid for
through a state grant, Monroe built 9.7 miles of new trail and
dragged logs and rocks to block damaged sections of the old
Monroe says trails can be built by ATVs
themselves, but the informal route is often the most damaging for
the environment. "If we make the easiest route where it's also
protective to the environment, then people will go there," he says.
"I consider myself a conservationist, not an environmentalist."
Monroe clocked a total of 386 hours on the
project. It wasn't fun, he says: "I don't know what that word
means. I just do what needs to be done. It would just sit here and
go to waste otherwise, and if our club didn't maintain the trails,
we might lose them."