Mudding: Again? Or Still?

What got me thinking about mudding, again, were the two open-sided, covered-with-mud rigs making turns onto University Way in Ellensburg on Sunday. The young, mud-splattered drivers were hooting it up back and forth over some recent, and obviously exciting, adventure.

“Mudding” is the “fun” tag used all too often for tearing through high country meadows with four-wheel-drive and off-road vehicles. It destroys fragile wildlife habitat and delicately-balanced ecosystems.

I am already hearing rumors about such damage out on public – primarily U.S. Forest Service – ground around Paradise. Maybe winter was just too long. Maybe it was the stress of Shelter in Place and the boredom of the Pandemic rules. Or maybe the dirty mudders just had to break loose.

With the human turnover here in Paradise of Washington, the “Please don’t go mudding in mountain meadows!” message gets lost over time and some immature drivers start looking for excitement in the mud. It seems like every couple years, the sheriff’s office, and state and federal land agencies have to get serious about the damage to meadows around the valley. 2020 is looking like one of those years.

I learned about mudding a couple decades ago. An early twenty-something student and I were discussing the joys and frustrations of owning a four-wheel-drive rig.  He explained to me about his serious “mudding” in the forest – said it was as close as he could get to heaven while he was at CWU.

Of course, I do not know for sure that those two mud-covered rigs had been messing around in some public meadow. I was just playing the odds in my mind. Unfortunately, they were long gone down some side street by the time I got turned around to chat with them.

It is an issue. Over the past decade and more, damage to meadows and wetlands has off and on reached crisis proportions on our county’s public lands. Serious damage has been found in the L.T. Murray, up the Taneum, up Reecer Creek and on Buck Meadows.

What does Aserious@ really mean? The Cle Elum Ranger District, Washington Fish and Wildlife, Department of Natural Resources and the Kittitas County Sheriff are loaded for bear. Mudding is not allowed on any public land in the County. And anyone caught in a meadow, mudding or just making ruts, will be automatically assuming all responsibility for expensive repairs. Driving through a wet meadow or wetland such that a tire sinks into the soil can cost several hundred bucks, with fines ranging from $100 to $5,000, depending on the damage and the cost of repairing it.

Over the years, I have suggested that we need a private Mudding Park – something like a WallyMudWorld for 4x4s, maybe. Some years back, the Cowboy Church held a “mudding competition” on private ground out in the valley. A number of us hoped that might last, but it faded away. For many years, there have been off-road vehicle opportunities out in Grant County (see, but that isn’t, apparently, meeting the full “need” for mud. No matter how the need gets met, it simply can’t be allowed to happen on the sensitive meadows around Paradise.

The Mudding Prevention Subcommittee of the Reecer Creek Rod, Gun, Working Dog & Outdoor Think Tank Benevolent Association is debating a flyer to be posted on windshields of muddy rigs, advising the driver of the cost of meadow damage and suggesting that samples of mud from the vehicle have been supplied to the pros at the Cle Elum Forest Service District for comparison with damaged meadows. We are also working on designs for “Mud Ranger” badges. Don’t wait for these things, however, your eyes and ears are needed now.

If you spot a vehicle you suspect has been out mudding in all the wrong places, the County Sheriff or Cle Elum Forest District Rangers would like to know. Remember Sheriff Clay’s rallying call: “Give us the dirt on mudders!” Make the call; help them figure out who’s going to pay for the damage.

If you see damage happening, get descriptions and license numbers and immediately call Kittcom at 509-925-8534 for a response from the sheriff’s office, Washington Department of Natural Resources or Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. If you find recent damage or other evidence, call the Cle Elum Forest Service District Ranger at (509) 852-1100.

Join the posse. Do your part. Keep the above numbers handy.  This is important.

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized