When Bill Burgund looked at the man who had just hit him with an off-road vehicle (ORV) on a forest road closed to motorized use, he knew the driver wasn’t going to stop.
“I was lying on the ground, screaming in pain, and he just looked over his shoulder and kept on going,” Burgund—an above-the-knee amputee—recalls of the March encounter that left him with a badly torn rotator cuff. The driver who struck him has not been identified.
The Missoula-based non-profit conservation group WildlandsCPR brought Burgund’s story to light in a report released late last month highlighting strategies for effective enforcement of off-road vehicle use on public lands.
Burgund is no stranger to pain. His left leg was injured when he was struck by shrapnel while fighting in the Vietnam War. Then in 1976, while working as an undercover Los Angeles police officer, he unknowingly walked in on a robbery in progress and was shot in that same leg with a 12-gauge shotgun, leading to the partial amputation. Ever since, Burgund says, he’s suffered from chronic pain.
To help escape that pain, Burgund goes hiking—on crutches—almost every day on various roads near his home on Lost Horse Road near Lake Como. Over the years, he says, he’s seen a steady increase in illegal ORV use, but he hasn’t seen a correlating increase in law enforcement efforts to curb it.
“As a retired police officer I know that a law is worthless without fair, effective enforcement,” Burgund says. “I think they don’t have enough people to enforce anything up here.”
Dan Ritter, the Stevensville District Ranger on the Bitterroot National Forest, confirms that agency law enforcement personnel is “stretched pretty thin.”
“We have two law enforcement officers that cover the whole forest,” Ritter says, adding that this summer the agency has added two seasonal ORV officers to enforce off-road prohibitions. Ritter says the Forest Service will release a draft forest travel plan later this year that will lay out the agency’s approach to dealing with increased ORV use.
Meanwhile, Burgund just wants to be able to hike in peace.
“Everyday folks like me deserve to go on a walk in the woods without fear of being run over by a renegade on an [ORV].”