Locals join motorcycle rally to protect endangered species worldwide
February 21, 2019
In 2013, former U.S. National Park Ranger Robert McIntosh was volunteering with the Mongolian Ecology Center (MEC) near the Russian-Mongolian border when something happened that set a mission in motion to change the world, one motorcycle at a time.
McIntosh watched helplessly as the chief Mongolian park ranger hopped on his motorcycle to enforce protection of the parklands, only to have it break down. McIntosh’s frustration grew as he learned that breakdowns happened routinely. Mongolian park rangers were riding old Russian and Chinese models, prone to frequent mechanical issues. Since each ranger was responsible for his or her own motorcycle, those breakdowns left rangers constantly unable to protect park lands from poachers of animals, lumber, and plants, as well as arsonists, illegal miners and campers.
At that moment, McIntosh made a commitment to get one new motorcycle back to the chief ranger. He told his friend Wesley Thornberry his idea to buy a new cycle in Mongolia, ride it across the country, and deliver it personally to the ranger so that he could safely and successfully perform his job. Thornberry told some other friends when he returned to the States, and the Rally for Rangers Foundation (RfR) was born. Their mission is simple: to protect the world’s special places, one motorcycle at a time. That next year for their first foray, 15 motorcyclists bought 15 new motorcycles and rode them across Mongolia to give them to park rangers there.
Tom Medema, another National Parks Service Ranger and co-founder of Rally for Rangers,
will be in Boulder on Feb. 26 to help two local motorcyclists, Josh Morin of Niwot and Asher Woolverton of Broomfield raise funds for the foundation’s next effort, bringing 15 new motorbikes to rangers who are battling poachers while protecting rhinos and Bengal tigers in remote parks in Nepal.
The fundraiser, at the Dairy Arts Center at 6:30 p.m., will include refreshments and a showing of a documentary film about RfR’s work and adventures. Morin and Woolverton, both experienced adventure riders and committed international volunteers, are charged with each raising approximately $10,000 which pays for a new donated motorcycle, in-country rally expenses, and their travel to Nepal. Additionally, each rider volunteers over two weeks of their time to ride the new bike across the country and personally hand it over to the ranger they have chosen to support.
RfR not only donates the new bikes to rangers, they also spend a few days after delivery teaching the rangers to ride the much more powerful bikes, as well as giving them mechanical training. Rangers are responsible for the maintenance on their bikes - there are no motor pools in remote Mongolia or Nepal - as well as their own gas and oil. Training on the new, modern cycles helps each ranger keep their new tool in shape so that they can perform their job to the best of their ability.
Rangers have to protect huge tract of land, dealing with everything from poaching to illegal harvesting of lumber, and motorcycles help tremendously with that.
“People in the U.S. see motorcycles as consumptive, destructive,” said Medema.”Many don’t realize that in other countries they are essential to work, to family, to living.”
RfR understands the value of working, dependable motorcycles for the rangers, though, and since their first rally in 2014 through the end of this year, they will have donated 105 bikes through theirs and their volunteers’ efforts. It’s an unusual success story for a relatively new non-profit to be able to achieve their stated goals the first year, and RfR has done it every year. Medema attributes their success to several factors.
“It’s the environmental ethic. Social media has created the awareness of the threat of poaching, and the real threat the rangers face every day. We hear something all the time about the plight of elephants and rhinos, but people just don’t know how to help, or what to do. Plus, there is the adventure and personal touch of it all,” he said.
“People have asked us, ‘Why don’t you just ship the bikes over there?’ But if I ask a friend to donate money for that, they might give about twenty bucks. If I tell them that we buy the bikes, ride them across the country and then give them personally to the rangers, before helping them learn how to ride and maintain them, then they’ll maybe donate $500 or more, because of the personal touch and the adventure of it all,” he added.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to bring a motorcycle to every ranger in the world someday.”
If you’d like to help Josh Morin and Asher Woolverton reach their goal or otherwise get involved, you can donate or learn more at http://www.rallyforrangers.org, and attend the Rally for Rangers fundraiser on Tuesday, Feb. 26 from 6:30 - 8 p.m. at the Boedecker Theater at the Dairy Arts Center in Boulder at 2590 Walnut.