Scott Jones: The Lone Wolf – Asking the right questions to win
One can make the case that the least acknowledged advocates in our sports are the attorneys and lawyers that are fighting on our behalf as enthusiasts. They too are driven by the passion and the love for our sports, often sacrificing better paying jobs and dedicating their personal and professional lives so that our community stands to benefit. Introducing Scott Jones, a true motorized enthusiast who set aside a career working for prestigious law firms so that he could “look at himself in the mirror and know that he is making a difference”.
Interview by Ben Janin
We sat down with Scott Jones to learn more about him and our sport from his perspective.
Scott, can you tell our audience what is it that you do?
I am an attorney focusing on policy versus litigation. This means that I am basically implementing the methodology of “an ounce of prevention versus the pound of cure”. In other words, I am practicing the art of being proactive versus reactive on all kinds of state and federal issues: such as the endangered species act; building partnerships; and making sure people understand our issues and how to address them. I have testified in front the US House of Representatives and US Senate on all kinds of issues. Which is quite different for an attorney.
How did you decide that you were going to be a lawyer?
I grew up living in upstate New York, way up state New York, so I don’t have an accent(laughing). Responsible riding in the Adirondack Park meant that you were running from the cops, and well that’s not the best model for riding. I was always intrigued on how we could do better.
The shortfalls of running from the cops as a riding experience, is really where I started. I never really wanted to go law school, but I didn’t like the jobs I was seeing in other fields. So I went to law school with an emphasis on environmental law. However, there were no jobs in this field of practice in upstate New York, the opportunity was just not there.
So, in my first ten years of practicing law I worked for a number of firms; including a boutique firm where I was the number two attorney, as well as a large firm that had billable hours of one million dollars a month. We were representing entities such as the NFL Jets football team, DuPont, AIG insurance and others. The scale was very different when operating with three hundred and fifty attorneys nationwide. It was a great experience, but one morning I looked in the mirror and I knew wanted something more.
Fast forward ten years after getting my law degree, I moved on to work with entities such as the Colorado Snowmobile Association (CSA), Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Alliance (COHVCO) and more in the areas law that I had a interest in originally. This has been part of my test, moving to Colorado to practice my passion even though the money was not initially there.
I worked for free for the first year, and still to this date it’s not a billable rate. I have been able to develop some great clients, who share my passion for the sport and provide enough revenue to keep the lights on. As a family we are able to do this because my wife believes in my efforts and between the two of us – we have enough. Just the ability for people to pick up expenses is huge for me. CSA typically picks up my travel expenses including gas, food and hotel. There is a little bit of everyone giving so I can do the things our community needs.
This is just so much different then my previous life as an attorney. The payment for my services are through money that people have given to an Organization , their donation money, their membership dues, so I need to be a “different kind” of responsible attorney.
So what have you been up to lately?
Recently I have started working more with the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA) and its off-road arm the Off-Road Business Association (ORBA). This is a new opportunity that is working pretty awesomely and allowed me to connect existing clients, like the Trail Preservation Alliance. It’s about relationships and getting good information off the ground and each of these partners provides different resources to reach users. There are important messages, so I am sitting down and working with the staff to get these messages out to the public. It can be frustrating for the local groups, so at ORBA we are telling the story so mistakes aren’t replicated. Our communication has greatly improved.
A good example of this includes dealing with sight specific fees and permit issues with agencies such as the BLM and Forest service. While we are not opposed to fees, we have some concerns. We have programs in place where in California the motorized community has already given approximately $350 million directly to the forest service and BLM, and in Colorado we have given $100 million directly to the agencies. These are huge partnerships in place for decades and a result we are in a much different place then most users groups. No other user group has paid for items such as parking lots and toilets in the amounts we have. Will we pay for some things, like developed campsites of course. We provide critical funding for the user groups to get there; so don’t ask us to pay it twice. There just needs to be awareness of the program and equity across communities in any discussion.
In addition, an agency is never going to earn the $300 million gap funding by selling passes at $5 per day. That simply does not work. It is more important to get the effective program on the ground that pushes the program forward when people see the benefits where they recreate. A single permit, for all agencies does not accomplish anything visible on the ground. I don’t know how that works. Pay once into a black hole, that no one cares about? Probably not going to be a successful program.
This double dip, of registration funding and subsequent site specific fee being charged for the same facilities is not going to go well for the agencies. It will push us apart. There needs to equity conversations. The motorized community bring a lot to the table that most people have not thought about. Not only to we have the programs that are directly giving funds to the agencies, but also we are highly effective with what we accomplish and the money in which we use to get things done. This is valuable experience to any discussion.
We have over thirty years of experience with land management, and the other user groups don’t have the programs like our registration programs. We know how to get the most out of every dollar. Our community has been in the process of doing this for decades. There are very few users that are invested at that level.
In addition, other user groups have a frame of mind that it’s just tax money and as a result have failed to develop the ownership interest in the program. They are not as effective, while we are using the money wisely. Those foundational balances are important on sight specific fees and any registration program. We are better on the ground because our passion is the superior and the way to go. The off road communities effectiveness with the usage of funds is second to none.
What advice would you give to your audience?
Strive for quality, build partnerships and learn to ask the questions so that you win!
You are not going to win getting in a blow-to-blow fight with the environmental groups because they have more resources. When you are the little fish in a really big pond you really need to know your information and get the hard data and facts so that the end game has quality.
Law school taught me how to ask a question. You need to know how can you ask a question that will make you win. That’s your tool in the box. Make sure you really know what you are talking about and move forward in a manner that benefits us.
You have to take a position, explain why with good quality information. Understand this, there is limited funding and probably always will be. So we are going to have questions like do we start building trails at five hundred dollars a foot in wilderness, versus five dollars in non-wilderness? It’s important to think through how we can solve this the best way and benefit the largest user group.
When we are opposing things, it’s important to get our goals done without biting more than we can chew. Understand how to get the best end product.
What are the behavioral traits and skill sets needed to be a successful land-use attorney?
You have to be highly autonomous because you are not going to get a lot of support when things get rolling. You have to be a self-starter so you get the job done.
There have been trials and tribulations, and my passion has taken a lot of different turns. I never had a passion to work for myself, (sigh)….but once the opportunity came up….I needed to look in the mirror and that drove me back into this.
Figure out what is important to you. It may be, that this is your passion so stay involved and the passion will manifest. It has taken a long time for me to develop, but I brought in the big picture discussion and that’s helped move things along.
What are your parting words to our audience?
We win! We win a lot! However, as a community, we tend to focus on the losses. We get a lot of stuff done. Raising money, going to the public meetings. We do fight. There is a tangible benefit to all these things that we do, but we lose sight of things.
We build trails in Colorado. We build opportunities. Look at Bear Creek, we have a new single track that is a longer trail. We got more miles, better mileage, than the old trail that was replaced. When we win everybody wins.