Off-Road Vehicle Laws for Public Lands Changing in Some States

| 2/17/2010 2:45:00 PM

A portrait of GRIT Assistant Editor Caleb Regan, with a puny catch.My most vivid memories from childhood days spent roaming the farm involve both horses and horsepower. My two older brothers and I had horses to call our own, and a Suzuki Quad-Runner 50 that we shared – oftentimes with two of us perched at the picnic table with a stopwatch, one of Mom’s safety and sanity mechanisms. Those days were the best, and God-willing, one day when I have a family and my own corner of land, my kids will get the chance to enjoy something as much as my brothers and I enjoyed our quad-running ways.

Responsibility is the key to keeping off-road vehicles in use on public lands.

But just like anything, quad-runners and other ATVs can cause problems. David A. Lien recently wrote an editorial that was published in the Duluth News Tribune titled “Overuse of ATVs Threatens Backcountry Hunting.” That link will lead you to the article, only you may have to pay to read it, so I’ll briefly summarize.

Lien, a big-game hunter and lifetime member of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association and the acting chairman of Minnesota Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, argues for common-sense off-road law enforcement and management practices. This includes limiting the number of public lands that are off-road vehicle accessible. The Department of Natural Resources did just that recently by closing some motorized routes in the Cloquet Valley State Forest, leaving 80 percent of the forest’s routes open to motorized use.

Honestly, it’s nice having motorized access to hunting and fishing grounds; driving out to field dress big game, emergency use, etc. The key is being responsible. On private land, it’s the landowner or a person who the landowner gave permission to (at least it had better be) that is operating with or without an ORV. It’s fairly simple to take the same route, park in a place that doesn’t harm wildlife habitat and responsibly access hunting and fishing lands with little adverse effect.

But on public lands, it’s an entirely different animal. Unlimited ORV access threatens habitat, private land access on surrounding properties (poaching and trespassing and all it encompasses) and fair chase ethics. Also, animals that once had an advantage on rough terrain now are at a disadvantage, and that threatens hunting access. These things combined are a threat to hunting opportunity in general.

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