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

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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.

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.

I know I’d feel pretty discouraged if I didn’t have access to those public lands in western Kansas that are renowned for bird hunting.

Lien, in one paragraph wrote, “Hunting is more than a form of outdoor recreation. You don’t hear participants of other outdoors pursuits, even the most avid of participants, talking about our skiing heritage, boating heritage, bird-watching heritage, ATV-riding heritage or other heritages the way hunters talk about the hunting heritage. Our hunting heritage is separated from all other outdoor endeavors because hunting requires and imposes ethical standards on its participants.”

Same goes for fishing.

The actions of reckless individuals have heightened awareness nationwide, and 39 states have considered legislation to deal with reckless ORV use. Check your state at Responsible Trails America.

Photo: Kolobov

Caleb Reganand his wife, Gwen, live in rural Douglas County, Kansas, where they enjoy hunting, fishing, and raising and growing as much of their own food as they can. Caleb can’t imagine a better scenario than getting to work on a rural lifestyle magazine as a profession, and then living that same lifestyle right in the heartland of America. Connect with him on Google+.