ST. PAUL (AP) -- The Senate voted to ban off-trail use of all-terrain vehicles in state forests after the state designates 2,000 miles of ATV trails.
If enacted, the bill would abruptly curtail ATV travel that is now unlimited in most of the state's forests.
With 600 miles of designated trails now in existence around the state, it wasn't immediately clear how soon the Department of Natural Resources could designate 2,000 miles of trails.
The measure, which passed 41 to 21, was attached as an amendment to a Senate DNR forestry and game bill. It may be introduced in the same way in a House bill Monday.
The measure, sponsored by Sen. Tony Kinkel, DFL-Park Rapids, set no deadline for designating the 2,000 miles of trails. But it says that 30 days after the 2,000-mile total had been reached, ATV use would be prohibited in all areas in state forests, except forest roads not posted as closed and on trails specifically designated for ATV use. It doesn't affect county or private lands.
The DNR and ATV enthusiasts have been under pressure to agree on ATV restrictions after environmentalists and news accounts have depicted significant damage in state forests.
"There is permanent, serious damage being done to public land under the current state of affairs, where it is practically open season," said Sen. John Hottinger, DFL-Mankato.
Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Thief River Falls, criticized the amendment as being hastily crafted. ATV makers Polaris Industries Inc. of Roseau and Arctic Cat of Thief River Falls have plants in Stumpf's district and he said the potential effect about 15,000 jobs wasn't considered.
Stumpf has his own bill with a companion in the House that authorizes $1.2 million for trail maintenance and enforcement. He said he was frustrated by the large margin of Friday's vote.
DNR officials, who had only seen the Kinkel amendment earlier in the day, said they still are reviewing the 2,000-mile trail designation goal.
The DNR has opposed environmental reviews for every trail planned for designation, and recently appealed a Cass County district judge's order requiring such reviews on ATV trails in five north-central counties.
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