The recent one-sided series on all-terrain vehicles on public lands highlighted the result of the harmful and reckless riding of a few, without addressing the efforts of responsible riders to fix the problem. The series and editorial seemed to work from the playbook of those who opposed motorized recreation on any public land or water.
The series sends a clear message to the Minnesota recreating public: if you like to ride an ATV, dirt bike, snowmobile, 4 x 4 or even a boat, there's a group of individuals within the state who want to eliminate your activities to fit their lifestyle preferences.
Ignored are the years of responsible work put forth by hundreds of volunteers attempting to do the right thing on our public lands. Off-highway vehicle enthusiasts came to the legislature and asked to be regulated. ATVers and other OHV groups worked cooperatively with the DNR (and anyone else who showed up) to establish a system for categorizing our state forest according to their sensitivity for OHV activity.
We worked with the DNR and other public land users on a responsible OHV trail system planning process, all in an effort to minimize our impact on the forest lands and non-motorize forest users groups. We have been at the table and stayed at the table working with the DNR and other stakeholder groups whether we liked the end result or not.
OHV enthusiasts recognize much work needs to be done. OHV groups are supporting legislation this session to increase our financial support for increased monitoring, maintenance and enforcement of OHVs on public lands. We also support additional legislation that will make cross-country travel illegal. But the key element in addressing these issues is the need to be able to designate more trails to eliminate the concentrated areas of ATVs use.
We also need to better enforce the rules and regulations we have in place, not create another batch of regulations that cannot be adequately enforced. That's another reason why OHVers support increased enforcement funding this session.
Let's face it: the true agenda of OHV trail opponents is to ban all motorized recreation on public lands. That's what their original position states. That's the de-facto result of legislation they have introduced. That's the impact their lawsuit-blocking actions will have as OHVers seek to build a trail system that is monitored, maintained and enforced. And now this radical anti-motorized group is attacking the entire grant-in-aid trail program that includes not only OHVs but the snowmobile trail program as well.
In the 2001 legislative session legislation was passed to develop a youth safety and environmental awareness program. This program is designed to better prepare our youth for their motorized recreational activities. We are presently in the process of making this important programming a reality.
Unlike most other public land trail users, we don't ask the state taxpayers to develop and maintain our trails. We pay our own way.
State parks make up 250,000 acres of land with over 1,200 miles of trails. The state has 128 scientific and natural areas and 1.1 million acres of wildlife management areas. OHVs are not allowed on these public lands. Those individuals who want solitude and quiet have a substantial leg up on us with this vast acreage of public land we aren't allowed on. In addition, OHVers are on record as supporting "quiet areas" on identified segments of our state forests.
We believe there is plenty of room within the nearly 4 million acres of state forest lands for multiple-use recreational opportunities. OHVers have been working to designate trails to minimize user conflict on public lands for the past 10 years. Now it's time for other responsible user groups to join with us and the DNR in a cooperative effort to accomplish that goal.
(The author is president of All-Terrain Vehicle Association of Minnesota.)
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