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ATV use is 'incompatible' with other outdoor recreation

Attend the County Board public hearing Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the courthouse. Your opinions are needed to help the Board make critical decisions concerning recreational ATV use of public lands in the county.  

The board will be considering a recommendation by its Natural Resource Committee to "opt out" of "limited" classification for motorized recreational riding in all three state forests in Becker County. Also included is a proposal to create a comprehensive outdoor recreation plan and to put on hold any new ATV trail plans until the outdoor recreation plan is completed.

At issue is a proposal for a new grant-in-aid ATV trail to be located on the largest continuous chunk of county administered lands. This trail closely replicates the 70-mile trail defeated by the citizens in 2006. It would consume the precious forested "wild lands" in North-South Round Lake Township. Motorized sports, especially ATVs, have been found to significantly damage plant and wildlife populations, pollute air and water, and displace other tourists who come to our wild places to watch wildlife, hike, camp, fish, hunt, and relax enjoying the quiet life. In Minnesota, only 0.7 percent of the population are ATV trail riders, compared with 54 percent who are hikers (DNR, OHV Trail Study, 2005).   

Smoky Hills, Two Inlets and White Earth State Forests already have about 150 miles of designated ATV trails. There are hundreds of miles of state, county and township road ditches, and forest roads, open to ATVs. Minnesota has over 7,000 miles of designated ATV trails, 130,000 miles of road ditches open to riding and 3,827 miles of trails in national forests (2003 Office of Legislative Auditor Program Evaluation Report). These riding opportunities for such a small percentage of the population is clearly more than sufficient!

Our wildlife needs a place to live. More than 83 percent of state wildlife managers say they have seen "resource damage to wildlife habitat" caused by ATVs and 72 percent cited "disruption of hunters during hunting season" as negative impacts from off-road vehicles (Izaak Walton League of America survey reported in "Collision Course? OHV Impacts on Hunting and Fishing"). All of the "other" people, traditional users of our forested wild lands, will have no place to enjoy their recreational pursuits in our county because ATV riding activities are incompatible with and antagonistic to all other forms of outdoor recreation including snowmobile riding (Wisconsin SCORP 2005).  

Please come to the hearing and voice your opinions and thoughts about the issues. Help the commissioners make the right decisions. -- Ruth Bergquist, Citizens for Responsible Recreation, Ponsford