Thursday, April 08, 2010

Off-roaders in search of trails

The dustup between all-terrain vehicle enthusiasts and land conservationists is intensifying this year as more people go in search of places to ride and more groups race to protect large portions of public lands. Three bills under consideration by Congress would grant wilderness protection to more than 34 million acres of land. And 13 million acres in 11 states are under consideration for new National Monument designation, says Department of Interior spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff. If those proposals become law, motorized vehicles would be barred from such lands in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. "Any closure is bad because it leads to more and more closures," says Jack Hickman, president of the Arizona Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Coalition. "With more people buying vehicles and less land to recreate on, it means more damage to the land." The number of off-road vehicles grew 230% from 3 million in 1993 to 10 million vehicles in 2008, according to a U.S. Forest Service estimate. Sites across the country previously open to off-road vehicles have been closed in recent years because heavy use or abuse tore up soil and plants or eroded roads leading to silt buildups in nearby waters. They include...more

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