Sunday, December 30, 2007

All-terrain vehicles damaging national forests

"Federally owned lands are rapidly being transformed into the new playgrounds — and battlegrounds — of the American West. Outdoor enthusiasts are flocking in record numbers to lesser-known forests, deserts and mountains, where the rules of use have been lax and enforcement infrequent," Felicity Barringer and William Yardley report for The New York Times.

"The federal government has been struggling to come up with plans to accommodate the growing numbers of off-highway vehicles — mostly with proposed maps directing them toward designated trails — but all-terrain-vehicle users have started formidable lobbying campaigns when favorite trails have been left off the maps. Even with the plans, federal officials describe an almost impossible enforcement situation because the government does not begin to have the manpower to deal with those who will not follow the rules."

From Durango, Colo., the writers add, "The temptation to go off-trail, legally or not, comes from the desire for variety, federal land managers say. 'The more a route is used, the less challenging it becomes,' said Mark Stiles, the San Juan [National] Forest supervisor. 'You end up getting lots of little spurs off the main route.' Even a few errant riders, he said, 'can do a lot of damage.'" (Read more)

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