David Lien: ATV use out of whack in Colo.
I grew up hunting, hiking, fishing, camping, trapping and canoeing amidst America’s national forests and other public lands, and I’m an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) user. I use ATVs while hunting each fall and understand the attraction of these motorized vehicles. There are thousands of miles of roads and trails across Colorado and the nation open for ATV use, but we have a responsibility to maintain a balance out in the woods. Right now, I’m here to tell you, that balance is far out of whack. The result: an extensive and growing network of unauthorized, user-created ATV routes that crisscross the landscape and damage critical wildlife habitat.To help offset the escalating damage resulting from public lands ATV overuse and abuse, the State Parks Off-Highway Vehicles Program (which is funded by a $25.25 annual registration fee on OHVs) has some $3.2 million available each year. But the program currently awards over 90 percent of these funds to OHV trail projects, and next to nothing going directly to OHV enforcement or OHV-related restoration. Primarily, the funds are spent for maintenance of existing system routes.Based on conversations with Forest Service and BLM field staff in Colorado, they state that there are three pillars of responsible OHV management -(1) Maintenance, (2) Restoration, and (3) Enforcement. At present, only one of these pillars is being adequately funded by the OHV program.Several other western states such as Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and California have already recognized this and passed legislation directing OHV registration funds toward addressing the total impact of OHV use, dedicating significant funding to law enforcement and restoration of damaged areas. It’s time for Coloradans to follow in their footsteps.
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