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New Report Reveals Solutions to Off-Road Vehicle Abuse of Public Land
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 24, 2007
For more information, contact:
Jason Kiely, Wildlands CPR, 406-543-9551, 406-239-9432 (cell)
Jim Furnish, former deputy chief, Forest Service, 240-271-1650
For Forest Service response: Joe Gallagher, Acting Off-Highway Vehicle Program Manager, 202-205-0931
MISSOULA, Mont. - Motorized vehicle abuse has been called one of the biggest problems facing public lands - but many solutions are within reach, a new report says.
Public interest groups released a report today on successful strategies for enforcing the law on public lands to stop off-road vehicle abuse. Five case studies illustrate how authorities have combined six strategies to protect safety, recreation opportunities, wildlife habitat, water quality, and private property.
"Everyone has a right to access our public lands, but no one has the right to abuse these lands or ruin the experience of others enjoying America's Great Outdoors," said Jason Kiely of Wildlands CPR, a Montana-based group who commissioned the report. "Fair and effective law enforcement helps everyone who values public land, whether you ride a machine, mount a horse or rely on your own two feet."
The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have struggled to prevent environmental damage, conflicts, and even violence sometimes associated with the abuse of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), dirt bikes, and other powerful off-road vehicles. Former Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth called unmanaged motorized recreation one of the greatest threats to public land.
The report, "Six Strategies for Success: Effective Enforcement of Off-Road Vehicle Use on Public Lands," explores what can be done to solve this problem, in these times of limited resources and tight budgets. Read the report and related materials at http://www.wildlandscpr.org/six-strategies-effective-enforcement.
The report is based on more than 50 interviews with public land managers, law enforcement officials, and community leaders, landowners and volunteers. Joe Gallagher, Acting OHV Program Manager for the Forest Service called the report "thoughtful and insightful" and is concerned that funding is not adequately prioritized to enable the use of many of the strategies detailed in the report.
Nonetheless, the report highlights case studies where officials and citizen groups have succeeded after making enforcement a priority. Rick Lint, a District Ranger on the Ocala National Forest in Florida requested additional officers and trained 15 existing field staff to make contact with riders. He said, "What you permit, you promote. We've permitted largely uninhibited access to public lands for so long that it's come to be seen as a right. We're putting in a structure to manage motorized use to sustain the quality of the land over time."
In most cases, however, public lands agencies are overwhelmed by enforcement challenges. Lawbreakers too often scar the land, muddy streams and wetlands, damage habitat and create conflicts with law-abiding forest visitors. In the worst cases, these conflicts have erupted into violence and injury. (Visit http://www.wildlandscpr.org/six-strategies-effective-enforcement to read recent news of off-road vehicle abuse and a western Montana case study.)
Jim Furnish, former deputy chief of the Forest Service, tackled the issue in the early 1990s when he developed the management plan for the Oregon Dunes (see update on page 30 of the report). Furnish recently said, "What's been lacking is the assurance of tough enforcement and the backbone needed to bring the runaway problem under control. Folks visiting our public lands expect enforcement that protects natural resources, ensures visitor safety, and reclaims a family-friendly atmosphere."