The Adirondack Council issued a report this week outlining the damage occurring from inappropriate ATV use on public lands. It calls for new legislation, including a statutory ban, on recreational ATV use in the Adirondack Park.
A number of environmental and conservation groups are calling on the state legislature to take action following the release of “Wrong Way: How New York State Can Course-Correct on ATV Use” by the Adirondack Council. Executive Director Willie Janeway says they want to address the misuse of ATV’s to help Forest Rangers do their job. “The Forest Rangers have identified ATV use quote-unquote as the most problematic activity they’re dealing with. Right now it is not against the law to do motorized recreation with All Terrain Vehicles on hundreds of thousands of acres of Forest Preserve. The state discourages it. They have policies against it. But it’s not codified in law. So having that stronger protection would create an additional layer of preservation for the wild character of the public lands and at the same time it can help make sure that appropriate use is allowed to continue.”
In 2003, Protect the Adirondacks issued a similar report detailing ATV use in the Adirondacks. “Rutted and Ruined: ATV Damage on the Adirondack Forest Preserve” also called for stricter regulations and state legislation to limit access on public lands. Executive Director Peter Bauer says although the DEC eliminated ATV use in the Forest Preserve, illegal trespass has become problematic as use of the machines becomes more popular. “Since that time what we’ve seen is that trespass on the Forest Preserve by All Terrain Vehicles continues to be a problem. We’ve also started to see that illegal ATV use on city streets has become a problem in some of the upstate urban areas as well as New York City. We need a comprehensive system to regulate ATV’s in New York state. We also need to protect our most important natural areas and that there are penalties and enforcements to protect these areas.”
Adirondack Council Spokesman John Sheehan says when Protect’s report was issued the state began to make progress, but it stalled. “We’ve documented over the last decade damage to every corner of the Adirondack Park from ATV use and misuse. What we’ve seen is that the current state policy hasn’t been effective in reigning in this behavior. So we feel it’s necessary for there to be a state law that the rangers can use to issue tickets that will actually have some sort of deterrent value.”
Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board Executive Director Gerald Delaney says he’s opposed to the portrayal of ATV users in the Park. “An outright ban is just the wrong way to go about this. Government agrees that there are places on the Forest Preserve that do not have and cannot support ATV’s. But we find in their report that they pick and choose what things they want to put in the report to try to paint all ATV users as wild outlaws. Quite truthfully I feel this is an all-out assault on rural New York. We need to deal with the enforcement issues but just because one person breaks the law doesn’t mean we have to outlaw it.”
Delaney also believes the data presented in the report is skewed. “That report compares the whole state which leads me to believe those numbers may not be as severe as they may look. The problems may be more occurring outside the Park. And we don’t have any miles of ATV use on the Forest Preserve.”