ATVs on Vermont state lands
Editor of the Reformer:
In 2009, the Legislative Committee of Administrative Rules determined the Agency of Natural Resources and the Department of Fish and Wildlife did not have the authority to allow ATVs on state lands. In addition, the Vermont Natural Resources Council stated such a dramatic shift in state policy to allow ATVs on state lands should be established through an act of the legislature. And voters opposed the proposal to allow ATVs on state land by a margin of 3-1.
Six years later and coming in January 2016, ANR and F&W are seeking through proposed rule, 15-P45-Agency of Natural Resources/Rule Governing the Designation and Establishment of All-Terrain Vehicle Use Trials on State Land, to claim once again they have the authority to make such a rule and allow ATVs onto state land.
VNRC still believes that ANR/F&W do not have the authority to publish such a rule, that they have not provided the scientific impact and economic analysis that is required under Vermont Rules of Administrative Procedure, and that something this significant should still come from the Legislature.
ATV users claim that without this rule ANR is denying them their ability to access and enjoy the outdoors. Quite the opposite is true. Because of ATVs' speed, range, and versatility, these vehicles can quickly dominate large acreage making competition of recreation uses (hiking, hunting, fishing, camping, horseback riding, etc.) inherently unequal. Even though ANR proposes to consider these impacts in its designation criteria, this rule alienates established recreation users by eliminating places where they could otherwise recreate free from the sights, noise and air pollution of an over-mechanized system.
I won't go into the harmful environmental effects of ATV use. They are well documented.
Recently, Vermont made significant investments in protecting its water quality and a call to protect forestland from the threat of forest fragmentation. And there are not adequate monitoring or enforcement mechanisms in place to ensure compliance and protection of our state lands. It has been suggested that the Les Newell Connector trail be designated a "test case" to examine the impact of ATVs. I strongly disagree because a wait-and-see approach is not appropriate when it comes to public lands that belong to all Vermonters.
I urge you to contact your Vermont legislators to oppose this rule. The proposal by ANR/F&W claims that "the purpose of this rule is to ensure that any designation of public land for use by ATVs is in the public good." ATV use of state land does not benefit the public good, but rather harms it by risking Vermont's environmental, economic, and public health.
And lest we forget, there is a third party involved in this conflict, a party that has no voice: the land, specifically that land held in trust for all, and wildlife that calls it home. If we don't come forward in their defense, who will?