Sunday, April 14, 2019

Kevin Chlad: Protect State Lands From ATV Misuse

five ponds wilderness atvA coalition of conservation organizations released a statement and a report last week calling on the State Legislature to address the misuse of All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) on public lands and protect public safety, water quality and wildlife in the Adirondack Park.

The report: WRONG WAY: How New York State Can Course-Correct on ATV Use was published by the Adirondack Council. It documents a recent shift in state policy toward allowing more ATV use on public lands, resulting in widespread harm.

Advocates for non-motorized access and environmental organizations released a statement with the report saying the state’s policies against ATVs on public lands are weak and often ignored. They said a new law is needed to prevent worsening harm to New York’s most sensitive parks, forests, pristine lakes, wild rivers and rare wildlife.

In the statement, a spokesman for state Forest Rangers called ATV violations “the largest source of citations issued by the Ranger Force today.” Advocates noted that Forest Rangers’ annual reports call ATV misuse the most problematic enforcement issue they face,” resulting in an average of 496 tickets per year over the last decade. They explained that tickets alleging trespass on public lands are frequently dismissed or result in no penalty and therefore don’t deter repeat offenses.

The coalition called for a new law that makes it clear that ATVs are not allowed on the Forest Preserve and other State lands, with very few exceptions. The Ranger force is already stretched too thin and require a true deterrent for those who misuse ATVs. Each Ranger is now responsible for patrolling more than 50,000 acres of land, or more than twice the amount they patrolled in the 1970s. The Department of Environmental Conservation has reported that the illegal use of ATVs on state lands is frequent, difficult to prevent, and presents significant enforcement issues. The Legislature needs to help deter ATV misuse.

atv gateThe damage isn’t limited to the Adirondack Forest Preserve. ATVs cause damage to sensitive public forests in the Long Island Pine Barrens, the Catskills and the Albany Pine Bush too. New York wants the public to explore and enjoy these magnificent natural resources but enjoying them shouldn’t result in destroying them. Sure, nature is resilient. Given time and no additional damage, scarred areas can recover. But the damage has to stop first, and it doesn’t disappear overnight.

ATVs can do great and lasting damage to wet, organic soils prevalent throughout many public lands of the Adirondacks. It’s easy to see ATV tracks in wetland bogs and bog meadows created by ATV riders years ago. Some ATV riders come from downstate and may be unaware that riding can cause great damage to sensitive lowlands of the Park. So a law that expressly prohibits ATV riding on public lands would be both educational to those who ride and helpful to Forest Rangers and Environmental Conservation Officers.

Deep ruts are an indication of erosion and soil compaction. Both are bad for forests, especially around steep slopes. Mud gets washed into nearby streams when it rains, darkening clear waters and burying trout breeding sites in silt. ATVs’ knobby tires trample and rip out vegetation, harming wildlife and accelerating further erosion.

ATVs make a mess of trails designed for other users. They ruin hiking, ski and snowmobile trails by making them both dangerous and difficult for others to use. ATVs are not the only activity that creates an impact on the environment, but the impact of an ATV on a per-user basis is self-evidently disproportionate to other activities.

Independence River Wild Forest ATV DamageThe Adirondack Council’s report shows that amid a flood of new visitors to the Adirondack Park’s scenic Forest Preserve, state officials have proposed loosening restrictions on a destructive recreational activity found on state lands and on private lands where the state holds conservation easements. This would lead to increased erosion and water pollution, while threatening public safety, the report says. Getting ATVs under control is even more important as the park’s visitor numbers continue to rise due to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s investments in tourism. The 25-percent boost in visitors over the past decade (from 10 million to more than 12.4 million) is welcome, but prompts us to be careful about how we manage the influx of new visitors.

ATVs have a place in this park on private lands such as farms, construction sites and logging operations. But as a recreational vehicle, they incompatible with the aims of public resource ownership: the preservation of clean air, clean water, and wildlife habitat, as well as the facilitation of recreation that respects the carrying capacity of the resource. They don’t belong on the Forest Preserve, unless used for search and rescue, for actions relating to the management of the natural resources, or in providing access for a person with a disability.

The state has, by practice, not allowed ATVs on public trails in the Adirondacks for many years. But practices change. Over the past decade, state agencies have been loosening restrictions on ATV use. Instead of expanding efforts to stop unlawful ATV use, they have proposed new ATV riding areas and created new recreational routes that expose public lands to an increased risk of trespass.

The Adirondack Council has been tracking ATV damage inside the Adirondack Park since the 1990s and the damage continues to mount as more ATVs are registered and used, and as younger and younger riders are introduced to the activity. New York law currently allows riders as young as 10 years old to operate an ATV unsupervised. Because some local governments have insisted on opening public roads to ATVs, this allows children as young as 10 to ride roads along with cars and trucks.

Too often, the results are tragic. Efforts to accommodate ATV use in communities has led to the illegal opening of public streets to ATV traffic, leading to several successful lawsuits from conservation organizations and local citizens whose homes were affected by the traffic. But towns keep opening new ones. ATV crashes sent 101,200 Americans to the emergency room in 2016. Of those, nearly 27,000 were children under 16 years old. New York is among the top 10 states for ATV injuries.

Not long ago, a report by the Wildlife Conservation Society illustrated the damage ATVs’ have done to the inhabitants of the Adirondack Forest Preserve.

While proponents of recreational ATV access on public lands may tout potential economic benefits, what stands out even more are the costs of ATV riding. Our environment, public health and safety, and peace and solitude all suffer greatly when ATVs are misused. ATVs are unique machines that require unique management. It is time for the legislature to support our Rangers with a general ban on ATV use for the Forest Preserve and other State lands.

Photos, from above: ATV in Five Ponds Wilderness, ATV gate, and Independence River Wild Forest ATV Damage.

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Kevin Chlad is Director of Government Relations of the Adirondack Council, a privately funded, not-for-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park.

The Council envisions a park composed of large wilderness areas, surrounded by working farms and forests and vibrant, local communities.

The Council carries out its mission through research, education, advocacy and legal action. Council members and supporters live in all 50 United States.




82 Responses

  1. Chuck Parker says:

    Kevin’s article, while maybe well intended, contains some common “embellishments” which makes some of his statements a degree or two away from the truth. This is a topic that Kevin and I have talked about in the past. May I express my opinion? The picture of the road and the ruts is one that stands out to me. If you look at the width of the ruts in that picture I would say they were mostly created by conventional vehicles not ATVs. You have a picture of a gate. A gate limits access. It can remain permanently closed, or it can be opened when the roadway it serves to protect can safely handle allowable vehicle access. The term managed access come to my mind here. It is stated in the article “It is time for the legislature to support our Rangers with a general ban on ATV use for the Forest Preserve and other State lands.” Be it by statute such as the State Land Master Plan or by regulation ATV access is essentially already prohibited in most of the state lands within the Park.
    Many would say essentially all access within the park is denied. (Now that last sentence might be an embellishment.) Now NYS DEC (Lands and Forest has the ability to manage ATV access on some state lands. There is NYS Forest Rangers and other agencies that have the police powers to enforce already established regulations.
    The New York State Conservation Council has a position that states when it comes to the management of fish and wildlife it is better done by regulation over legislation. I think the same can be said for ATV regulations and usage. It is knowledge base management.
    I think what Kevin is looking for is more of a blanket ban on ATV use, by legislation. That is a banning of a use not a practice of sound management principles. Kevin’s article and the one he eluded to wants to expand a policy of the Adirondack Council, outside the Park to areas which have proven to have a successful atv use policy. The use policies of these trails and those that regulate them is pretty simple. When the roads are soft in the spring the trails are closed. When the trails can handle atv traffic they are open. Some trail systems even require a membership fee to where these trails can be maintained. Who promotes the proper and sound use of these trails? It is the various ATV clubs and their members that are educated and value the resource they have to use.
    Kevin and I have both attended common meetings where it has been shown that nationally there are sound atv trail systems which are successfully and soundly used. The key is education and a committed core group of users
    Chuck Parker
    President, New York State Conservation Council

    • Kevin Chlad says:

      Thank you for sharing your opinion Chuck.

      Yes, we have had this conversation on numerous occasions, and as I frequently say to you, paraphrasing Senator D. P. Moynihan, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.”

      The Independence River Wild Forest is one of the hardest-hit locations on the Forest Preserve, when it comes to ATV misuse. This was one of the regions that DEC Commissioner Erin Crotty closed to ATV traffic in the early 2000’s citing overwhelming damage to the resource. The Partridgeville road along Otter Creek has extensive damage stemming from ATV’s veering off of the road and into the forest where they are not permitted.

      To your next point, gates SHOULD limit access. The problem is that they do not always work when it comes to ATVs. You know as well as I do that an ATV can go virtually anywhere in the hands of a skilled operator, which means we must rely on operators making responsible choices about where they do or do not ride their machines. Everyone who drives a car knows that there are speed limits, but not everyone follows that law. That’s why we need enforcement.

      We need to help our Rangers do their job. We have more than 50,000 acres of protected land per Ranger in New York State… that’s a lot of land for one person to keep an eye on. Over the last three decades, Rangers have consistently identified that illegal ATV use is the MOST problematic activity taking place on state lands. So how can we help them protect our forests from ATV misuse when they are spread so thinly?

      Two ways: Add more Rangers, and establish a true deterrent for those who are still riding ATVs where they shouldn’t ride them. The current penalties are getting reduced to little or nothing in court, meaning they are having little effect in turning away those who aren’t abiding by the current regulation. We need to declare in statute that recreational ATV use is not permitted on the Forest Preserve, and then when riders are found in violation of that provision, judges will have clear direction from the law on what the penalty should be.

      Our proposal is about helping Rangers by creating a new enforcement provision. Recreational ATV riding has already been declared to be unsustainable on state lands, even when local ATV clubs have been involved in trail management, according to the NYSDEC strategic plan for state forest management. We are proposing measures to protect resources that the sporting community depends upon for hunting and fishing, and I know you and I agree that the state should be taking care of the land that it already owns!

      You are correct that there are locations around the state and the nation that are appropriate for ATV riding. The Adirondack Council does not oppose ATV riding outright. We believe that ATV riding can be appropriate on private lands such as forestry operations, farms or on lands on which the state owns conservation easements. There may even be some state lands where ATV connectors are acceptable in New York. Nationally, there are most definitely locations that are appropriate for recreational ATV riding. These locations are drier, hardier lands that have the capacity to withstand this impactful activity. Our objection to recreational ATV riding on the Forest Preserve is based on the ecology of the region and the failed attempts by the state to permit such use. Circling back to my initial point, you are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. New York State land managers and law enforcement are clearly on record stating that ATV misuse is one of their most significant problems. I hope you will join me in supporting our Rangers by protecting the Forest Preserve from ATV misuse.

      Kevin Chlad
      Adirondack Council

      • Al Herrington says:

        Skiers hate snowshoer’s,, bow hunters hate crossbows,, gun hunters hate bows,, dogs hate cat’s,, criminals hate police,, politicians hate campaign money reform and here we have hikers hate ATVs,, Chuck’s girl friend from California hates Trump,brick stores hate on line buying,, dog sledders hate snowmobiles till they use a snowmobile trailer, make skiers and hikers get registered and join a club like I do with my ATVs and join a snowmobile club like I have to get registered and get a license to hunt like me let’s fix ATVs trails like we do for hikers ,skiers, bird watchers ,dog sledders, even see a registration or trail permit on these . Boy you sure hate ATVs

        • M.P Heller says:

          I agree, they hate ATV’s. My gut tells me that a large part of the green lobby sold their souls to the snowmobile lobby in an evil pact and that ATV users being confined to eternal Limbo was the price.

          The rest of that nonsense is total gibberish except for the Malamutes won’t abide a cat and a fee scheme is coming to at least some Forest Preserve lands for at least some users. I’ll also give 9 for 5 that the girl from Cali hates Trump.

          Thanks for the interesting post.

    • Heidi Plumley says:

      Amen Chuck!!

  2. Scott says:

    The existing state laws governing ATV operation on public lands do not need to be made more strict. One section says it is illegal to operate ATVs on public highways not designated for ATV use. The next section says it is illegal to operate ATVs on public lands not designated for ATV use. The third section says it is illegal to operate ATVs on private lands without permission of the owner (this covers easement lands). That pretty much covers everything right there. See NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) sections 2403.1, 2403.2, 2403.3. VTL also regulates how ATVs can be operated and when ATVs are permitted on highways VTL requires compliance with the rest of VTL Title VII rules of the road, same as all other vehicles. The ATV laws are adequate. You need better consequences to deter illegal ATV use. You need rangers to do better enforcement. You need good mandatory minimum fines. You need judges to be held accountable for following their rules.

    • Boreas says:

      Scott,

      I agree. Until the existing laws are able to be enforced (Rangers/ECO patrolling) it seems silly to add more regulations. The effectiveness of existing regulations is proportional to their enforcement.

  3. Scott says:

    Worth noting is a large percentage of ATVs are now side-by-side (SxS) ATVs and a large percentage of SxS are too heavy to be ATVs under NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL). None of the ATV laws apply to overweight SxS but the rest of the VTL does apply. Overweight SxS operation is prohibited on all public highways by VTL 401.1a. Even where portions of public highways are designated and posted for legal ATV operation, overweight SxS operation is still prohibited. Offroad overweight SxS use on state lands is prohibited by DEC regulations (6NYCRR 196.1a for forest preserve).

    • JC says:

      Hi Scott! You’re right, but there has been legislation introduced this session (S1372) and for the past several years which would change the legal definition of an ATV to allow an increased weight limit. This bill has previously passed in the senate, and still remains a potential threat in terms of allowing heavier vehicles on sensitive lands.

  4. They are all against atv use, until one of there unprepared hikers breaks a leg and the rangers pick them up in a atv. It appears they are all far left. If a ranger catches a illegal operator cite them, don’t blame everybody for a few bad apples.

    • Kevin Chlad says:

      Thanks for your comment Wayne.

      We don’t oppose ATV use by Rangers/ECO’s in Search and Rescue operations. That is a perfectly reasonable use of an ATV, which makes a great tool. Great tool, not-so-great toy on public lands.

      Best,

      Kevin

    • scott van Laer says:

      “They (Rangers) are all far left”…funniest comment I have ever read here. Thank you.

  5. M.P. Heller says:

    “On average there were 136,913 emergency department (ED) visits each year due to unintentional motor vehicle traffic-related injuries, requiring the treatment of 696.6 of every 100,000 New Yorkers. The rates were highest for females and New Yorkers ages 20-24 followed by ages 15 – 19.” Source: NYSDMV

    “ATV crashes sent 101,200 Americans to the emergency room in 2016. Of those, nearly 27,000 were children under 16 years old. New York is among the top 10 states for ATV injuries.” Source: Kevin Chlad

    So based on the same type of manipulation of statistics to fit a narrative, it could also be said that automobiles are far more dangerous than ATV’s because in just one state automobiles cause substantially more hospital visits than ATV’s cause in the entire country on an annual basis. Obviously this is no more valid than the claims made by the author of this article.

    Manipulation of statistics is a cheap tactic used by unscrupulous authors to add gravity to what is opinion masquerading as fact. Unfortunately many readers do not dig into the statistics to find their true meaning and even fewer try to place them in proper context with other comparable situations. More often than not readers accept the data verbatim, assimilate it into their personal views, and repeat it to others as gospel. It is this phenomenon that makes authors who employ such tactics unscrupulous. They actually are hoping that the misinformation spreads to the point that it overshadows fact in order to promote their opinion driven agenda.

    • Kevin Chlad says:

      Thank you for your comment.

      To clarify, I am not the source when it comes to the statistics regarding ATV-related emergency room visits. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission is the source. We did not manipulate any statistics. We directly reported data from this Federal Commission.

      I do not dispute that there are more motor vehicle accidents in New York State than there are ATV accidents nationally. That would make sense, since there are are also WAY more people driving cars.

      To learn more about the overwhelming problems associated with ATV use on roads, see the report published by the Consumer Federation of America:

      https://consumerfed.org/pdfs/ATVs-on-roadways-03-2014.pdf

      Regards,

      Kevin

      • M.P. Heller says:

        Context, Kevin, is everything. Verbatim reporting of government statistics is one thing. Stilting those statistics with hyperbole and imaginative interpretation is something quite different. You do quite a bit of stilting in your article above.

        I cited you as the source of the information I quoted in my original response because you didn’t provide any sort of attribution for your data, leading me to believe that you complied it on your own or with the aid of your nonprofit organization. You certainly didn’t give credit to anyone else for their work, so the reader is left to think that it is original thought, which you have stated it is not. This is also misleading because the reader has no ability to make any sort of judgment call as to the veracity of the data.

  6. Heidi Plumley says:

    I must say, Mr. Chlad, obviously you don’t have all your facts correct. Do you live in The Adirondacks? Do you live in a repressed area of the state of NY? Have you seen the damage hikers do to the trails(for no fee) and take a sponge bath in a local business, fill there water bottle and don’t spend a dime? That’s a crying shame! The ruts from hikers are deeper than 4- wheeler tracks and DO NOT SUPPORT THE LOCAL ECONOMY! You need to do more research. It’s not a Park, It’s our home, where we live and work!!

    • Boreas says:

      Heidi Plumley,

      If you feel hikers “DO NOT SUPPORT THE LOCAL ECONOMY”, you are as ignorant of the facts as you assert Mr. Chlad is. Myself and friends have spent many thousands of dollars over the decades at local establishments and have never ridden an ATV or snowmobile. And when we spent those dollars, we were far from alone.

      • Heidi Plumley says:

        You are among the elite from what I have experienced over the years.

        • Boreas says:

          So you condemn hikers for supposedly not spending money, but if we spend a lot of $$ buying gear, provisions, lodging, and gasoline over the years we are labeled elitists? I guess I am a proud elitist then. I also guess that just makes you someone who hates hikers regardless of how much they contribute to the local economies.

          • Heidi Plumley says:

            Where do you and others buy your gear? On-line? If that’s the case, it doesn’t help THE LOCALE ECONOMY.

            • Boreas says:

              Over many years, virtually all of my camping, hiking, snowshoeing, and skiing gear was bought at the Mountaineer. This gear is not cheap and, as I said, I easily spent thousands of dollars at the Mountaineer alone over my lifetime. Most of my pre- and post-hike food at the Noonmark, Mike’s Pizza, or Desperado’s. Most of my gas purchased at Stewart’s in Keene or Sunoco in LP. Lodging was usually in Keene Valley and often payed to camp at local campgrounds. And as I said, all of my friends did the same. I no longer need to overnight in the area because I moved to the Park from CNY 20 years ago.

              So it is very unfair and unrealistic to paint hikers and backcountry skiers/snowshoers with this tired deadbeat brush. While many do purchase gear online nowadays, they can’t eat, overnight, or buy gas online. The Mountaineer still exists because of us. Many local shops, inns, campgrounds, and restaurants also depend on these outdoors enthusiasts and would likely fold if they chose to hike elsewhere. Yes, business owners may lament that more money isn’t spent at their establishment, but that usually boils down to how they do business, not lack of people willing to spend their money.

              • Heidi Plumley says:

                I am referring more to the High Peaks area in Newcomb, not Lake Placid.

                • Heidi Plumley says:

                  Also, I can’t wait till F&W opens thier property to 4 Wheelers this spring!! Done deal. The end of my fruitless opinions with you. Obviously you are one of those extreme tree huggers.

                • Boreas says:

                  The Noonmark and Mountaineer are in Keene Valley – a tiny village that embraces hikers. That is where I did most of my hiking, that is where I spent most of my money. There were also numerous lodging opportunities there.

                  I ate at some restaurants in Newcomb years ago – one on Harris Lake as I recall, but they weren’t always open so I had to continue on to Long Lake to eat on my way home. Lodging in Newcomb was even more spotty, so I tended to stay at Elk Lake Lodge if I needed to overnight. I avoided Lake Placid as much as possible, except when I was hiking nearby. People can only spend money if there are places to spend it.

    • Mike Vickers says:

      Do you seriously think hikers don’t support the Adirondack economy? Most of the hordes at the popular trails are there on multi-day vacations. Your sponge bath story is the exception, not the norm.

  7. Heidi Plumley says:

    No ignorance here sir. I spent 17 years of my life with my husband as caretakers for The Gooley Club in Newcomb, N.Y. The club members and we were the best stewards of The Essex Chain Lakes. We all know how that ended when The Nature Conservancy got involved. I have seen it all. The ignorance is on your end….

    • Heidi Plumley says:

      What about the disabled folks who want to enjoy the great outdoors? ATV crashes sent 101,200 Americans to the emergency room in 2016. Of those, nearly 27,000 were children under 16 years old. New York is among the top 10 states for ATV injuries.” Source: Kevin Chlad. This statistic is for the whole country, not The Adirondacks! And you are picking on women and children. Which to me seems like ignorance on the parents part. How about a little more education instead of criticism?

  8. Heidi Plumley says:

    I believe hikers should be charged a fee by The State Of NY to cover costs of rescues and trail damage. Simple as that. And, if they were required to attend an educational safety course it may lower the amount of rescues. Education is key.

  9. scott favro says:

    If it is a legal place to ride let him ride. Everybody enjoys the park in a different way.
    Take a walk up the hiking trails to any of the high peaks look at the damage they’re from people the trash in the woods the fecal matter it’s a disgrace.

  10. Charlie S says:

    “Over the past decade, state agencies have been loosening restrictions on ATV use.”

    “While proponents of recreational ATV access on public lands may tout potential economic benefits…..”

    > The second statement is the reason why the first statement!

  11. Charlie S says:

    Wayne Bickford says: They are all against atv use, until one of there unprepared hikers breaks a leg and the rangers pick them up in a atv. It appears they are all far left. ”

    Far left? I suppose the end of the world is near ‘because’ hey Wayne? Priorities! Yours differ evidently. We’ve been down this road before. Personally I have nothing against ATV use, if people wish to ride roughshod over the earth on a noisy contraption and pollute their ears in the process sobeit, but it should not be allowed in such magical places as the Adirondacks where many of us go to get away from such. ATV use is ‘not’ what that wonderful haven is all about. We live in a society that feeds on noise and clings to mechanical devices (as if there is nothing more)….nothing is going to change that anytime soon. Unfortunately, to some people, the Adirondacks are just another place to ‘go to’ to wreak more of their dysfunctional havoc. Why it is allowed, or approved, or even suggested is a clear sign of where our priorities are, which are not where they should be if we are to ever retain what little spirituality remains in this society. Spirituality being inner harmony, balance, peace! We are at war against nature which continues onward unabated! We are at war with each other! This is no coincidence.

  12. Todd says:

    Hmm could some of this be water erosion if people have no place to go ride we might as well shutdown all the ATV companies and lose a lot more jobs, and shutdown the incinerators and lose more jobs.
    Go Donald.,.

  13. Mike Ames says:

    I think there should be certain areas that are ok for ATV use. I live in the Adirondacks and a senior citizen and own a UTV and can’t get around like I used too

  14. brian says:

    This conversation seems to be taking a similar route as many of our current political discourse has sunk to. There is a full and detailed and foot-noted report that is the basis of this discussion and Kevin’s original piece. There are scientific and observation-based facts in there. That is not really up for debate to the thorough reader.
    So ATV’s are leaving a big scar on the landscape. That really is a fact. And hikers on some heavily used trails are doing the same thing as one commenter said. I think the environmental and outdoor groups are working with DEC to address solutions to the overcrowding of hiking trails. Good for them and I trust they will find a solid plan from within or learning from other forests around the country.
    But the ATV issue remains as a significant issue. Can we agree that there is a lot of acreage up here in the woods and that perhaps there are MANY people who don’t want to come across machines and their tracks in the woods. And we can also agree that there are many people who want to drive their machines in the woods. How about we save the public lands for peace and quiet and the ATV’s can drive elsewhere….seems like a fair plan. ATV’s are noisy and leave tracks so there is no way to use them on public lands with out being intrusive to others. Hikers will have to deal with new regulations to limit overcrowding and trail denigration. We all have to give a little here.
    Let’s respect one another and not categorize each other as hikers vs drivers. We are sharing the North Country together. There is plenty of room for each to have their goodies. Open minds and open dialogue will get us to the right answers.

  15. Jessica VanNostrand says:

    I have 3 ATV’s and don’t bother registering or insuring them because I can only operate them on my own property. The state is losing money big time! If we had designated trails, and children took a course as they do for snowmobiling it would bring an influx into the states economy. More gas purchases, trailer registrations, ATV registrations….it goes on an on. Why sell them here if there isn’t anywhere to use them? Seems silly!!

    • Boreas says:

      Jessica,

      I don’t blame you for not registering your ATVs. Luckily you have private land that you can use them on. I have never considered buying an ATV because I would have nowhere to ride one, not because I wouldn’t enjoy one. I understand why they are sold here, but industry marketing that implies their use in the public backcountry is a major deceit. Many people are still lamenting the legal use of snowmobiles in many areas of the Park, and their impact on the soils and wetlands historically have been much less than even limited ATV use.

      As you know, the two vehicles are as different as day and night. Snowmobiles have the ability to use trails with minimal soil damage because they typically are riding on snow or ice, not soft soil. A single ATV with mud tires on an even moderately wet trail can cause significant, long-lasting damage. The only way to build erosion-resistant ATV trails is to essentially build dry, gravel roads. The logical place to do this is on existing snowmobile trails, but the level of engineering to build or re-purpose these trails is an order of magnitude more complicated and expensive than building trails for snowmobiles alone. In the dry, rocky environments out west, this is not the case.

      The unfortunate fact is that the wet, thin soils in most places of the Park do not support heavy vehicles with aggressive traction tires. They do not even support heavy hiker usage. I think if the state could see a way of integrating ATVs into the Park, they would jump at the chance. But other than designating some existing, hard-surfaced backcountry roads for ATV use, it is difficult to see how they could ever build a trail system on state lands similar to the still controversial snowmobile trail system.

      • Jessica VanNostrand says:

        I understand what your saying, I also have 3 snowmobiles sitting in my yard that ARE registered and insured. We are also members of the Southern Adirondack Snowmobile club.

        Like I said limit the area. If people registered them the state could put that money into a trail system. Us ATV riders aren’t asking for the whole park, just a very small portion where we can enjoy our $15,000 investments.
        I live in the foothills of the park and have a cabin farther north. We enjoy the park as do many others. Now let the ATV’s have their enjoyment also.
        Nobody wants to see the park get ruined, but damn let us live a little.

  16. Adam says:

    Exactly. Learn from West Virginia and accommodate both groups. It can and should be done.

  17. Joe says:

    The laws are already established, enforce them. Do not create new or more restrictive laws. And do not even insinuate restricting ATV use on private land. More people are killed in automobiles, we should restrict automobiles in the Park….

  18. Krom says:

    Best way to reduce the load on rangers is to legalize atv use.

  19. Carl says:

    Notice how it’s always hikers that say they do not want ATVs but ATV riders don’t seem to be so selfish and say they don’t want hikers? As has been noted both modes of transport damage the landscape. So everyone shares and enjoys the land respectfully without putting it or no one goes on it. Hikers should not have more rights than those who appreciate motorized vehicles.

    • Ryan Finnigan says:

      First of all, your implication that hikers and atv riders cause the same amount if damage is a false equivalency. Second, hikers have no more rights than you do. We all have the right to access Forest Preserve. However, neither hikers nor you have the right to ride atvs in the Forest Preserve.

      • Carl says:

        Well the right to ride ATVs is what we are debating here. So to me the bottom line is access. Do hikers who are human beings just like ATV riders have priority access to this land over people who use ATV’s to travel over it? It sounds to me you are implying it does since you are saying neither party has the right to use ATVs. So we are left with hikers who have access to use the land. Interesting how you try to word it differently and yet miss the whole point of our posts.

        So now we are left with the damage done to the land. Now we are going to debate a matter of degrees. Okay it’s probably safe to say that the ATVs disturb the soil more than foot traffic. We are talking dirt here folks. I don’t think ATV riders specifically are going out there with axes and chainsaws and de-foresting the place, or bringing drums of oil with them and just dumping it there, or bringing barrels of household trash to dump it. Now that would be ruining the land.

        So if you folks are so worried about keeping the land undisturbed then no one goes on it. Otherwise it just sounds selfish.

      • M.P Heller says:

        It’s true. Hikers and ATV riders are false equivalents.

        Snowmobiles and ATVs are a much closer approximation. This is where any relevant argument may lie. It’s not as easy as ATV’s are the wheeled counterparts of snowmobiles, but the discussion does go down those lines for at least part of the way.

        • Boreas says:

          M.P. Heller,

          Agreed. Another point is hikers, hunters, anglers, climbers, and birders also do not need to stay on trails and are essentially allowed to bushwhack. Not so with bikes and allowed motorized vehicles that must stay on roads or trails designed for them. So that is yet another restriction on vehicles. As you say, motorized wheeled vehicles including motorcycles and eBikes as well as ATVs are verboten.

          NYS essentially opened up a can of worms by allowing snowmobiles decades ago. The “slippery slope” argument went unheeded to appease the burgeoning snowmobile market and to help drive the winter economies of local communities. Now NYS has to explain this land use dichotomy to owners of other motorized vehicles wishing to use state lands. So far, they have just said NO without any real legal or ethical explanation, creating this antipathy between various users of State lands, just like the eBike debate.

  20. Kathy says:

    Laws and regulations were created because some people don’t know to act or care about their impact on others. People hike and trash,riders go off trail and create damage(both snow and dirt). People trespass and destroy or loot private property. Some people have no common sense or respect nature. Some people drive fast and reckless or while under the influence. Pitting these groups against each other does nothing but create more angst. It should not be the hikers vs Atvs or skiers vs sleds. Individuals cause the damage and they don’t care about the rules or there would not be issues. More rules won’t affect them but more rangers or people that can enforce the current ones and deter the damages from all groups may.
    I do believe in separate areas for motorized and non motorized use since both have separate ways of enjoying the outdoors.

  21. SLMPDefender says:

    I’ll just leave this here…

    https://bit.ly/2V16Jy9

  22. David Thomas-Train says:

    Please try to back off from the name-calling and self-righteous posturing. Kevin and Chuck began this discussion in a polite and respectful manner, and then it degenerated. Polarization may feel good to one side or the other , but it is not constructive toward reaching mutual solutions.
    Neither side on this debate is completely clean nor completely dirty – the hikers nor the ATV users. Recognize and be open about your flaws as well as your passions , and let those, and the facts ,form the basis of communication.

  23. Jim S. says:

    The destructive power of those machines is incredible, they certainly do not belong anywhere on the public forest preserve. Stronger laws are wonderful, however pointless without enforcement and serious penalties.

  24. Vince says:

    This is absolutely a ridiculous article. The rangers had to give out a whole 49 tickets a year, this is a major problem? How about having places for the young and adults to have a place to enjoy nature with limited exposure to land. Ranger vehicles do more to damage the lands then atvs, everyone assumes the worst of people, this must change. Most federal parks use Atvs to keep trails open and cleared, its ridiculous to say that the people can not act responsibly because of a few tickets. These are public lands.

    • SLMP Defender says:

      496 tickets per year, not 49. They give out more tickets for illegal ATV use than any other infractions, but the judges throw many of the tickets out…There’s no deterrent for those who are giving ATV riders a bad name.

    • Ryan Finnigan says:

      The reason there arent more tickets being issued is not because there is a lack of illegal at riding on public lands, it is because rangers have to patrol 50,000 acres each on average and they spend far too much time on S&R instead of protecting the resource from illegal activities.

      • Heidi Plumley says:

        Coumo needs to get his head out of his A–. And look at priority’s for upstate NEW YORK.

        • Boreas says:

          Heidi,

          Don’t forget Basil Seggos, the DEC commissioner he appointed. If he keeps telling Cuomo the Ranger staffing is “adequate”, who is Cuomo to argue?

  25. Charlie S says:

    brian says: “How about we save the public lands for peace and quiet and the ATV’s can drive elsewhere…”

    The Carolina’s brian! They’re legal down there and I’ve sen what some of the woods look like that ways. Not very pretty. The industrial look. Thinned woods, carved rutted paths, etc…noise!

  26. Ryan Finnigan says:

    The reason there arent more tickets being issued is not because there is a lack of illegal at riding on public lands, it is because rangers have to patrol 50,000 acres each on average and they spend far too much time on S&R instead of protecting the resource from illegal activities.

  27. Charlie S says:

    Jessica VanNostrand says: “I live in the foothills of the park and have a cabin farther north. We enjoy the park as do many others. Now let the ATV’s have their enjoyment also.Nobody wants to see the park get ruined, but damn let us live a little.”

    Adam says: “Exactly. Learn from West Virginia and accommodate both groups. It can and should be done.”

    > Noisy contraptions considered living a little! Sure whatever you say Jessica. Some of us are less complicated than that! Accommodate both groups? Can and should be done? Why Adam? There are so few places to go to get away from noise! So so few! Why would you want to take away what few places remain? A psychoneurotic disorder maybe? When people aren’t right they do things that aren’t right
    By the responses here I can see that an uphill battle is what us less complicated folk face regards the preservation of what few noiseless havens remain here on earth. Those poor progeny of ours!

  28. Charlie S says:

    Vince says: “its ridiculous to say that the people can not act responsibly because of a few tickets. These are public lands.”

    Yes and look at what our public (society) is all about Vince! Sure, some of us are responsible, but wholly are we? I think not! I can cite some examples per chance you need to be educated.

  29. PaulR says:

    I had an illegal ATV rider justify his “sport” by telling me: “I spent $10,000 on my machine, plus over another over $50K for the truck and equipment to haul it”. A $50 fine to ride where I want is nothing for a weekend of riding, lost in the cost of gas.” The fines to these illegal operations is meaningless. My question is, why does an illegal motor activity not affect a driver’s license? Maybe that would change attitudes a bit.

    I own a cabin that my father built on Tug Hill on our ancestor’s land, unfortunately on an unmaintained seasonal road. We used to enjoy staying there and exploring family land and trails on adjacent public lands. Several years ago that became not longer possible due to excessive motor riding the road. Even in the middle of the night, it is either snowmobiles or ATVs roaring by, making a peaceful stay impossible. I ski in several times each winter to shovel snow off the roof. I feel take my life in my hands with snowmobiles zooming by me on the short section of snowy road I must travel on.

    I don’t get it. Long trains of such vehicles on dirt or snowy roads and trails. If not the leader, everyone behind is lost in not only the noise and smell, but completely covered in clouds of flying snow or dirt. What enjoyment is there in that? You can’t see or hear animals, cant see the landscape, can’t even breath clear air. Oh yeah, driving from one bar to the next, which is where the trails go, is a lot of fun. No wonder NY has the highest death rate.

    I look at such vehicles as tools for farmers, workers, and certainly for SAR. I know of SAR events where a lot of damage was done to trails in order to save lives. Fine with that, of course.

    By the way, I am far from the far left as you can get. Always have been and always will hold the most conservative values.

    • Carl says:

      I respect your interest to enjoy the animals, scenery, etc. You should be able to do that. Wouldn’t it be fair for you to respect someone else’s interests to enjoy the noise, flying clouds of snow etc.? Why does it have to conform to your interests only?

      • SLMPDefender says:

        I don’t think this is about conforming to particular interests. This is about preserving a resource that all NYS Taxpayers own. Many are painting this proposal as a leftist approach. I dare say this is as conservative as it gets! Taxpayers have paid good money for this land and it should be stewarded as such. You take care of a new car or house when you buy it. You don’t let either get trashed because you want to reap the benefits of the purchase for years to come.

        The science is clear. On a per-user basis, ATVs create far more impact than other recreational uses. Yes, hikers are tearing up trails and its a travesty… that needs to be fixed. ATVs do WAY more damage and it is WAY more expensive to fix.

        There are lots of activities that aren’t permitted on public lands, because they are not in keeping with the primary goal of resource protection. And that IS the primary goal (not recreation). What I believe is being proposed is the addition of recreational ATV riding to that list… I also notice the Adirondack Council is not proposing to stop riding on all state lands, just the Forest Preserve. That seems fair and balanced to me.

        People complain that there is no where to ride ATVs… work with private landowners and develop trail systems! Clubs need to step up and self-police, engage private landowners and build real riding systems that ATV riders and non-riders can be proud of.

        • Carl says:

          There’s a contradiction there. You speak of land that all of the New York taxpayers own but yet you want to exclude a group of taxpayers who want to enjoy it with their ATVs. If you are that concerned about having the land undisturbed then no one should be on it, even the less intrusive hikers. Building your house disturbed land, the roads that you travel on disturbed land, the car that you drive in pollutes the air. So following your logic should we stop all of that?

          The bottom line is we all want to enjoy the land differently. Unless ATVs are de-foresting and straight polluting with trash and chemicals then why can’t the no ATV people stop being so selfish. Let everyone enjoy the land in a way they see fit that does not totally destroy it. And don’t try saying that ATV riding totally destroys it. It redistributes the dirt more than hikers.

          • SLMPDefender says:

            That’s an oversimplification of my argument. I don’t oppose all impacts outright. My point is that the environmental impact of recreational ATV use to our public resources is disproportionate on a per-user basis. The impacts of ATV riding are just far too great to permit this activity for the general public. It’s just just the impacts either… it is MOSTLY the inability of our state to manage the activity. There are enough riders that don’t stay on the trails to argue that it’s just not worth the expense of management.

            I hear folks argue that they pay registration and don’t get anything in return. I register my car and can’t drive it anywhere I like. And the registration fee is a paltry $12. Snowmobilers pay as much as $90 per year for registration. New York is only getting about $2 million a year on ATV receipts… that’s nothing. That would build and maintain a few miles of trail at best, with the costs associated with successfully managing ATV impacts.

            I also recognize that I pay taxes to co-own public land with my fellow taxpayers, and I may not be permitted to do anything I wish.

            New York has tried to permit this activity before on multiple occasions, and shut it down every time because the impacts were too great.

            ATV riders need to start holding themselves and their community accountable. Hikers need to do better too, but the difference is that they ARE doing better, and there are WAY more of them.

          • Boreas says:

            “Let everyone enjoy the land in a way they see fit that does not totally destroy it. And don’t try saying that ATV riding totally destroys it. It redistributes the dirt more than hikers.”

            Carl,

            While this may be your opinion, it isn’t why the Forest Preserve was created. It was created for conservation, not motor vehicle use. No people or taxpayers are being excluded, just certain types of vehicles – especially vehicles that “redistribute” dirt (erosion). In many areas, ALL vehicles are excluded.

            • Carl says:

              Ok, so let there be parts of land where all vehicles are excluded and let there be parts of land where vehicles are included. But to say you want thousands of acres to enjoy the way you see fit, (no vehicles allowed) and leave none or a very minimal amount for others to enjoy the way they see fit (ATV riding, snowmobiles, hunting) is unfair and selfish. The impact to the land is not so significant that it is becoming deforested or ground contaminated with pollutants that people should be deprived of enjoying their hobbies such as any of the aforementioned. It’s people’s hobbies and enjoyment we are talking about. You say we are not excluding the people but excluding the machines. The machines are an extension of the people and their enjoyment. I’m not sure if you don’t recognize that or just don’t respect it.

              • Boreas says:

                Carl,

                It has nothing to do with fairness or selfishness – it is simply the law – and has been since the inception of this Park and many others. If you want to change the existing law, you need to talk to your legislators, not people in a forum. That is how snowmobilers got it done – lobbying, lobbying, lobbying. But I can just about guarantee it will be an even more difficult battle for ATVs – but not impossible – especially with the current administration.

                • Carl says:

                  I don’t know the laws there, didn’t know it was against the law, and am not on here to debate the law. I am on here to provide what is a logical counter to the “never any of those land destroying ATV’s allowed” mentality. That logic is exaggerated and selfish. Why not just take that logic to the next level if you believe in it so much. Don’t own a car, don’t clear any land to build a home and live in a treehouse, use your feet as your only mode of transportation, and be a hunter gatherer. Don’t just pick and choose how people should preserve the environment as it caters to your selfish desires.

                  • SLMPDefender says:

                    But this is where we cannot be painted as unreasonable, because we WOULDN’T take it as far as you suggest we would. Some recreational activities are acceptable on publicly owned resources, and some are not. There are great places being developed on private lands for ATV riding and that seems entirely appropriate, since the owner should do what they want with their land.

                    It’s just like guns, right? They have really negative consequences in the wrong hands. The gun doesn’t kill someone, the person using the gun does. ATVs don’t do the damage, but the rider on the ATV does the damage. We can’t get a handle on those using ATVs improperly on public lands, so the state already isn’t allowing it. What needs to happen is that we need to finish the job and protect our public forests with real penalties!

                  • Boreas says:

                    Carl,

                    The article is titled “Protect State Lands From ATV Misuse”, so yes, we are talking about state lands and state laws. No one here is saying you can’t ride them on private property or on lands where they are allowed. Many of us feel it is selfish to want to ride ATVs just anywhere. It is not selfish to want to preserve state lands – or any lands for that matter. Preservation is how state lands came to be public lands. The outcry against ATVs is based on a long history of the damage they have created – in the East especially. That isn’t the fault of people wanting to conserve lands for future generations.

        • TRAILOGRE says:

          And go to Tug Hill if you want to ride
          thats already lost …..

          I grew up there and have no interest in ever going back
          because of the ATVs

          My old favorite trout fishing spot on Tug Hill is now an ATV slough hole………..

          and as for trail impact ….alot of the hiking trails have been in use for almost a hundred years
          so the damage to the trails has happened over a century or so

          ATv s would have the trails looking like that in a few weeks

          Keep the forest Preserve MOTORLESS!!!!!!!!!

          • PaulR says:

            What a shame. Tug Hill was at one time a jewel in its own right, “the Lesser Wilderness” as it was known. But I do agree that now it is lost and is nothing like it was in better times when my grandparents lived and worked the land with their families, built small communities, and truly cared for the natural land. The land that provided my father and me with our shared outdoor experiences. Where he taught me to fish, hunt, and navigate to favored quiet places only we knew. Can’t do that anymore without stepping into muddy wheel ruts.

            • Kathy says:

              Agreed and there are designated ATV and snowmobile trails in Lewis county but some riders of both still cross over to posted land with the machines to go off trail and remove barriers and tear up the woods not suitable for machines,create large sinkholes of standing water on that trout fishing path to the water and leave litter behind including their ruined tires.
              It’s those riders that give the bad reps to the legal and conscientious riders.

  30. Tom Payne says:

    New York State continues to slide farther and farther behind. Many years ago some forward thinking individuals at the NYSDEC looked at this issue and came up with a plan for ATV riding areas in NYS. They looked at how other states ran their programs and came up with a plan for ATV riding areas. The first area they looked at creating was in the Treaty Line state forest in Delaware county. The Treaty Line forest is a working forest that NYS is logging. The area has harden gravel roads. The plan was to create ATV trails within the area. It was a good start. Then the Environmental Lobby put the big Albany arm twist on and NYS got weak and abandoned the project. My suggestion to the ATV/UTV riding group is to file suit against NYS. NYS has stolen your registration monies for years and it has gone into the general fund and done nothing for you. It’s time to rattle the halls in Albany.

  31. Todd Eastman says:

    But I want to go mud bogging where ever I want…

    … what about me!

  32. rc says:

    Treat it like you own it and you care about it.

    From somebody who didn’t post property until the land was abused by ATVrs

  33. Charlie S says:

    “why can’t the no ATV people stop being so selfish. Let everyone enjoy the land in a way they see fit that does not totally destroy it.”

    “to say you want thousands of acres to enjoy the way you see fit, (no vehicles allowed) and leave none or a very minimal amount for others to enjoy the way they see fit (ATV riding, snowmobiles, hunting) is unfair and selfish.”

    > There’s just no getting through to some people no matter how hard you try. They’ll just never ‘get it!’ Talk about getting stuck in a rut…pun intended!

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