Expanded ATV use only disrupts and pollutes

Even the DNR does not appear to be considering ATVs' detrimental effects.

Chalk up another loss for the environment and Minnesota’s protected ecosystems.

The Minnesota Senate Environment and National Resources Committee recently passed a bill expanding all-terrain vehicle use to peat bogs in the winter and for hunting and trapping. In the House, Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, is proposing even broader ATV access, claiming they do not destroy wetlands. This misguided notion could lead to the destruction of acres of important wildlife habitat, as well as added noise pollution to now-serene areas.

The Department of Natural Resources is also considering allowing ATV use on the North Shore State Trail, which crosses hundreds of wetlands and trout streams, among other trails where ATVs are currently prohibited. Unfortunately, even the DNR appears to not be considering the numerous ecological effects expanded ATV use will have.

The Bureau of Land Management identified off-road vehicles as adversely affecting air quality, soil, vegetation, wildlife, visual quality, cultural resources, American Indian values, wilderness, recreation and livestock grazing. ATVs damage plant roots and compact soil, reducing biomass and biodiversity. ATVs also lead to surface soil moisture loss and erosion, especially on slopes. This year, the National Parks Conservation Association added Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve to its 10 “most endangered” parks list because of land “scarred from ATV use and potential road-building.”

ATV use disrupts other, nonmotorized forms of recreation as well. “Quiet” trail use – walking, biking and horseback riding – eliminates noise and fuel pollution, resulting in a fraction of the soil compaction ATVs cause.

Minnesotans are lucky to have a lot of relatively unspoiled wilderness to enjoy, and the state would be better served if its Legislature would promote quiet recreation rather than detrimental ATV use.