Forestry chief urges new ATV policy
Ownership boom prompts need for rules
By Lee Bergquist
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The chief of the U.S. Forest Service said Wednesday the
agency should have a policy governing the use of all-terrain
vehicles in national forests.
Dale Bosworth said the explosion in non-highway motorized
vehicles will force the Forest Service to develop a more
coherent plan to regulate the machines on 191 million
acres of forests and grasslands the agency oversees.
In a meeting with Journal Sentinel reporters and editors,
Bosworth said no single restriction could work because
of differences in the nation's forests. Those in northern
Wisconsin are starkly different from the tropical forests
and wetlands of Florida, for example.
But he said the growing use of ATVs, the damage they
can cause and the conflicts they engender will force the
agency to find ways to oversee use of the vehicles.
ATVs have a place in the forests, but if he had his druthers,
Bosworth said, he would restrict all motorized vehicles
to designated roads and trails.
An example of the different approaches to regulating
ATVs on forest service land can be found in Wisconsin.
ATVs are essentially not permitted in the Nicolet National
Forest in northeastern Wisconsin. But in the Chequamegon
National Forest to the west, ATVs can be used on roads,
trails and even off trails, said Michael T. Miller, planning
officer for the two forests.
A new management plan for the combined Nicolet-Chequamegon
would increase the number of ATV trails in both forests,
but ATV enthusiasts in Wisconsin are concerned that the
plan would bar the use of their vehicles on thousands
of miles of forest roads and logging trails.
Randy Harden, president of the Wisconsin ATV Association,
said his group is not opposed to a federal policy, if
it allowed vehicles to be used.
"We understand that ATVs are a contentious issue,"
he said. "It's about a 50-50 split whether you like
them or you don't."
That's why Harden said his group supports mandatory education
of ATV riders and vigorous law enforcement and wants to
make sure trails are designed to minimize the impact on
ATV use is booming in Wisconsin.
The number of licensed ATVs has grown from slightly more
than 97,000 in 1999 to 182,000 in 2002, according to the
state Department of Natural Resources.
A few more winters of little or no snow might allow ATVs
to leapfrog snowmobiling in popularity, Harden predicted.
There were about 227,000 registered snowmobiles in winter
2002, the DNR said.