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Great Lakes Article:

Forest Service grapples with ATV rules
By Rick LaFrombois
Stevens Point Journal

As the U.S. Forest Service rewrites its rules to catch up with the explosion of all-terrain vehicles in Wisconsin, riders are already taking matters into their own hands.

The Nicolet National Forest in northeast Wisconsin has no ATV trails within its 658,000 acres, but that hasn't stopped everyone.

To weigh in

The U.S. Forest Service extended its public comment period about all-terrain vehicle use in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forests to Aug. 11. To comment:

Mail to Chequamegon-Nicolet Forest Plan Revision DEIS, P.O. Box 221090, Salt Lake City UT 84122-1090.

Fax to 1-801-517-1014.

E-mail to

"You have people riding off-road, and they have no awareness of the impact on the area that they're riding through," said Deb Kidd, a Forest Service public affairs officer out of Rhinelander.

She doesn't blame only the riders.

"We recognize that motorized recreation is an appropriate use in the forest, but it's about managing it and having it fit in with this complex balance that must be achieved," Kidd said.

In other words, ATVs shouldn't interfere with other recreational uses, such as the silent sports of hiking, mountain-biking and canoeing, or with natural resources, she said.

To that end, the Forest Service in Wisconsin is revising both its forest plans - for Nicolet and Chequamegon national forests. The Chequamegon has 850,000 acres in northwest Wisconsin extending up to Lake Superior.

Both forests were established in 1933 and are now jointly managed as the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forests. But unlike Nicolet, Chequamegon has 284 miles of ATV trails.

Citing those differences and the damage and conflicts that ATVs can cause, Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth said the agency must develop a more coherent plan regarding ATV use.

Proposals range from allowing 284 to 394 miles of ATV trails in Chequamegon and zero to 180 miles in Nicolet.

The Forest Service still is taking public comment on the issue of ATV use in the forests.

Frank Trimmel, a Wisconsin ATV Association regional coordinator, said the state has between 3,000 and 4,000 miles of ATV trails, compared with about 25,000 miles of snowmobile trails. He predicts the number of registered ATVs in Wisconsin, currently fewer than 200,000, could soon outnumber the 227,000 registered snowmobiles in 2002.

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