NW Forests Torn by ATVs This Spring

By Steve Jackson

Forest officials say irresponsible off-road vehicle use this past Memorial Day weekend caused damage to area forests.
 
It’s an increasing problem in the National Forests, every year , there are more folks recreating with All Terrain Vehicles and four wheel drives. While most people are conscious of their impact on the landscape, and stay on marked trails, there are some who willfully damage the environment.
 
ATV riders tore through wet meadows in Washington's Colville National Forest over Memorial Weekend. Photo Courtesy: Forest Service - Colville National ForestThis past holiday weekend, there were reports of damage in both the Idaho Panhandle and the Colville National forests.

Jay Kirchner of the Panhandle says ATV riders damaged some sensitive meadow areas. “What they’re doing is destroying a meadow, which is otherwise elk habitat, or destroying a stream which has impact on fisheries , sadly the things that attract people to come out in the woods, the hunting and fishing aspects as well," said Kirchner.
 
Kirchner says many people may not realize the damage they are causing, so officials try to educate offenders if they can, but there are instances of folks causing willful damage, in which case officials can issue a citation:

Kirchner: “We do have people that will remove barriers or drive over humps, or winch themselves into an area so they can mudbog, and that’s clearly going to be a ticket.”

Kirchner says the potential penalty is pretty severe, with a maximum of a 5000 dollar fine and up to five years in jail. 8 people were cited over the holiday weekend.

Another recreation group is urging the public to join in combating the destruction. Land Tawney is with the group Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, who says his organization is offering cash rewards as an incentive. He says they're offering a thousand dollar reward for "information leading to arrest and conviction for folks doing things illegally.”


Photo: ATV riders tore through wet meadows in Washington's Colville National Forest over Memorial Weekend. Photo Courtesy: Forest Service - Colville National Forest

Tawney says his group has already made two such one thousand dollar rewards, one in Montana, the other in Idaho.

Both Tawney and Kirschner of the Panhandle National forest urge people who witness such events to record as much information as they can, including location and description of vehicles and suspects. They say digital photographs can be invaluable evidence. 

They say you can contact either organization by doing a Google search online for Idaho Panhandle National forest, or the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers group.


Colville National Forest article: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/colville/news-events/?cid=STELPRDB5423257
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