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ATV Brochure Available

By Phil Cooper, Panhandle Region Conservation Educator Everybody has an opinion about all terrain vehicles (ATVs). Those opinions are strongly held. People either love them, or hate them. The increasing use of ATVs for hunting has resulted in growing conflicts between those who have and use ATVs and those who do not. The Idaho ATV Association and several resource management agencies in Idaho recently got together and developed some guidelines for hunters who use ATVs. The effort is an attempt to minimize impacts upon the land, and reduce conflicts that are arising among those who use public lands. The resource management agencies involved include the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, the Idaho Department of Lands, the Bureau of Land Management, and the US Forest Service. The group just released a publication entitled "Hunting and ATVs: Responsibility or Regulation". The publication is available free from any of these organizations. Since 1995, the number of ATVs in Idaho has increased three fold. There are now over 33,000 ATVs registered in the state. Hikers, horse enthusiasts, campers, rock climbers, anglers, and mountain bikers are also growing in number and all recreational users of public lands are being asked to minimize their impacts on the land. When it comes to ATVs, however, misuse by only a few can cause a tremendous amount of damage to the land and to relations among those using the land. Operating ATVs in closed areas, operating without exhaust and emission controls, driving through wetlands or during wet seasonsÑeach contribute to strained relations and degraded habitats. Eight years ago in southeastern Idaho, I had a 1000-pound bull moose on the ground that I was packing out in pieces by myself. After considerable work, I remembered a friend who lived close by had offered his help if I shot a moose on my once-in-a-lifetime permit. Recognizing the task that lay ahead, I went to his house for help. He loaded up his ATV which we were then able to drive to within about 100 yards of the moose on one of the game trails common in sagebrush country. It still took us all day to get the moose out, but when we were done the only visible impacts we had made were tire tracks on the game trail that surely washed away with the next rain. We gave special attention to minimizing our impacts while we used the ATV as a tool, and you could tell we had only been there for a short time. On this particular day, I thought these new ATV things were great. A few years later, I was in the St. Joe hiking into a spot where Conservation Officer Jerry Hugo told me lots of elk hang out. He said I would have the whole area to myself. After hiking in a few miles with my bow, I heard the distant drone of gasoline engines. In a matter of minutes, I was surrounded by ATVs on a road closed to all motor vehicle use. The camo-clad bowhunters stopped their ATVs long enough to ask if I had seen any elk. I replied that I hadn't yet, but until a few minutes ago I thought I would. Needless to say, I hated ATVs on this particular day. Why the difference in my opinion on ATVs from one event to the other? In the first, I was the one benefitting from the use of the ATV. In the second, my experience and opportunity were reduced due to the use of an ATV by others. That is where the new publication comes in. It is full of tips on how to use an ATV to enhance your experience while not negatively impacting the experiences of others. Another valuable section of the publication includes laws regarding ATV use. Finally, there is information regarding what actions resource agencies may need to take when irresponsible ATV use causes unacceptable impacts. If you are an ATV user, stop by and pick up a copy of "Hunting and ATVs". The information and suggestions will help you reduce your impacts upon the land and upon others who use our public lands.