Common ground on ORVs

Common ground on ORVs

Conservation Northwest / Feb 28, 2013 / ATVs

We need to end the epidemic of illegal and harmful use of Off-Road Vehicles. Unethical ORV riders have created thousands of illegal and damaging trail miles on Washington state lands and cost ranchers and tree farmers millions in property damage. They can be a noisy disruption of a quiet backcountry for those who hike or hunt.

Gathering momentum in Olympia is a bill, HB 1632/SB 5513, that would reduce abuse while expanding legitimate ORV recreation opportunities.

The bill will require visible license plates on all ORVs and make citations for trespass and other abuse easier to issue and more costly. Anyone who witnesses illegal ORV use will be empowered to provide evidence (like photos), to authorities who then can prosecute without an officer having been present.

These are exactly the tools that experts say will discourage abuse. This video, below, Voices for Visible IDs, drives the case home.

The bill also gives ORV users something they want: The privilege to ride on designated state and county roads. (The bill has no effect on the policies of any public land jurisdiction.) Because of this, the bill is backed by broad stakeholders including conservationists, sportsmen, rural communities, timberland owners, the Farm Bureau, and ORV recreationists (at least those who aren’t defending illegal riding).

Last session, our unique coalition raised eyebrows in Olympia and narrowly missed passing a bill. We took advantage of the off season to negotiate these clear principles, which allowed improvement in this year’s bill and expanded its broad bipartisan support:

  • Increase the opportunities for safe, legal, and environmentally acceptable motorized recreation.
  • Decrease the amount of unlawful and/or environmentally harmful motorized recreation.
  • Generate funds for use in development, signage, education and monitoring/enforcement of motorized recreation opportunity.
  • Advance a culture of self-policing and abuse intolerance among motorized recreationists, similar to the anti-poaching ethic among hunters.
  • Be neutral with regard to access policy on public lands.
  • Stimulate rural economies through increased recreational activity and opportunities throughout the state.

It’s not in my nature to recreate on a gas engine, but I needn’t judge others for it. If people enjoy riding ORVs, and they do so without harming the woods, waters, and wildlife, good on them!

Yes, they burn fossil fuel. But did you know that an ORV gets about the same mileage as does my Prius? So someone out riding their quad for a day burns less gas than would a Bellingham hipster driving a Subaru to a Cascades day hike.

HB 1632/SB 5513 would be good policy that finds common ground for protecting our environment while expanding recreation. The bills sponsors, including Senator Christine Rolfes and Rep. Matt Shea, deserve appreciation.

Please help us get it passed: Contact your legislator today.
  • Irresponsible riding of OHVs causes millions of dollars of damage to private property in Washington annually, and irreparable damage to our wild and sensitive areas (such as in this recent TV coverage and pamphlet)
  • OHV abuse harms the experience of hikers, birders, hunters, fishers and others, not to mention wildlife;
  • The problem is out of control. According to the DNR, on Washington state lands there are 3-6,000 miles of illegally built and damaging OHV trails, several fold the amount (1,000 miles) of designated OHV trail
  • This bill would help by making it easier to identify and penalize illegal riders, addressing the problem through better enforcement.