Environmental Coalition Opposes ATV Bill

BROAD COALITION CALLS ON ASSEMBLY SPEAKER SILVER TO HALT BILL THAT WOULD O.K. MUCH LARGER ALL-TERRAIN VEHICLES Coalition Warns of Damage to Water, Trails, Wildlife, Air Quality, Tourism, Public Safety

A coalition of environmental organizations and police officers today called on NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to stop a bill that would allow the owners of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) larger than 1,000 pounds to register them for use on public trails and roads.

Assembly bill A.4971-a would lift the ban on registration of off-road vehicles weighing more than 1,000 pounds for on-road and trail use wherever other ATVs are allowed.  The bill would increase the weight of eligible vehicles by 50 percent to 1,500 pounds.

The weight limit increase would also allow — for the first time — registration of multi-passenger utility-task vehicles (UTVs) that also carry cargo.  When fully loaded, UTVs can weigh as much as a compact car.  However, they have off-road tires and they lack safety equipment of automobiles.

“Off-road vehicles like ATVs and UTVs are suitable tools for farming, logging and transportation across private lands, but they don’t belong on public recreation trails where people are hiking or biking,” said William C. Janeway, Executive Director of the Adirondack Council.  “They are too fast, too big and too destructive.”

“Increasing the allowable size of ATVs by 50 percent could increase the damage done to public lands by more than 100 percent,” said Richard Schrader, NY Legislative Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.  “Larger, heavier vehicles will cause more erosion, water pollution and more air pollution than smaller ATVs.”

“The state already suffers from the severe problem of ATV riders trespassing and damaging public and private lands,” said Neil F. Woodworth, Executive Director of the Adirondack Mountain Club. “With an out-of-control situation presented by the current misuse of smaller ATVs, the addition of larger, more powerful UTVs will only compound the problem. We need stronger law enforcement measures before we allow UTVs to be registered.”

Coalition members sent a letter to Speaker Silver today stating that “from the Long Island Pine Barrens to the Wilderness areas of the Adirondack Park, ATVs dig deep ruts and cause widespread erosion on public lands.  Erosion leads to water pollution, as rains and runoff wash soils into nearby lakes and rivers.”

Signing the letter to Speaker Silver were:Adirondack Council, Adirondack Mountain Club, Adirondack Wild/Friends of the Forest Preserve, Champlain Area Trails, Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment, Clean and Healthy NY, Environmental Advocates, Natural Resources Defense Council, New York League of Conservation Voters, Police Benevolent Association of New York State, Protect the Adirondacks!, and Sierra Club/Atlantic Chapter.

“Noise and air pollution from ATVs and UTVs prevents the quiet enjoyment of public and protected lands by non-motorized users and all those who seek peace and solitude in nature,” said David Gibson of Adirondack Wild. “This bill, if passed, sends a negative message to tens of thousands of walkers, bikers, hikers and visitors who come to rural New York and the Adirondacks to find something different from their heavily trafficked home areas, and who spend a lot of money in rural communities to do so.  Noise also disrupts wildlife, while collisions with these even heavier machines may kill wildlife, which would only add to the disaffection felt by visitors and tourists caused by this legislation.”

“New York’s pristine public lands have already suffered from illegal and destructive ATV use,” said Brian Smith, Associate Executive Director at Citizens Campaign for the Environment.  “Allowing larger ATV’s will only lead to larger problems.”

“When ATV users illegally ride through streams and wetlands, they destroy fisheries and habitat for all aquatic life,” said Janeway of the Adirondack Council.

State budget cuts and an expanding scope of work has left the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and other law enforcement officials unable to adequately address illegal ATV use on public lands, or prevent trespass on private lands, the coalition noted.

Unlawful riders frequently are able to evade government-erected barriers designed to prevent such trespass. Many ATVs are equipped with winches that can remove boulders and pull down gates, and in other cases, riders can easily maneuver around these barriers, making all current enforcement efforts difficult.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission notes that New York is among the 10 states with the highest number of ATV-crash fatalities 1982 through 2008 (359).  http://1.usa.gov/1kHqCkf

The groups reminded Speaker Silver that New York has taken steps in the past to protect the public health and safety from motorized vehicles.

Section 114-d of the Vehicle and Traffic Law (chapter 365 of 2008) defines where electric personal assistive mobility devices (commonly known as the “Segway”) can and cannot be used.  Because of concerns Speaker Silver and others expressed, the law prohibits Segways from being used anywhere in New York City.

“We believe that just as the Segway was deemed incompatible for use in New York City, the state should not expand the definition of ATVs to allow even heavier versions access to recreational areas of the state,” said Peter Iwanowicz, Executive Director of Environmental Advocates.  “Vehicles that could weigh as much as a compact car are not compatible with recreational areas.”

The coalition also sent the speaker links to photo archives depicting damage to public lands from ATVs, including http://bit.ly/1hz2Vfm and http://bit.ly/1n1U4jI showing damage to the Adirondack Park.

The coalition said it agrees with the state’s policy allowing people with disabilities to use ATVs (as currently defined) on Adirondack Forest Preserve roads and other routes statewide that are designated by the state’s citizens’ advisory panel on public access.

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