Connecticut River Watershed Council concerned about Proposed VT ATV Rule

June 16, 2009 — The Connecticut River Watershed Council (CRWC), a nonprofit conservation group, this week submitted comments on the rule proposed to open state lands to ATV use, citing both administrative and environmental concerns.

“CRWC has an overarching concern that the fast pace of this rule making is in conflict with a deliberative and inclusive public process Vermonters value,” said Chelsea Gwyther, Executive Director of CRWC, one of the oldest watershed groups in the nation.

David Deen, River Steward for CRWC is concerned about the damage ATVs will do to the waters of Vermont if their use is not conducted properly and on suitably monitored and maintained trails. “ATVs create ruts that can become rills and ultimately washouts that discharge sediment into rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands,” Deen said.

Even if the trails are designed properly problems occur if inadequate observation and management results in a lack of proper and timely maintenance, especially on trails that are left uninspected by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR). According to Deen, VT ANR is already understaffed and losing people and he wonders “how will they do any inspections, let alone the number of inspections that will be necessary?”

CRWC advocates that any trails that are allowed must be limited in width, linear in design with no parking, loading or unloading areas and minimum in scale so the trail takes the shortest environmentally responsible route between the two private parcels. The current language being proposed only requires an evaluation of the impact of ATVs on the environment. There is no presumed use of that evaluation. Both Deen and Gwyther feel that there should be a finding on the part of the Secretary that there will be no undue adverse environmental impact.

According to Deen the rule seems tipped toward ATV users, “Private individuals and organizations other than the ATV Association are not given any rights to petition the Secretary to revoke an ATV trail designation. If accountability is the watch word, all our citizens should be allowed to join the discussion about responsible use of our state lands.”

Contact person: David Deen 802-869-2792 email: ddeen@ctriver.org

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