Smokey's new ad makes ATV users angry

Rocky Barker writes how the Blue Ribbon Coalition (an off-road vehicle lobby) doesn’t like the new Smokey the Bear ad that says ATVs can start wildfires. This is true. Such fires happen all the time.

So do dirt bikes and full-sized vehicles that travel over dry grass. I started one once with my truck is days when the catalytic converters got really hot. Fortunately, it only burned an acre and one conifer.

Smokey’s new ad makes ATV users angry. By Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman.



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  1. john weis Avatar
    john weis

    Anybody who has watched the Sopranos knows that hot exhaust pipes can cause fires. Duh….

  2. Rick Hammel Avatar
    Rick Hammel

    All off-road motorcycles and ATV sold for non-racing purposes are required to have “US Forest Service Approved” spark arresters. As the vehicles come off the showroom floor, they are presumed to work as designed; to arrest any sparks emitted from the tailpipe of the vehicle.

    These devices come at a cost to performance. By taking them off, there is a noticable gain in performance. Also the owner needs to do maintenance on the units not tampered with. The silencer and the spark arrester need to be checked every 1000 miles or so. But how many owners do it? Not many is my guess.

    Blue Ribbon coalition would be doing a great public service to get their members to start doing routine maintenance on the vehicles rather than complaining about ads that are targeted at a fixable problem.


  3. Hot Springs Guy Avatar

    I like ATVs as much as anyone else, but I’ve witnessed (first hand) too many ORVers (Off Road Vehicles) driving on non-motorized trails and off-trail, wreaking all kinds of havoc… not too mention the backcountry campsites full of trash. It’s so bad that I would prefer to see ORVs outlawed in National Forests, Wilderness and other sensitive areas until better control measures can be put in place. There’s so little land left… it needs to be protected.

  4. Mike Avatar

    When I was in the Gallatin National Forest last summer, I was camped next to a group who had a couple ATV’s. They would park them over the long tall dry grass in the meadow next to the camp and start them right there. I had to explain a couple times to the kids to wheel the machines backwards so they don’t catch the vegetation on fire. This was after three weeks of 100 degree temps, no joke.

    During another incident, people two camps down from me had a large campfire during a very strict ban in the same time period. I had to call the sherrif and they sent someone down to put out the fire. Not sure if they were ticketed. Some really outrageous behaviour in very serious drought conditions. I had never seen this area so dry.

    I have no problem with people using ATV’s on forest roads or their own private land(many of these vehicles get better gas milage than your average car or truck). The problem is when they head off trail and don’t use common sense (like starting the thing up when vegetation is sticking up through the steering column during the worst drought in recent memory).

  5. Wolfy Avatar

    Smokey doesn’t really care to much for the Brown Ribbon Coal-ignition either…Don’t mess with the bear!

  6. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    ATV’s are already outlawed in Wilderness areas, so if you see someone using one in an wilderness area, make sure and take notes and report it to law enforcement. As far as National Forests, as long as they are used properly, I have no problem with them, in fact I own one myself, but if you see people doing wrong, take notes and report it, used properly ATV’s are no more damaging than other forms of recreation, it is that 2% factor that creates most of the problems for everybody else. I know that most of the guys/gals I ride with, keep note pads with them and do report them..that is part of our local clubs rules, you break the rules you get reported…

  7. Josh Avatar

    The “few bad apples” argument that only a small number of off-road vehicle users cause the majority of problems if false.

    A 2006 Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks survey of registered off-road vehicle users revealed that 23% ride illegally off-route, and 28% illegally ride through wetlands and riparian areas. A 2001 Colorado survey of off-road vehicle users showed that two-thirds of adult riders go off trail, even though they know doing so violates federal law. A 2000 Utah survey of off-road vehicle enthusiasts concluded that 49% of ATV owners prefer to ride off trail, with 39% doing so on their most recent ride.

    These studies, all commissioned either by the government or pro-ORV organizations, show that the “few bad apples” myth is false. While the majority of riders to ride responsibly, a very large chunk – between 20 and 50 percent – knowingly violate federal law and ride their ORVs off-route.

    For more information, go to:

  8. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Okay Josh,

    What do you propose, confiscate all of the ORV’s? I was posting from my own personal experience, our groups don’t allow that crap to happen, we ONLY ride designated routes! If people are riding off designated routes then something needs to be done, just as in any other industry that allows illegal actions…

    But in looking at the studies you have posted, I can only say, it does seem to be a slanted study, based on my experience as a wildlife biologist who has taken studies in such a manner to skew results to support a position(I no longer work for a government agency, because I refused to skew results to support certain positions!)

    Of course, I would be interested to see a study done on the licensed drivers in America and asked them if they ever speed? hence breaking the law and knowing it!

    On the whole, I still maintain, it is a small percentage of people who create the problems for the majority, just as it is with hunting, killing wolves and a whole host of other topics, I can find a study to support just about any side of an issue I happen to back up!

  9. Josh Avatar

    Save Bears,

    Of course I’m not advocating confiscating all ORVs. I’m not attacking responsible ORV use. All I’m saying is that the myth that it is only “2%” of ORVers that cause natural resource damage is incorrect. The above studies show that between 20 and 50 percent or ORVers, depending on the location, ride in illegal places. One study was by Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks – by no means a liberal organization. Another was commissioned by a Colorado ORV organization. The third was by Utah Division of Parks and Recreation. All of these studies were based on surveys, primarily of registered off-road vehicle owners. It is hard to skew survey results – people respond, and those responses speak for themselves.

    These data show that enforcement is a problem. The respective agencies that administer public lands need to spend more time and effort patrolling these places, the punishments for such offenses needs to be highly visible and far steeper than they currently are, and the ORV community needs to start taking on responsibility by speaking out and trying to prevent the abuse by the irresponsible riders out there. But to pretend that these irresponsible riders don’t exist, or are just a tiny percent of ORVers, is not a pragmatic thing to do.

  10. Mike Avatar

    ++++ 2006 Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks survey of registered off-road vehicle users revealed that 23% ride illegally off-route, and 28% illegally ride through wetlands and riparian areas.++++

    About the same percent of people who still support Bush. Not surprising.

  11. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    What I was trying to get across, I am a member of two separate ORV groups here in Montana, I could survey one and get a 98% positive number for those who ride illegally, and I could survey the other one and get a result of 98% that ride legally…survey’s can be skewed so bad that they are virtually rendered useless..

  12. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Well, I think the important point is that ATVs and other vehicles do start fires, and it is good to tell people that fact because it is not known by a lot of riders.

    If an interest group for whatever vehicle doesn’t like it, too bad. They would help the public and do themselves a service if they said “yes, be very careful where you ride.”

  13. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    The responsible riders do say “Be Careful when you ride” I just get tired of trying close certain groups off of the land that we all pay for, because it does not jive with what others “think” should be right, this is a problem that can be solved, but not with the rift that currently exists between the current user groups, one pushes the other retaliates, but as I said as a biologist, I understand how all studies can be skewed, studies are done to represent that user group..!

  14. Eve Avatar

    In Montana, ORV users are NOT allowed off designated roads and trails on Forest Service Lands as well as the corresponding BLM lands. This is the rule for all public lands in Region 1, which encompasses all of Montana, part of Northern Idaho and the Dakotas. Cross country travel has been prohibited since 2005.

    This is a difficult rule to enforce because of the low numbers of law-enforcement personnel, but I’ve called in some violations that have resulted in at least an unpleasant situation to the offender, and I feel free to either harass, or at least tell people they are breaking the rules if I think they just don’t understand. Also, in this region, ORV’s must be licensed to use trails on public lands, which simplifies reports of violations. Anyone traveling on public lands without a plate on their ATV or motorcycle is breaking the law.

    In the Italian Peaks Wilderness Study area of Idaho and Montana, 5 motorheads from Idaho were arrested and fined last summer, which shows that at least a little enforcement is taking place. I’ve photographed them wreaking havoc there before, so I was happy to see it.

    I don’t know the rules on travel restrictions on Forest Service Lands and BLM in other western states, but I urge you to familiarize yourself with the rules on the BLM and Forest Lands you spend time on. It might be that there has been a rule change that might affect cross-country travel as rules can vary by forest or district, and you may find you have a perfect right to report or hassle ORV users that are driving cross country.

  15. mikarooni Avatar

    Eve, some of these fancier ATVs can cost $8,000 to $10,000 each and some of these trog families have four or five of them. Then, the associated gear and trailer can run up towards another $10,000. These creeps then need a truck big enough to pull the trailer and that can run an extra $10,000 or more over the vehicle they might ordinarily need and it might drink an extra thousand dollars a year in gas over the vehicle they might ordinarily need, all to use their ATVs perhaps fifteen or twenty days a year. Thus this trashy lowlife wastes a tremendous amount of money just to get their childish thrill to begin with, which gives you an baseline benchmark on their character and intelligence; so, in this context and to put things into perspective, just how much were they fined for wreaking havoc in the Italian Peaks Wilderness Study Area? Do you think it was enough to even get their attention?

  16. Salle Avatar


    ORVs can cause fires…

    They also run other people off the trails, speed by them leaving them in their own private Idaho~like a potato buried in dirt. The riders are often rude and careless of their impact on the safety of others and generally not interested in whatever the laws might be. Like snowmobilers, they also leave heaps of trash about, whether it’s on the trail or in the camping areas they visit.

    Even on the trails, a large number of ORV riders are pretty sad specimens for social etiquette and ethical behavior. They don’t seem to be much better when they are hauling those things on a trailer on the highways either. Aggressive passing and cutting off other drivers because they won’t speed up under intimidating pressure from behind.

    I have had such experiences, more often than not.

    Why is it that we (american mainstream culture that is) have this self image of ass-kickers and that we have the only values set that matters?

    And beyond that it goes into a personal issue where one seems to feel they have the right to make a bad decision and not have to suffer consequences in response to them.

    Seems like that’s where the arguments from this particular group stem from, some self appointed righteousness that has no real basis other than selfish pursuit.

  17. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    When we start talking about ORV’s, does anyone happen to take the time to look in the mirror? I am really curious, as I use my ATV very responsibly, but am always put down and have had things thrown at me on my own private land that people were trespassing on without permission, and please don’t take me wrong, I do not condone irresponsible use of motorcycles, ATV or 4WD vehicles, but it seems there is a big rift here and BOTH sides are at fault..

    By the way, the only reason I own an ATV, is because I can’t walk into the back country, I was shot in the hip in the first Gulf War it is amazing what a little piece of lead will do to your outdoors life, fortunately, I live in the woods away from town….

    I just see a divide here, between those who do and those who don’t and I am starting to think the void will never be crossed! and that is very sad..

    The ATV group I ride with, is comprised of WAR vets who have all been wounded and could not experience this country without their ATV’s they are decorated Vets, with limbs missing, with eyes missing, but they still want to see what this country offers and by god, they pay every single year on April 15th to have that privledge, don’t always be so quick to judge those you don’t know!

  18. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I had to delete some comments by two people because of an outbreak of name calling.

    Please don’t, or the thread will be shut down. Webmaster.

  19. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Hi Ralph,

    I am sorry, I didn’t mean to go there, but sometimes it is difficult, people just don’t seem to want to look at both sides of an issue.

  20. JB Avatar

    save bears:

    It’s the same with all groups: hunters, ranchers, environmentalists, ATV owners, etc.; it’s just way to easy to generalize/stereotype. Personally I have ridden both jetskis and ATVs; they are very fun and convenient, and can be used appropriately. Unfortunately, my perception is that most of the time they are NOT used in accordance with the law.


  21. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    Thanks, but I have to disagree, the groups I ride with, do use them legally, and that is the ONLY way, some of these people will ever see more than the side of a paved road, there are over 1200 guys and gals in the group that I ride with in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Utah, and every single one of them have a disability due to combat service, and appreciate the fact they can see the woods, I have rode in each one of these states with these people, and they follow the law, period, no questions asked..By railing against ATV’s do you really want to deny those who have served so you can promote your cause?

    Yes, generalization, often times hurts everyone, and I wish BOTH sides of the issues would stop with the generalizations!

  22. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    And by the way, just so NO ONE gets the wrong idea, I have no problem with the new smoky TV spot that is running right now, yes ATV’s, 4WD’s and a host of other things can and do cause wildfires, and I don’t ting anyone of us can be reminded to much about the danger!

  23. Barb Avatar

    To me, to ride snowmobiles or ATV’s in national parks is blashemy and against everything that national parks were created for.

    National parks were provided for people to be used as peaceful SANCTUARIES; not for using gas powered loud and obnoxious recreational vehicles like this.

    To me, it’s common sense. Unfortunately, common sense does not reign in many quarters including our government or should I say especially our government?

  24. Wyo Native Avatar
    Wyo Native


    So let me get this straight, you are against letting 540 snowmachines in Yellowstone per day that are supposed to stay on designated trails, when very few animals are around, because it does not meet your idea of a peaceful sactuary.

    So are you also against the tens of thousands of vehicles, along with the tens of thousands of people, who are constantly causing traffic jams, pulling off of the road in non designated turn outs, photographers and wild life watchers lined up on ridges on roadsides trying to get that perfect shot and even sometimes harrassing animals to accomplish that. Or is this type of a scenario you idea of a peacful sanctuary?

  25. JB Avatar

    Save bears,

    I sympathize with your position. It strikes me that people get caught up in stereotypes when we start having these conversations: hunters are a bunch of rednecks, ATV riders don’t care about the environment, etc. It’s too bad that people like you get lumped in with all of the jerks out there.

    My own experience with ATVs suggests that off-trail use is the norm. However, I readily admit I don’t have much experience with them (or their riders)–I avoid them like the plague because I can’t stand the noise and smell. Ditto for snowmobiles. In fact, I think a lot of people’s opposition to these machines would melt away if everyone was driving a clean, quiet, electric ATV ( or an electric snowmobile (

    I think an electric snowmobile would be one of the best ways to see Yellowstone in the winter.

  26. mikarooni Avatar

    Let me try a different approach to pointing out what I see as a root cause problem generator. In a posting that I saw a while ago, a lady defended her snowmobile use in Yellowstone National Park by saying that she only used a newer, best available technology, 4-stroke snowmobile and only went very slowly and carefully when she loved to get off the road and into the backcountry with a small group of friends to watch the wildlife without anyone else around. Yes, she was proud to be using a 4-stroke and proud that she went slowly and quietly and she truly thought of herself as a conservationist; but, whether she realized it or not, she was admitting to scoffing the laws governing off-road travel in Yellowstone. Those laws are there for a purpose, which is to enable animals to make their best choices about how to best survive the winter and be able to calve in the spring without their movements, choices, energy reserves, and chances being negatively impacted. The truth is that, in Yellowstone, the noise of even a 4-stroke snowmobile will carry for a mile or more in the cold air and will cause animals to move, expending energy that they need for survival. The truth is also that this lady and her friends could have a good time by staying on the roads; but, the temptation to consider themselves “special” and wiser and above the laws is just too great. So, off they go, off the road, into the backcountry, and on to the next step in what they consider should be their “special” adventure, the adventure to which they think they are entitled, despite the rules. The problem is that, once you yield to the temptation to think that you are entitled to whatever you, in your wisdom, think is fine, then the next step is to go into denial about your impact and to consider yourself above the rules. Once you’re there, then the tendency is almost irresistible, for many, to trade an electric for a slow 4-stroke then for a faster 4-stroke and then to a 2-stroke to get the ultimate in lighter weight and more power. It’s human nature and, if you as an individual think you can resist it, there is still the precedent that you set for others, including the next generation of your own group. How well will they resist it?

    We had an earlier post in this thread where a commenter wrote with, hopefully inadvertent, disdain for wolf watchers who would park on the side of the road in Yellowstone and use scopes to watch wolves a full mile away. I don’t know whether the commenter meant what was implied; however, the implication, at least the way that I read it, was that he and his group were not going to be satisfied with joining the little folks at the side of the road to watch wildlife a mile away. The way the comment could be interpreted and likely will be interpreted by some, is that ATVers use their vehicles to get up close, where they get the view to which they are “specially” entitled to have and let the little folks stand by the side of the road. The posting implied, again, a complete denial of the impact on the behavior and welfare of the wildlife.

    The point is that temptation and ego are powerful things. The machines are so sleek and shiny; there is so much fun to be had before the kid’s college bills come due and, when that time comes around, they can always enlist; she’s so fine; there’s no telling where the money went. Once you’re out on the trail, the power is so intoxicating that you want to experience the speed. You want to take that baby over some bumps and then try it out cross-country. Before long, you feel the “specialness” that comes with having a nice machine and you can’t see how you should be bound by some rules made by those namby-pamby bureaucrats for those other little folk. In the end, some “motorheads,” for lack of a better term, too many forget themselves and the principles they might otherwise espouse and are really just blinded by their craving for what they want to experience, to hell with the rest. In some cases, too many cases given the little wild that remains and the threats it faces, an electric snowmobile would just be the first drink a future alcoholic would ever take.

  27. mikarooni Avatar

    I know; I need to go away and shut; but, the editorial below is just too funny and right on target (no pun intended)…

  28. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    If she was off road in Yellowstone, plain and simple she was breaking the law and should be treated accordingly. There is no excuse for breaking the rules and laws.

    Just as I don’t consider a poacher a hunter I don’t consider riding off roads and trails designated to be ok, in both instances they are criminals and need to be treated as such.

    I have no tolerance for those who break the law!

  29. JB Avatar

    mikarooni says:

    “…an electric snowmobile would just be the first drink a future alcoholic would ever take.”

    This is an interesting analogy; your logic would suggest we should ban the use of alcohol to prevent the inevitable problem that some people will become alcoholics. Policy solutions don’t have to be such blunt instruments. I would suggest that the root problem isn’t the snowmobile itself but the noise and pollution they create. The noise negatively impacts wildlife, the pollution impacts all of us. Yes, banning the use of snowmobiles in National Parks would “fix” these problems. However, both problems could also be addressed by mandating that only electric snowmobiles can be used in National Parks.

  30. Barb Avatar

    Wyo native – it doesn’t sound like you’re actually asking me anything — but telling me what you believe.

  31. Sue Avatar

    Anyone breaking the laws in yellowstone should have to pay the price — whatever they are doing that is against the law.

    Agree with JB on the above — it’s not snowmobiles per se, but the terrible loud noise they create (and the pollution but cars cause more pollution).

    Yellowstone could require visitors to leave their cars at designated areas (that would be another issue as to where) and walk instead.

  32. Mike Avatar

    ++The ATV group I ride with, is comprised of WAR vets who have all been wounded and could not experience this country without their ATV’s they are decorated Vets, with limbs missing, with eyes missing, but they still want to see what this country offers and by god, they pay every single year on April 15th to have that privledge, don’t always be so quick to judge those you don’t know!++

    Hey Save Bear, thanks for your service! Hopefully your wound isn’t too painful still.

    I’m a pretty strict conservationist. I really don’t like ATV’s but I can see where you are coming from on some points. In fact, I run my own news ag blog and often pick ATV stories:

    These are my problems with ATV’s and their riders:

    1. Noise that impacts everyone elses experience
    2. Ruts and damage done to areas
    3. Ability to easily haul gear to remote areas which increases litter
    4. Ability to turn logging roads meant to revert to nature into permanent roads, “de-wilding” the landscape
    5. Almost all ATV groups oppose wild areas and wilderness and actively campaign against the protection of roadless areas

    Here’s what I don’t have a problem with:

    1. Using ATV’s on USFS roads in a considerate fashion(not racing up and down the road repeatedly near a campground with your tricked out ATV muffler).
    2. Many ATV’s get better MPG than cars and trucks.
    3. Users who stay on designated trails
    4. Users who do not litter
    5. Users who appreciate the wild and do not wish to see the backcountry become less wild for their own interests

    Now, you tell me which is the majority of ATV users? It sure as heck isn’t option #2. If you belong to an ORV group, chances are you actively fund and help the destruction of roadless areas.

    The truth is that ATV use in the national forest or BLM has a higher impact than others. They are noisy, can disrupt wildlife and can damage fragile soils for long periods of time. This high impact means they need to be regulated more often. It also means people will view this in a negative light -especially in a world that is growing increasingly busy, noisy and with less wild acreage.

    As far as the issue of access, it’s an interesting one. Here are a couple maps that should paint a very simple picture. The first one is a map of all the protected wilderness areas in the lower 48. You can zoom in to view the locations:

    The second link has maps of all the unprotected roadless areas in the lower 48:

    What is the first thing that comes to mind when viewing those maps? For me, it says there’s not much wilderness compared to other roaded and motorized land in the U.S. The rallying cry of being “locked out” of areas on public land is false. The vast, vast majority of the lower 48 is open for you to enjoy motors. If you like motors, you have a million options to enjoy them. If you like to be where no motors are, you have very limited options and likely have to travel a good distance.

    As far as access for the disabled, the U.S. National Forest system has 400,000 miles of roads. Many campgrounds also have disability access. Anyone who can operate a car can stay in one of these campgrounds. There is, and never will be a problem of access in United States National Forests for those who are disabled. A simple look at any USFS map quickly reveals a vast network of open roads and campgrounds from which to enjoy.

    The “access” cry which is used as a fundraising tool by various ORV groups is simply false.

    What ORV groups do you belong to Save Bears? Chances are they are actively working to tame the backcountry you cherish.

    I hope I get to meet your group in a Northern Rockies national forest someday. I’d like to thank you all for your service.

  33. JB Avatar


    I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said; however, you should no that your interpretation of the maps you presented is a little mis-leading. All of the agencies prohibit the use of motorized vehicles in many areas that are not designated as wilderness. With the Forest Service, these areas are zoned as “semi-primitive non-motorized” areas, and the use of motor-vehicles is strictly forbidden. Of course, thanks to shrinking budges there is very little money for enforcement of these laws; thus, many people illegally run ATVs/ORVs in areas where motorized vehicles are prohibited.

    In my opinion, the biggest problem with ATV/ORV use is the lack of enforcement.

  34. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    Me and my group do not run around crying no access! I have rode with groups of this nature, but no longer participate in their rides, because we don’t agree with them, which is why this group was formed, we are not involved in activism to open more areas up, we are content with the areas that it is legal to ride in…and many of us work against those who are trying to open wilderness areas up to motorized access, it is not needed, there are plenty of areas to ride, in a safe and legal fashion. The only thing I get tired of, is trying to close the areas that have long been accessible legally by motorized traffic. There are a good many ORV people that follow the rules and go on nice little outings without damaging or bothering other users of the areas that are legal.

    Also, I agree there are groups that activally push for illegal activities, we done condone or support them. The vast majority of our group, ride standard bikes with stock mufflers as set up and required by the USFS….

    I agree with JB, the vast majority of the problem is the lack of enforcement, either by design or by ignorance, which is why we all carry clipboards with a form to fill out, so we can report violations to the proper authorities, one thing I know for fact, if you have an area that has violations going on, it is not an isolated incident and it will happen again, so by reporting violations the enforcement officers can target these areas in the future.

    Your never going to stop all of the violations, but with cooperation between groups that don’t condone illegal activities, we can sure cut a lot of it down.

  35. Josh Avatar

    Save bears,

    I wish that more ORVers were like yourself and most members in your group. Thank you for your reasonableness on OHV issues and willingness to report violations on your own. It is easy for many of us to lump all ORVers into the same group, but your comments show that there are riders out there who ride responsibly. I hope that we all come out of this discussion with a better grasp of ORV issues facing our public lands, and move forward with addressing the issues at hand: noncompliance of public land law by a certain faction of the ORV community, and lack of enforcement by the governmental officials overseeing these public lands.

  36. Mike Avatar

    ++ don’t disagree with anything you’ve said; however, you should no that your interpretation of the maps you presented is a little mis-leading. All of the agencies prohibit the use of motorized vehicles in many areas that are not designated as wilderness. With the Forest Service, these areas are zoned as “semi-primitive non-motorized” areas, and the use of motor-vehicles is strictly forbidden. Of course, thanks to shrinking budges there is very little money for enforcement of these laws; thus, many people illegally run ATVs/ORVs in areas where motorized vehicles are prohibited.++

    It really isn’t misleading. Closed areas are few, and those “semi-motorized” or “non-motorized” areas are always used by ORV’s.

  37. JB Avatar

    “It really isn’t misleading. Closed areas are few, and those “semi-motorized” or “non-motorized” areas are always used by ORV’s.”

    Actually, the zoning really depends upon the public land in question. As to your second statement, I think “always” might be a bit of an overstatement. However, whether its always or some large percentage of the time, it is clear that enforcement is the major issue.

  38. JA Avatar

    Amazing what google searches will bring up. Like this article and its comments. I’ve determined that I don’t think I’m going to the right places when I hike or ride my ATV or ride my dirt bike. I’ve yet to come across this widespread dire death and destruction that everyone keeps talking about. Next time I go out hiking or riding I need find the places where these hoards of ATV riders are engaging in their illegal activities, chasing the fuzzy forest animals (the cute ones of course, no fun in chasing ugly or mean forest animals), causing lots of “environmental damage”, and generally making it miserable for the rest of mankind.

    I don’t like OHV riders breaking the rules. I don’t like loud exhausts. These are enforcement problems that need to be addressed. Let’s set some clear rules for OHV use and then enforce those rules. I agree that our forests and backcountry areas are not the place for muddin’, “rippin’ it up”, and scaring animals. That’s not what I do. It’s not what anybody I ride with does. The people I’ve encountered this year on the roads and trails I ride are friendly, wave, they slow down when passing, stay on the trail, etc.

    However increased enforcement is unlikely to be enough for those who are anti-OHV. I believe in providing opportunities for all forms of recreation and in managing different parts of our pubic lands for different purposes. I believe and fully support wilderness areas. In Minnesota we have one of the best with the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Wilderness. No motorized boats, vehicles, roads, or logging. I love it. All of our state parks are closed to OHV use. We have state forests that are closed to OHV use. Parts of our two national forests are closed to OHV use. I support it all.

    We also have many areas and forests open to OHV use. I fully support this as well. Here’s the rub though. The anti-OHV crowd always talks about how unreasonable the OHV users are. That we want access to everything, that we aren’t reasonable. To that I say “right back at ‘cha.” We’ve set aside the Boundary Waters for example here in Minnesota. 100% wilderness non-motorized no-logging area. Outstanding! I support it 100%. Where do I send my tax money to support it? I want to go canoeing there too! Of course the wilderness advocacy groups are constantly whining about the Superior forest areas outside the wilderness. “We can’t have roads or logging there either, we have to shut these areas down as well.” Does that sound reasonable? We have one state forest in the Brainerd area closed to OHV use. It is dedicated to hiking, hunting, and equestrian use. We have state park nearby. We have miles and miles of biking and walking paths. Up the road about 30 miles is another state forest open to OHV use that has historically been an OHV area. Me? I say wonderful, we have a place for everything. Everyone should be happy. However, the enviro and anti-OHV crowds are always complaining that we have to get the OHV’s out of the other forest area too. That they’re “running rampant.” Does that sound reasonable?

    However, I think people’s perceptions vary so wildly on this matter that it is unlikely to ever find a common ground unfortunately. One man’s “muddin’ hole” is another man’s “damaged riparian zone.” Very polarizing. As polarizing as the abortion debate where one side talks about the “fetus” and the other side talks about the “unborn child.” Those two words conjure up very different feelings don’t they? Carefully selected for that very purpose. When I go to my favorite trail riding area I perceive paradise. I can spend the entire day riding and exploring (perhaps cast the fly a few times). I meet lots of nice people. An anti-OHV person visiting there will probably shriek in horror at their perceived damage to mother earth. I’m not sure how we come to common ground.

    As far of OHV’s impacting wildlife, I’d like someone to explain that to me further. We just got back from the Yellowstone area. Lots of wilderness and national park land out there obviously (closed to OHV use – except for the snowmobile controversy of course). There is also lots of forest service land open to OHV use. People always talk about how OHV’s impact wildlife, yet in the greater Yellowstone eco system the original target for wolf population was 300 and it is now at 1500. Record elk herds. Record deer herds. Thriving Bison herds. We listened to a Grand Teton park ranger talk about mountain lions and how they have a healthy population of these, what I think are magnificent, creatures and that they are really unsure of how many they actually have. With all the OHV use out there. With the constant parade of diesel motorhomes into and out of the park. With all the wildlife jams on the roads. With all the gas stations, lodges, lounges, and yes liquor stores in the parks. You’d think the wildlife would be long gone. Yet wildlife persists.

    To the person – mikaroonie – who posted that all OHV users are trogs, creeps, lowlifes and uneducated I take personal offense. I ride OHV’s. I haul them with a diesel powered truck for greater efficiency. I paid a premium for the diesel option to gain that efficiency over a gasoline powered truck. We own a hybrid car for my wife’s commute. I recently bought an electric lawn mower to replace our gas powered one. I ride a 60+ mpg motorcycle to work as often as I can. I garden. I fly fish. I raise my 4 kids with love and discipline. My boys are in boy scouts. They all play soccer. They hug their grandma and grandpa each time they see them. My wife runs a girl scout troop. My wife and I both have master’s degrees. We recycle. We pick up our garbage. Yes we all ride motorcycles and OHV’s. We love motorsports and I’m not sure I could ever give you an explanation as to “why” that would satisfy you.

    On a recent canoe trip I came across a group of young canoers who felt it necessary to cuss and swear loudly – all night long. The didn’t pick up garbage and had an all night beer party. I don’t however begin to think that all canoeists are like that. On recent quiet evening at the cabin a neighbor felt it necessary to fire up the pontoon boat and go out to the middle of the lake, with throttle to the stops. I thought only Personal Watercraft did that?

    Boorish behavior is not limited to certain types of vehicles, types of recreation, or types of people. Lets give all user groups a place to go and get rid of the bad behavior.

  39. atv racer guy Avatar
    atv racer guy

    I own a high performance atv made for racing, and it is equipped with a ew aftermarket parts, including the exaust which is loud and obnxious but it does increase the horsepower and I do race my machine at XC races almost every weekend. but I do like to ride trails with my family and friends and I replace the aftermarket exaust with the stock OEM pipe whenever I am riding on public trails because I agree that it is very annoying to hear the over 106 decibals coming from my 525 KTM’s rear end when everybody is trying to have a nice, quiet picnic or whatever. I pull off of the trail and usually shut my machine off whenever a group of horses or hikers go by. I slow down and keep the revs low by other campsites. and everybody still gives me dirty looks! probably because I am on a true blue race bike! Does everybody want to shut us down because they see that somebody is actually having fun? I also frequently come to trails that I have ridden for my entire life and see that there is now a sign blocking me from riding it. the trail is already there. let me ride on it! I also own a rock crawling jeep that I can’t go anywhere with anymore. because of the signs. maybe we should close horse trails down because they poop on it. or start charging people to hike somewhere. greed greed greed. end of story.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan