Adirondack Council opposing proposed law to expand size of ATVs that could be used on local land
Wednesday, March 21, 2018 - 6:10 am

The Adirondack Council joined with consumer-safety organizations and health professionals to oppose a proposal in state Legislature to expand the size of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) that may be registered for public use in New York.

The current weight limit on ATVs that may be registered for use on designated public thoroughfares is 1,000 pounds. This limits ATV use on public lands to ATVs that weight about the same as a motorcycle.

The legislative proposal - contained in the State Senate's budget proposal -- would allow much larger machines. That includes dune buggy-style Utility Task Vehicles (UTVs) that carry four passengers or more. Some UTVs weigh as much as a car.

The new expansion would, result in a significant uptick in ridership in public riding areas, without enacting long-needed reforms.

"It would be a grave mistake for the State to expand ATV use or size limits without first banning most public use of ATVs in the forever wild Forest Preserve," said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway. He noted that inappropriate ATV use causes trail damage and erosion that degrade water quality and harm wildlife. Trespass into off-limits areas bring noise pollution to places where the state has invested millions of dollars to preserve peace and solitude, he said. He called the Senate's move to approve a new weight limit without a larger reform package "a mistake."

"This proposal will have serious implications for the fragile ecosystems of the Adirondack Park," Janeway said. "Soils are much thinner in the Adirondacks. Slopes are much steeper. We have more streams and wetlands that would be damaged by the same level of ATV use. We have more sensitive wildlife and purer waters."

The Adirondack Council has won several lawsuits on behalf of Adirondack residents whose homes were going to be impacted by ATV trail networks that were created after they moved in. In all of those cases, the roads were also being used to gain illegal access to the Forest Preserve and other public lands.

ATVs are banned from Forest Preserve trails under a policy administered by the Department of Environmental Conservation. However, policies can be repealed by future administrations with little public input. The Department has proposed allowing ATVs on some Forest Preserve lands. Environmental and other groups have strongly objected. A general ban enacted under state law would be more permanent and could impose appropriate penalties for repeated violations.

The Adirondack Council is urging its members to contact state officials to halt inappropriate ATV use and to pass legislation this year to codify a general ban on ATV use on the Forest Preserve and other state lands.

Janeway noted that individuals and organizations dedicated to reducing deaths and injuries caused by ATV and other off-highway vehicles (OHVs), have written to the Legislative leaders urging them to reject any proposal that would increase OHV access to roads. The group is also opposed to allowing UTVs and "side-by-sides" to be registered for use on public lands.

"Tragically, we have identified 101 OHV-related deaths in New York from 2013-2017," the coalition wrote. "Unfortunately, these numbers may continue to rise as we gather more data."

The Adirondack Council is a privately funded not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park.