Overuse of ATVs Threatens Backcountry Hunting

We believe there is a place for off-highway vehicle routes on public lands, but that we need greater controls and better enforcement in the face of growing human population and ever more powerful machines.

| October 5, 2009

  • ATV tire
    ATV abuse and overuse endangers the health of wildlife habitats, rivers and streams — the very the foundation that supports the American pastimes of hunting and fishing.

  • ATV tire

The phrase “fair chase” has a very specific meaning in the hunting world. The Boone and Crockett Club defines it as “the ethical, sportsmanlike and lawful pursuit and taking of any free-ranging, wild, native, North American, big-game animal in a manner that does not give the hunter an improper advantage over such animals.” This means fair-chase hunters pursue their quarry on foot; hone their skills so they make quick, clean kills; and they obey the law.

But today, this fair-chase ethic is under assault on many fronts.

Members of the Minnesota Backcountry Hunters and Anglers understand, as most sportsmen and sportswomen do, that healthy wildlife habitat, rivers and streams are the foundation supporting the American pastimes of hunting and fishing.

We believe there is a place for off-highway vehicle routes on public lands, but that greater controls and better enforcement are necessary in the face of growing human population and ever more powerful machines.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has taken some initial steps to better manage ATV use on public lands in Minnesota by closing a limited number of motorized routes in the Cloquet Valley State Forest (and in other state forests) to protect wildlife habitat, wetlands and other sensitive areas, while leaving more than 80 percent of the forest’s routes open to motorized use (“ATV closures in Cloquet Valley State Forest confuse, anger some users,” Sept. 20). We applaud the DNR for closing these motorized routes.

“The presence of ATVs on public hunting grounds will probably be one of the largest contributors to loss of hunting opportunity that we’ve yet experienced,” Jim Posewitz, director of Orion: The Hunter’s Institute, explained in the summer 2008 issue of Forest Magazine. “It puts the animals at a disadvantage. It violates the security that wildlife once had in difficult terrain.”

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