All of those who love the peace and quiet, clean water, clean air, and abundant wildlife in the Vermont back-country are applauding the decision by Vermont Agency of Natural Resources officials to reverse course on an agency rule that would have allowed ATV clubs to crisscross and fragment Vermont state lands with ATV trails. This decision should help protect state forests and wildlife preserves from often-destructive, high-impact motorized activity and maintain Vermont’s longstanding tradition of sound public land management.
Since the previous administration of Governor James Douglas moved forward with this flawed rule that would have opened all state lands to ATV trail construction, CLF has been working with a coalition of organizations and concerned citizens to prevent the rule from taking effect. CLF offered testimony that helped sway a legislative committee to unanimously object to the rule. When the Douglas Administration moved forward with the rule over legislative objection, CLF filed a lawsuit challenging the rule’s validity. In the Agency’s press release announcing the decision to abandon the ATV rule, Secretary Markowitz specifically referenced CLF’s lawsuit as a factor in the decision not to move forward:
“Markowitz said ‘in 2009, [Vermont’s] Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules voted unanimously to object to the ATV rule. They strongly believed that ANR did not have the power to adopt the regulation. Because we cannot point to clear authority to adopt this rule, the regulation is vulnerable to legal attack, with little likelihood of prevailing in court.’ The rule has been challenged in the Washington County Superior Court by the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF). Markowitz states, ‘it does not make sense to try to defend the ATV rule in court given that LCAR has already determined that no authority to adopt the rule exists.’
CLF knows that this important victory is not the end of the struggle to protect our public lands from being overrun with ATVs. The ATV clubs are well-organized and well-funded by manufacturers who push hard to open up public lands to ATV use so that they can expand the recreational market for these gas-guzzling machines. Agency officials are also hinting that some limited access might be granted in the future. With your support, we will keep working to keep our forests free of the pollution and habitat fragmentation that ATVs bring in their wake.