Two New Laws Benefit the Adirondacks, for Very Different Reasons…

Wednesday, November 15, 2023
By: Kevin Chlad - Adirondack Council Director of Government Relations, and Aimee Privitera - Legislative Associate

Governor Hochul recently signed two bills into law that the Adirondack Council has advocated for in recent years. Both will benefit the Adirondack Park for very different reasons. Read on to learn more about legislation that raises the minimum age for unsupervised ATV operation and legislation that expands local government authority to establish aquatic invasive species control districts.

Raising the Minimum Age for Unsupervised ATV Riding

The Adirondack Council has advocated for years to reform All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) practices in New York State, recognizing the negative environmental and public health impacts that occur when ATVs are misused. in 2019, the Adirondack Council published a report proposing a package of policy recommendations needed to better protect our Adirondack Park and public health, entitled Wrong way: How New York State can course-correct on ATV use. ATVs are an important tool when working in forests and on farms. However, when misused in a recreational capacity, ATV riders risk harming our environment or, worse, harming themselves.

New York ranks among the top ten states in ATV-related deaths and injuries. In the most recent report published by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, a troubling portion of ATV deaths (22 percent) and injuries (26 percent) nationwide involved children under the age of 16. All major ATV manufacturers advise owners not to permit riders under the age of 16 to operate their machines. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that children younger than 16 may lack the cognitive judgment or motor skills necessary to operate such large and complex machines.

As of last year, New York state law permitted children as young as 10 years of age to operate an ATV without adult supervision. Thankfully, Governor Hochul signed a law bill that will raise the minimum age for unsupervised ATV riding from 10 to 14. It is important to note that this legislation does not prohibit operation by minors outright, as this legislation relates specifically to unsupervised riding. The bill was sponsored by Senator Pete Harckham (S.2702) and Assemblymember Amy Paulin (A.150).

In signing this bill into law, Governor Hochul has brought NYS policy closer to alignment with recommendations from medical experts and ATV manufacturers. Additionally, this legislation will more closely align NYS policy with statutes of nearby states, including New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania.

The Adirondack Council is grateful to the bill sponsors and Governor Hochul for this policy improvement that will undoubtedly save lives. We are also proud of this significant step in fulfilling a recommendation contained in the Adirondack Council’s ATV Report.

Aquatic Invasive Species Control Districts  

The Adirondack Park contains more than 3,000 lakes, 8,000 ponds, and more than 1,500 miles of rivers, fed by an estimated 30,000 miles of brooks and streams. Clean water is a central attraction that brings more than 12 million visitors to the region each year, benefiting hotels, restaurants, marinas, fishing guides & outfitters, and retail stores.

An aquatic invasive species is a freshwater or marine organism that has spread beyond its native range and is either causing harm or has the potential to cause harm to the local ecosystem. Aquatic invasive species infestations are difficult and expensive to control once they have made their way into the water. When water quality is impaired, we see harmful consequences to fishing, boating, and shoreline real estate.

Under previous law, town boards had the authority to create aquatic plant growth control districts to raise funds to combat invasive aquatic plant growth within the established districts. However, their authority did not extend to the control of invasive aquatic invertebrate species, such as Asian clams or Zebra mussels. The Aquatic Invasive Control Districts bill enables town boards to further address and combat the growth of invasive aquatic invertebrate species within a growth control district. The expansion of this authority to town boards will aid in their efforts to reduce the colonization of aquatic invasive species in New York waterways.

Assemblymember Carrie Woerner sponsored the bill in the NYS Assembly (A5801), and Senator Dan Stec carried it in the Senate (S5836). The bill passed with a massive sweep of bipartisan support in both houses during the regular session. In the final weeks of October, Governor Kathy Hochul signed the Aquatic Invasive Control Districts bill into law. This is a major win for Adirondack clean water, ecosystems, and ecotourism alike.


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