Press Releases

Adirondack Council Opposes ATV Legislation in Senate Budget Proposal

For more information:
Kevin Chlad, Director of Government Relations
518-432-1770 ext. 201

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, March 19, 2018

ALBANY, N.Y. – The Adirondack Council has joined with consumer-safety organizations, health professionals and fellow conservationists to oppose a proposal being advanced in the NYS Legislature that would 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.  “New York State Forest Rangers consider ATVs to be the number one enforcement problem on state lands.  We urge the Legislature to fix those problems before even considering any expansion of ATV use, or increase in vehicle size.”

Janeway 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,” he 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 currently banned from Forest Preserve trails under a policy administered by the Dept. 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 has issued an Action Alert urging its membership 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.

“The Adirondack Park is a national treasure,” Janeway said. “ATV riding is not allowed on public lands in national parks.  We need legislation this year to codify a general ban on ATV use on the Forest Preserve and other state lands too.  Otherwise, we are allowing ATV manufacturers and dealers – not the 19 million residents who own the Adirondack Forest Preserve -- to set public policy for our forests, trails and rural roads.”

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 coalition includes the Consumer Federation of America, Concerned Families for ATV Safety, the Trauma Foundation of San Francisco, Texas Children's Hospital, the Child Injury Prevention Alliance and the Iowa ATV Injury Prevention Task Force.

Coalition members wrote that they were especially concerned with OHV and Recreational Off-Highway Vehicles (ROV) use on roads, where a lack of safety equipment and passenger restraints, combined with conflicts with other traffic, has led to hundreds of local fatal collisions. 

“Many of the warnings against riding OHVs on roadways specifically mention the hazards of paved roads. While these warnings are accurate they are not sufficient and could incorrectly imply that unpaved roads are safe for OHV use. In addition, more than two-thirds of all roadway ATV fatalities (paved and unpaved) did not involve another motor vehicle. This means that low traffic volume on rural roads does not necessarily translate into fewer deaths and injuries. In fact, riders in serious roadway crashes that occur on more remote roads may be at increased risk of death because of longer distances to trauma centers,” the letter states.

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.  The Council envisions a Park with clean water and clean air, comprised of core wilderness areas, surrounded by farms and working forests, and vibrant, rural communities.

The Adirondack Council carries out its mission through research, education, advocacy and legal action.  Adirondack Council members live in all 50 United States.

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