Senate votes to ban off-trail OHV use

St. Paul The Senate voted to ban off-trail use of all-terrain
vehicles in state forests after the state designates 2,000 miles of
ATV trails.

If enacted, the bill would abruptly curtail ATV travel, which is
now unlimited in most of the state’s forests.

With 600 miles of designated trails now in existence around the
state, it wasn’t immediately clear how soon the DNR could designate
2,000 miles of trails.

The measure, which passed 41 to 21, was attached as an amendment
to a Senate DNR forestry and game bill. It may be introduced in the
same way in a House bill Monday.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. Tony Kinkel, DFL-Park Rapids, set
no deadline for designating the 2,000 miles of trails. But it says
that 30 days after the 2,000-mile total had been reached, ATV use
would be prohibited in all areas in state forests, except forest
roads not posted as closed and on trails specifically designated
for ATV use. It doesn’t affect county or private lands.

The DNR and ATV enthusiasts have been under pressure to agree on
ATV restrictions after environmentalists and news accounts have
depicted significant damage in state forests.

“There is permanent, serious damage being done to public land
under the current state of affairs, where it is practically open
season,” said Sen. John Hottinger, DFL-Mankato.

Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Thief River Falls, criticized the
amendment as being hastily crafted. ATV makers Polaris Industries
Inc. of Roseau and Arctic Cat of Thief River Falls have plants in
Stumpf’s district and he said the potential effect about 15,000
jobs wasn’t considered.

Stumpf has his own bill with a companion in the House that
authorizes $1.2 million for trail maintenance and enforcement. He
said he was frustrated by the large margin of Friday’s vote.

Ray Bohn, a lobbyist for the All-Terrain Vehicle Association of
Minnesota, said ATV users are concerned that the 2,000-mile goal
will be the “end game” for trail designation.

“The Kinkel amendment was not a compromise. It endangered a lot
of work that we’ve been doing over a period of months,” Bohn
said.

DNR officials, who had only seen the Kinkel amendment earlier in
the day, said they still are reviewing the 2,000-mile trail
designation goal. The DNR has opposed environmental reviews for
every trail planned for designation, and last week appealed a Cass
County district judge’s order requiring reviews on ATV trails in
five north-central counties.

For the DNR’s response to the Senate vote, see Page 4.

Duck decoys

A bill that passed the Senate Friday bans the use of
battery-powered duck decoys.

“It’s just unfair to the duck population and unfair to the
hunters who believe as I do, that we should have hunting and
fishing the way it used to be,” said bill author Sen. Doug Johnson,
DFL-Tower.

The bill, which passed 56-4, also requires all snowmobiles
manufactured and sold in Minnesota after 2005 be equipped with
safety hazard lights similar to those found on cars and
motorcycles.

There House version of the DNR omnibus bill does not contain
language banning spinning-wing decoys.

Shooting preserves

An attempt to legalize hunting in fenced domestic elk and deer
preserves failed last week in the senate on a 21-28 vote. The DNR
opposed the legislation, according to DNR Agricultural Policy
Director Wayne Edgerton. Sen. Jane Krentz, chair of the Senate
Environment and Natural Resources Policy committee did not give the
bill a hearing, but Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm forced a
vote on the floor.

“It failed, which we feel was the right thing to happen
especially with CWD rearing its ugly head,” Edgerton said. “This is
serious stuff, and now’s not the time to be looking at importing
more deer and elk into the state.”

Con-Con

Legislation that would permanently designate 102,000 acres of
state land as wildlife management areas passed the full Senate on
Friday morning on a unanimous vote.

Companion legislation in the House passed the taxes Committee on
Monday and was bound for the Ways and Means Committee after the
Easter break. A full House vote could occur by late next week.

“There’s been more debate on this in the House,” Edgerton
said.

Outdoor News Editor Rob Drieslein contributed to this story.

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