Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Task force will tackle off-road issues

St. Paul All interests will be represented on a broad-based task
force to address off-highway vehicle (OHV) issues, says DNR Deputy
Commissioner Steve Morse.

The framework for a task force, overseen by the DNR, emerged
from a legislative conference committee last week. This legislation
and a separate bill that bans cross-country travel on state forests
and provides money for off-road enforcement are expected to pass
the Legislature.

Off-highway vehicle issues flared to political prominence during
the legislative session following a large public hearing in Backus
and subsequent stories in the Star-Tribune revealing damage to
public lands caused by OHVs. During the session, the DNR received a
court order requiring environmental assessments of OHV projects in
north-central Minnesota and was again sued by environmentalists
over a trail system in the northeast.

Morse says the task force provides an opportunity to review all
components of the state’s OHV program. Goals of the task force will
be to make policy recommendations to the Legislature and develop a
process for trail planning that includes public participation.

The task force will include representation from OHV advocates,
land managers, conservationists, and other forest users.

The conference committee last week eliminated a Senate amendment
that would’ve ended off-trail OHV travel after the DNR achieved
2,000 miles of designated trail in state forests, an amendment DNR
officials supported. However, conferees said the 2,000-mile ceiling
was considered somewhat arbitrary and that it failed to designate
where those trails would be located.

Senate officials say a second piece of legislation that would
affect all-terrain vehicle use is slated to be heard in conference
committee this week. The Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. LeRoy
Stumpf, DFL-Thief River Falls, contains provisions stating ATVs
must be operated on existing trails and includes appropriations for
trail development and enforcement. According to Sen. John
Hottinger, DFL-Mankato, the additional funding is between $1.3 and
$1.4 million.

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