OHV task force ready to send recommendations to Capitol

Associate Editor

St. Paul Members of the DNR commissioner-appointed OHV
(off-highway vehicle) task force gathered recently for the last
time to finalize a list of recommendations it will forward to the
state Legislature.

The task force was established by the Legislature last spring
resulting from debate about OHV dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles,
and 4X4s use on state forest land. The task force was asked to
consider a number of things, including: the quantity and
distribution of motorized trails on state forest land and future
trail development; the process for trail planning, including
assessment methods; maintenance and enforcement issues on trails;
the interests of “non-motorized” users; and protection of natural
resources.

Michelle Beeman, the DNR’s legislative affairs director, said
the task force’s recommendation are due to the new DNR commissioner
and state legislators by Jan. 15.

“The group is still trying to decide on the final report,” she
said last week. “They need to decide how much to include.”

About 30 items could show up on that final list, said Tom
Baumann, the DNR’s supervisor of forest management and a member of
the 22-person task force.

The task force was comprised of a variety of interests, but with
the shared interest of forest recreation. The group included state
employees, such as Baumann; a member of the group, Minnesotans for
Responsible Recreation, which touts itself as, “Minnesota’s voice
for peace and quiet and healthy trails and waterways;” an ATV
manufacturing manager, a retired chemist, an environmental engineer
and others.

Baumann said there were a number of items on which the group
gained a consensus. Other issues divided the group down motorized
use and non-motorized use lines.

One issue that garnered unanimous support was that of law
enforcement on motorized trails running through state forests.

“There was general agreement that we need to improve the level
and types of enforcement regarding ATV use,” Baumann said. How that
issue is resolved is largely dependent on funding, he added.

Another issue that garnered support was the need for a complete
inventory of trail access points in the state forest, Baumann said,
noting that state forests include “thousands of miles of
trails.”

Divided sentiment caused the exclusion of some members’ ideas.
One proposal recommended the development of OHV “parks.” That
failed to gain approval from the group.

Beeman said members added a few items at the final meeting last
week the 13th meeting since the task force was established earlier
this year. Members believe there’s a need for a more comprehensive
education program, which includes “trail etiquette.” There’s also a
need for more explicit design standards, it was determined.

Another item the task force indicated should be addressed is
private landowner liability. Beeman said private landowners control
large portions of northern forests lands that could be used for
trails should liability issues not dissuade landowners.

Beeman said members of the task force didn’t focus on budgetary
issues. The Legislature appropriates funding from a source set
aside for OHM-related matters.

MRR takes legal

action in trail matter

In a press release dated Dec. 10, Minnesotans for Responsible
Recreation announced it was asked the the Lake County District
Court judge to order the Minnesota DNR to complete an extensive
Environmental Impact Statement on its proposed Moosewalk/Mooserun
ATV trail and connecting routes. These include the North Shore
State Trail and Red Dot ATV Trail which connects the proposed route
with Tettegouche State Park in the Finland State Forest.

Furthermore, MRR asked the court to order the DNR to repair and
restore some ATV trails and “close and reroute high-impact ATV
trails.”

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