Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Controversial ATV bills pending in state House

Associate Editor

St. Paul Minnesota Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, said a bill that
would hasten all-terrain vehicle trail development and improve
maintenance, as well as aid in inventorying state forests regarding
ATV use, was scheduled for possible House floor action this
week.

The funding is included in the ATV portion of an Omnibus
Environment and Finance bill, he said. However, there’s another
bill in the House Ways and Means Committee that also addresses and
modifies ATV language from last session.

“Everything in the Capitol is up in the air right now,”
Hackbarth said about how bills will proceed through the House and
Senate.

Hackbarth also defended his position following criticism last
week from environmental groups and newspaper editorialists
regarding several points of his legislation.

Hackbarth said the legislation is not designed to allow ATVs to
run “willy-nilly” through state forests. Rather, he wants forests
to be “limited” in that only trails posted open are open to ATV
use. However, he includes a provision in which the DNR commissioner
may designate a forest “managed” if deemed necessary. Under managed
classification, trails are open unless marked closed.

Hackbarth said it’s expensive to inventory and classify state
forests. “If we don’t have to, we shouldn’t be spending money on
it,” he said.

Environmental groups see the provision as “bringing back the
managed forest,” according to Matt Norton, of the Minnesota Center
for Environmental Advocacy.

Hackbarth said his bill also helps hunters by allowing them an
exception: They’d be allowed to go “off-trail” to get to hunting
shacks only if they possess the proper big game hunting
license.

“A lot of groups are blowing this way out of proportion,” he
said.

Norton said there remains a contingent of hunters who still
would rather walk to their stand, and hunt in an area off-limits to
the machines.

“Some non-ATV users like forests where you can go and don’t have
to deal with ATVs,” he said.

Hackbarth and other groups also have clashed over the use of
ATVs in private wetlands and the use of the machines on frozen
public wetlands.

Conservation and hunting groups in Minnesota also appear split
on how ATVs should be managed. The Minnesota Deer Hunters
Association supports Hackbarth’s measure, stating: “Rep. Hackbarth
is trying to rectify his legislation from last year through his
current bill that will still contain most of the restrictions and
teeth, especially when it comes to wetlands, but allow reasonable
use as well “

Conversely, COMCO, a collaborative of 20 conservation
organizations in the state, has expressed its desire to keep all
current wetlands ATV regulations in place.

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