Over the past couple of decades, ATVs have embedded themselves deep into the outdoorsmen’s culture, including hunting and fishing. However, the use of ATVs by some outdoorsman has created controversy, and it usually is the result of riders not following common-sense courtesy rules.
It is of course easily possible to keep other fishermen, trail users, and land owners all content with your choice to utilize ATVs during your next angling expedition. To enjoy a better experience for everyone, follow these simple rules:
• Get permission from any private landowners whose land you may be riding on.
• Keep your noise to a minimum. Keep your ATV properly tuned and muffled to reduce exhaust sounds and emissions.
• Operation of an ATV in areas where motorized vehicles are not allowed is illegal and irritates other fishermen or hunters who have specifically selected their area to avoid motorized vehicles.
• Respect hunters who may be stalking game and be aware of the various hunting seasons.
• Limit ATV use in and around campgrounds. Be respectful of other campers’ desires for quiet and minimal disruption.
• Slow down or stop your ATV when you approach others on the trail. When meeting equestrians, approach slowly, pull over and stop, turn off your engine, remove your helmet and ask how best to proceed. When overtaking others, pass in a safe and courteous manner.
• Never chase wildlife with your ATV. It’s illegal and irresponsible.
• Know the vehicle-use regulations for the area you are riding. Educate yourself by obtaining agency travel maps to identify and learn legal routes. Contact the local BLM Field Office, Forest Service Ranger District or State Land Management organization for travel management information before you go. Respect road and area closures.
• Stay on existing roads or trails. Cross-country travel on ATVs can create a network of new tracks or trails that cause soil erosion and damage to fish and wildlife habitats. Cross-country travel can also spread invasive species, which can ruin habitat. Do not contribute to resource damage and habitat destruction by creating new tracks for others to follow. When you drive off a road, you leave a track that others will follow and you may be creating resource damage.
• User-created trails are often poorly located within riparian zones or on steep slopes creating vegetation and soil impacts. Don’t make the problem worse by continuing to use these routes.
• Wheel tracks in wet meadows are like footprints in cement – they often don’t heal. Avoid the use of ATVs in wet areas or during wet conditions. Even though the lighter weight and low-pressure tires reduce impacts, ATVs can still do serious damage to wet areas.
• Don’t widen single-track trails by forcing your ATV down the trail.
• Cross streams only at designated trail crossings. Erosion from stream banks and creek crossings can harm survival of native fish.
The National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (www.nohvcc.org) has taken the lead in the education of outdoorsmen who utilize ATVs and offer many other resources for Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) riders and organizations.