Forest Service decision spurs ATV club to action

Echo staff report

New rules put into effect by the U.S. Forest Service have angered local ATV riders who are finding out the places they have ridden for years are now off limits.<BR><BR>The result to date is a new infusion of members to the local ATV club.<BR><BR>“It’s been an overwhelming response for the club,” said Ely-Winton Stumpjumpers vice president Roger Skraba. “There will be a strong club in Ely, MN but everyone has to show up on October 13.”<BR><BR>Kawishiwi District Ranger Mark Van Every knows the changes are controversial but adds they are in line with national policy on federal lands.<BR><BR>“This is in line with national policy basically restricting off road vehicle traffic to designated routes. We don’t allow people to ride on level 3 roads which are our higher standard roads because of potential safety issues,” said Van Every. “Lots of times full size vehicles and ATVs don’t mix.”<BR><BR>With signs going up banning ATV travel on portions of the Cloquet Line, the Stumpjumpers Club will have a hot issue to deal with at the Oct. 13 meeting at Grand Ely Lodge at 7 p.m.<BR><BR>“We are going to need to contact Congressman Jim Oberstar because this is a federal issue,” said Skraba.<BR><BR>There is also the possibility local units of government could take over jurisdiction on affected roads and allow for multiple use. <BR><BR>“There are challenges with that,” said Van Every. “Typically when a township takes over a road they want us to bring it up to specifications.”<BR><BR>Van Every defends the Forest Service’s sudden change of policy in regard to ATVs and snowmobiles on roads like the Cloquet Line on the basis of safety. <BR><BR>“Typically higher standard roads are that way for a reason because they have a higher level of vehicle traffic on them so there is the potential for interaction,” said Van Every. <BR><BR>The other change bans cross-country travel of ATVs on federal land. The Minnesota DNR has not adopted that policy for state land.<BR><BR>“There are all kinds of places where we see ATV use that were never developed or designed to be used by anybody. Those are no longer available to ride on.” <BR><BR>A map on the Forest Service web site, www.superiornationalforest.org, is a rough look at where ATV use is allowed and where it is banned on federal lands. <BR><BR>“They map does not include all of the routes currently available for ATVs to ride on. It shows routes that are recommended for people to use and it shows some other places that are open and available,” said Van Every. <BR><BR>“There are also a number of old road routes designed for vehicle traffic, those are still open unless they are signed closed. We will be making a determination over a period of time to either put those routes on the road system or designate them as a trail or close to all or some uses.” <BR><BR>Van Every said the Forest Service is also looking at creating additional opportunities for ATV riders, specifically in the Dunka south and east of Babbitt. <BR><BR>“The Dunka area is one are we’re looking at where we can provide some opportunities for people to ride ATVs. We’ve already been in contact with the ATV club out of Babbitt. We’re looking for those areas that make the most sense. That’s very much a part of where we want to go. ATVs are a legitimate use on national forest and we need to find a way to provide those opportunities and protect the resource at the same time,” said Van Every. <BR><BR>Since this is the first year of the new rules, specifically the banning of riding cross country even to retrieve big game, Van Every knows it will take some time for every body to get up to speed.<BR><BR>“This first year there is going to be an emphasis on an educational effort. We want give people an opportunity to understand the changes and know what they can and can’t do.”<BR><BR>Blatant violators will be ticketed but Van Every added, “Ultimately the goal here is not to penalize people or issue tickets, the goal is for all of us to work together and find ways for people to ride ATVs and protect the resources.”<BR><BR>For the local ATV club, the Forest Service decisions have provided a boost in membership and hopefully a boost in activity.<BR><BR>“Unfortunately we have to use the take away method to unite us but we have to be united now,” said Skraba.