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House Environment Committee discusses Lislegard bill to fund ATV trails, including Prospector Loop

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Nick Wognum, President of the Prospector ATV Club Alliance (left) testifies Tuesday in Saint Paul in support of legislation authored by Rep. Dave Lislegard (right) to increase state funding for ATV trails.

Tuesday, the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy Committee held a public hearing on legislation authored by Rep. Dave Lislegard (DFL – Aurora) to increase investments in the construction and maintenance of all-terrain vehicle trails in Minnesota. The bipartisan bill, HF 4181, dedicates $1.5 million from a state fund dedicated to ATV trails this year with $200,000 appropriated annually thereafter. Additionally, the legislation invests $1.2 million for the Prospector Loop ATV trail system in St. Louis County.

“ATV riding is a great way to get out and experience our state’s unmatched natural resources. As more and more people take up the pastime, folks should expect plentiful, quality trails across Minnesota,” Lislegard said. “This funding is critical to developing and maintaining a sustainable ATV trail system, and will benefit riders across the Range and other areas of our state while giving a big boost to our tourism industry.”

Rep. Roger Skraba is a co-author of the funding bill and said he looks forward to it being passed on the House floor. 

"The Prospector Club has followed the procedures in getting the funding from the dedicated ATV account and I look forward to seeing this approved on the House floor," said Skraba. "This connection to the Y Store and to the Voyageur Country and Quad Cities trails is an important link for ATV riders." 

When COVID emerged, Minnesotans looked to the outdoors for recreational pursuits, and ATV trail usage increased significantly. Consequently, trail maintenance fell behind. The funding in Lislegard’s bill will help the DNR address the backlog in maintenance in every region of the state, with some of the funding going toward new projects. Many of the trail projects – developed in coordination with local ATV clubs – are on forest roads or trails that are already open for ATV use. The investments in the bill will help ensure they are sustainably built, monitored, and properly maintained.

The Prospector Loop Trail – one of the primary trail systems in northern Minnesota – connects Ely, Babbitt, Embarrass, Tower, and Soudan via a combination of forest roads, wooded trails, and county road rights-of-way, passing through many different forest types and ecosystems, and connecting to Lake County ATV trails. The $1.2 million investment in the bill would provide for additional maintenance and expansion of the 167-mile system. The DNR has already completed an Environmental Assessment Worksheet for the next phase of trail construction. 

Funding for the bill is from the DNR’s dedicated ATV account. Money in the account comes from ATV registration fees and the portion of the state’s gas tax proceeds attributable to ATVs.

Lislegard’s legislation was laid over for consideration in a future package of Environment and Natural Resources funding. Video of the hearing will be available on House Public Information Services’ YouTube page.

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