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ATVs and Fair Chase

February 8, 2010

The Winter 2010 issue of Backcountry Journal, the quarterly magazine put out by the Backcountry Hunters & Anglers has an excellent article by Tom Wharton about ATV use in big game hunting, its impacts, and postulates that unlimited ATV use tips the scales too much in favor of the hunter.  Together with improved weapons, optics, and other gadgetry, unlimited ATV use eliminates the fair chase ethic from hunting.  It struck close to home; we’re involved in attempting to regulate ATVs on public lands in South Dakota at the present.  Hunters out here are divided.

Being familiar with Minnesota’s ATV regulation experience, I also noted with interest a short BHA Chapter report in this issue of Backcountry Journal.  The Minnesota BHA chair, David Lien, had an op-ed published in the 9/23/09 issue of the Duluth News Tribune titled “Hunter’s view: Overuse of ATVs put ethical backcountry hunting at risk.”  Mr. Lien echoes the concerns we’re having out here.

“We at Minnesota Backcountry Hunters & Anglers are all for responsible access, but the 4,000 miles of U.S. Forest Service roads and the 11,000-plus miles of state forest trails in Minnesota provide plenty of (in fact, far too much) motorized access.  Studies show that  on most public lands, approximately 90 percent of users are non-motorized.  Meanwhile, according to a 2000 study, supply or opportunity, in terms of lands available in Minnesota, is close to three times greater for motorized than for non-motorized.  Sadly, every time people hunt from ATVs and use high-tech goodies that violate fair chase, they give animal-rights activists and the non-hunting public even more ammo to further restrict hunting.”

I’ll add an “Amen” to that.  There is a steady decline of wildlife habitat and riparian areas just as the result of fragmentation by suburban sprawl, I am loath to see that rate of decline increased by ATV overuse and abuse.   There’s precious little ethic demonstrated by ATVers and our land managers make little effort, or have no budget, to limit ATV damage and enforce existing laws, let alone do any restoration work.

Check out Wharton’s article in the current Backcountry Journal at

— Margadant

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Gunnar Berg permalink
    February 8, 2010 4:44 pm

    Oh hell. I want to get rid of fish-finders too. They’re really hard on the population.

  2. February 9, 2010 8:56 am

    In my home state we are fighting to preserve a ban on ATVs on state land. Our Republican Governor is pushing to open corridors across state land to connect existing trails on private land. It sounds reasonable until you look at the damage they do where ever they get access to land, either legally or illegally. We are arguing the problems they cause with erosion, disturbing soil and opening it up to invasive plants and conflicts with other users to fight the change.
    I can see some legitimate uses of them, but the irresponsible use just out weighs the plusses in most cases.

    • February 9, 2010 12:34 pm

      A few years ago I attended a program that featured a couple of the leaders of the campaign which resulted in such favorable legislation on ATVs in Minnesota. They said that the ATV community had “missed” the the legislation and were then in the process of mounting a full-court press to repeal or revise the ATV law. We appreciated their insights and have found their predictions about the reactions of ATVers on the spot.

      You’re lucky to be in a position of having to defend, you have my best wishes on keeping Minnesota’s regulatory system intact and effective. Good on ya.

      — JM

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