Letter sent to Senator John Marty and the Minnesota Senate Environment and Natural
Resources Committee March 14, 2005
Dear Senator Marty and Members:
The League of Women Voters of Minnesota (LWVMN) is a "good government" organization
and we write today because we believe that an essential feature of good government
is protecting our ecosystem for our children and grandchildren. We are committed
to the protection and wise management of our natural resources. Irresponsible
use of off-highway vehicles (OHVs) can cause enormous damage, as demonstrated at
Spider Lake in Foot Hills State Forest, in wetlands across the state which have
been turned into mud holes, along trout streams crossed and recrossed for sport,
and on forest paths rutted and eroding into local waters.
LWVMN has worked with a coalition of environmental groups for several years to
promote legislation that will both protect our natural resources and give OHV users
trails and guidelines so that they might pursue their sport without harming the
environment. The required review and reclassification of our state forests
contained in the 2003 OHV bill went a long way toward achieving these goals.
The 2004 OHV bill was an effort to define activities that are specifically prohibited.
However, enforcing OHV laws has proven to be an on-going problem for conservation
officers. A minority of OHV enthusiasts, the "few bad apples," has respect
neither for the environment nor for the officers charged with protecting it.
A few have been caught and charged, often after giving the arresting officer considerable
grief. Some of these people appear to believe the tickets and fines are just
part of the cost of having a "good time."
The goal of SF720 is to increase the stakes for egregious
and repeat offenders in an effort to protect Minnesota's public lands from reckless
OHV operators. It will not affect any law-abiding OHV rider, because it is
aimed directly at the "bad apples" who apparently believe that state laws are meant
for others. One can be charged with a gross misdemeanor only for willful disregard
of signs or for repeat or especially egregious offenses. These are not the
actions of the law-abiding OHV operator.
We urge your support for SF720. The good of the OHV
community can only be enhanced by holding scofflaws accountable for the damage they
do to the environment and to the reputation of their sport.
Gwen S. Myers
Action Chair, League of Women Voters of Minnesota
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