It was suggested in the AHBA thread that a separate discussion on ATV issues was in order, so here 'tis.
To start, I joined the AHBA because they generally represent my beliefs on habitat preservation and resource stewardship. I say generally because I happen to support opening ANWR on the provision that proper oversight is exercised, but that's another issue.
To the point of this thread, I support the AHBA's stance on ATV/ORV abuse, and for you militant ATV'ers out there the key word here is ABUSE.
Despite what some may take from this post I am not anti-ATV or anti machine--I own a river sled and 2 snowmachines, but ATV/ORV use does concern me because of all the various motorized means of accessing the backcountry, wheeled/tracked land vehicles cause the most long term damage to the habitat because they generally operate when the ground is not protected by snow cover. Now, since these discussions almost always result in someone decrying an opinion as invalid for a lack of facts, then OK here's some simple (but not over simplified) math.
First some basic assumptions:
An average ATV is about 4 feet wide and its tire ruts about 9 inches wide.
An acre of land is 43,560 square feet.
A mile is 5,280 feet long
Combined, both tire ruts equal 18 inches which translates into 1.5 square feet of lost habitat for every linear foot of ATV trail, or 1 acre for every 5.5 miles of trail. Now if we factor in the width of the machine itself, and classify that land as damaged or marginalized then the impact of ATV's on wildlife habitat jumps to 1 acre for every 2.0625 miles (or 2 miles 110 yards)
For every 110 miles of trail equals 20 acres lost and 53.3 acres damaged.
These numbers are only to illustrate that machines degrade habitat in very real and lasting ways. We need to be mindful that the effects of our access has impact that radiates beyond our immediate needs or wants.
Do we need trails? Yes we do! And how we go about getting and maintaining them is fodder for another thread.
Those who ride and hunt responsibly are justifiably upset when they are lumped in with the renegades, but the question we all must face is where and how to draw the line. The primary problem facing ATV borne hunters is that the responsible riders are really only about half of the ATVing crowd despite the claims that they represent the vast majority of riders. I know "90%" is the single most abused percentage out there, and my assertion of half (or nearly so) is purely annecdotal, BUT its not "the occasional bad apple", it's an increasing number of "average" riders not even aware of what they are doing with regard to the habit they are grinding their way through. ATV/ORV borne hunters go places they shouldn't just because they can.
Chef Viktor said that ATV's are tools. I see his point but I disagree. ATV's used for hunting are not tools, they are conveniences, and like most conveniences they ultimately make people lazy. I don't believe ATV'ers say to themselves "Wahoo! Let's go destroy some habitat!" but I do believe they create situations for themselves where pioneering new trails, even short sections, becomes a sort of motorized imperative when suddenly "I'm hurt", or "I have to recover my game" erases any consideration for the damage the machine leaves in its' wake.
AKCub showed us a pic of a moose he killed 28 miles back, asserting that without the machine there was no way to get the meat out. He is correct, but forgets that with out the machine he wouldn't have gotten 28 miles back in, and/or more importantly (maybe) if not for the prevalence of ATV's, would he have needed to go 28 miles in the first place just to find a moose.