Upper Verde suffers from off-road vehicle abuse

It’s illegal to drive vehicles anywhere off authorized roads and trails on the Prescott National Forest, and it has been that way for a decade.[Source: Joanna Dodder Nellans, Verde News, June 10, 2008] — The spectacular scenery and cool waters of the Upper Verde make it a magnet for an ever-increasing number of illegal ORV users who are destroying signs and then carving roads along its banks.  Arizona Game and Fish Department estimates Arizona has experienced a 347% increase in ORV users in the last decade.  Some have a huge attraction to driving through the water, evidenced by some of the illegal activities they post on Internet sites such as You Tube.

The state Senate Natural Resource Committee conducted a hearing this week about off-road vehicle issues.  Despite all the increasing problems, the Legislature raided the remaining four months worth of money ($395,000) in the Game and Fish 2007-08 budget for ORV law enforcement and education.  It also swept the Arizona State Parks fund for ORV education and grant money.  And it’s highly likely this will happen again for the entire budget year that begins July 1, said Sen. Tom O’Halleran of Sedona, who opposes such budget raids.

The Prescott National Forest used one of the State Parks grants recently to replace vandalized signs in the Upper Verde area.  The State Parks Ambassador Program is another victim of the budget cuts, said Jeff Gursh of the Arizona Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition.  It trains ORV volunteers to monitor trails including one on the Prescott National Forest below Crown King.  State Parks also provides educational brochures to ATV dealers out of the cut funds.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Repairing damage from off-highway vehicles no easy task

Nora Avery-Page, Cronkite News Service[Source: Nora Avery-Page, Cronkite News Service] — Surrounded by illegal off-highway vehicle trails, this one patch, with a replanted cactus taking root, marks an effort repair at least some of the desert near Mesa.  Boy Scouts planted the cactus and several others dotting this landscape, and groups representing riders, hikers and others often volunteer to help repair damage off-highway vehicles cause here.  “There’s a lot that can be done, but it takes a lot, lots of funding and manpower,” said Tammy Pike, OHV and trails coordinator for the Tonto National Forest.  “We try to reach out and have as many people help us as we can.”

Tonto sees more than 900,000 visits each year from off-highway vehicle riders, and land managed by the state and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management also is attracting more and more riders as Arizona’s population grows.  The Arizona Game and Fish Department estimates that off-highway vehicle use has more than tripled since 1998.  A bill being considered by the Arizona State Legislature would create a registration fee for off-highway vehicles that would help fund, among other things, projects to repair damaged landscapes.  Damaged areas can be restored if there is sufficient money and effort, officials say, but the scale of the damage makes it makes it virtually impossible to repair everything.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Three legislators kill popular ATV bill (Tucson Citizen editorial)

[Source: Tucson Citizen] — When is three greater than 37?  When the Legislature starts counting votes.  A bill with wide bipartisan support in the Legislature and broad backing from groups that traditionally don’t get along with each other was killed this week.  The bill, which would have required that all-terrain vehicles be registered and owners pay a user fee, was co-sponsored by 37 legislators, more than one-third of the total.

HB 2573 easily passed the House 43-13, with four members not voting.  It was sent to the Senate and assigned to the Natural Resources and Rural Affairs Committee.  The bill died Wednesday on a 3-3 vote.  The only southern Arizona senator on the committee, Marsha Arzberger, a Democrat from Willcox, voted to support the bill. 

ATV safety and control legislation is a definite need in Arizona, and the bill had support on the basis of widespread concurrence on that point.  Off-road vehicle use has risen sharply, by 350 percent since 1998, the Arizona Game & Fish Department reports.  That has exacerbated the issues of rider safety and environmental damage.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]