Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Good call on ATVs

An Idaho Senate committee showed startlingly good sense Monday when it stopped a bill that would have gutted the ability of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to regulate where hunters can use all-terrain vehicles.

The Senate Resources and Environment Committee also rejected legislation that would have forbidden Fish and Game from enforcing road closures on federal land.

Hunting would have been the worse for it if the bills had succeeded in letting ATVs roam wherever their drivers wish—the clear aim of both bills.

It's enough that hunters use increasingly sophisticated weapons to bag big game, but the use of ATVs without restriction would harm wildlife habitat and hamstring the ability of game managers to ensure healthy herds by closing access to certain areas periodically.

Uncontrolled creation of new trails would irretrievably harm big game's feeding, watering and mating areas.

The bills threatened to reduce a primal, communal and oft-times spiritual experience to something little better than bagging a few pounds of hamburger at an urban grocery store.

Unfortunately for conscientious hunters who use the machines judiciously, others give the ATV community a black eye by failing to apply common sense and courtesy in the backcountry.

It's hard to hunt deer or elk when too many riders in an area disperse them. It's impossible to hear the echoing bugle of a bull elk at dawn if it's drowned out by the roar of engines.

ATVs have their place: on existing roads and designated trails on public lands. If hunting is to remain a respectable pursuit, their place must not be anywhere, anytime.

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