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Issues from the OHV & Hunting Summit facilitated by the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council

By Dana Bell, NOHVCC Project Coordinator

Should hunters utilizing off-highway vehicles for scouting, hunting, or retrieval be allowed to travel off of existing routes of travel? This questions and a myriad of similar tough concerns were addressed at the OHV & Hunting Summit facilitated by the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council in Great Falls, Montana on August 20-21, 2000.

The purpose of the Summit was to offer an opportunity for a wide variety of interests to discuss concerns regarding the use of OHVs, primarily all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), as part of the hunt. Bob Walker, State Trails Coordinator, MT Fish, Wildlife, and Parks and one of the principal coordinator of the Summit states, "Land managers report that the majority of illegal operation of OHVs occurs during the hunting season. An aggressive ethics information campaign that is consistent among agencies and hunting and OHV organizations is necessary."

The forty participants from six states representing federal and state agencies, and hunting, environmental, recreational, ranching, private property, and OHV manufacturing interests who attended the two-day Summit validated Bob's statement. Participants included representatives from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Leave No Trace!, Montana Wildlife Federation, Montana Trails Vehicle Riders Association, Tread Lightly!, Iowa ATV Association, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, Motorcycle Industry Council, Colorado Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, Orion, Yamaha Motor Corporation, American Honda Motor Company, Montana Hunter Behavior Council, and Smith Livestock Company.

There was concern prior to the meeting that with such a diverse group personal agendas and biases could prevent honest discussion and cause the group to digress from the purpose of the Summit. To focus attention on the Summit goals and facilitate constructive discussion the advance material and agenda review emphasized that the group was not brought together to debate the status of existing laws or to discuss changes in law but to address ethics information and educational alternatives. Specific objectives outlined in the Summit invitations included:

The group also adhered to agreed upon and posted ground rules that included:

Following review of current state and federal laws, existing information, and educational programs the participants broke into three groups for facilitated discussion of "perceived" inappropriate uses of OHVs as part of hunting. When the groups came back together their lists were compared. The Perceived Inappropriate Use of OHVs as Part of Hunting common to all three groups were further prioritized by individual vote. Each participant was given three votes and allowed to place their individual votes all on one issue or to divide them between two or three issues. In the following results number 1 indicates the issue receiving the highest number of votes, number 13 indicates the issue receiving the lowest number of votes. Future education and outreach efforts will first focus on the highest priority issues.

1. That hunters on ATVs ride illegally on non-motorized single-track trails and on motorized trails designated for motorcycles only.

2. That hunters utilizing OHVs trespass into areas and trails closed to motorized vehicles.

3. That hunters utilizing OHVs travel cross-country.

4. That hunters utilizing OHVs have poor ethics; sportsmanship, fair chase or respect for resources.

5. That hunters utilizing OHVs travel off of existing routes to retrieve game and drag rather than carry out their game.

6. That hunters on OHVs displace wildlife.

7. That hunters on OHVs spread noxious weeds.

8. Inappropriate use of OHVs for hunting is encouraged by media advertising.

9. That hunters on OHVs chase wildlife.

10. That hunters on OHVs diminish the traditional hunting experience.

11. That hunters on OHVs have an unfair access and retrieval advantage over hunters not using OHVs.

12. That hunting with OHVs causes noise, air, and water pollution.

13. That hunting with OHVs causes damage to wet areas and wetlands, and during adverse conditions.

Other common critical issues associated with but beyond the Summit's objectives were:

The final step in the Summit's agenda was for the group to determine "Where Do We Go From Here." The participants quickly determined that a working group was necessary to develop Key Messages that would address the perceived inappropriate uses, distribute and promote the Key Messages, and build partnerships for their efforts. The commitment of the assembled group was clearly demonstrated when almost all signed up for tasks.

The closing exercise of the Summit was a group brainstorming of effective ways to distribute and sell their message.

A measure of any meetings value is if the objectives of the meeting are met. Not only were the Summit's objectives met but the working group is aggressively tackling their tasks. As follow-up to the Summit the group developed a mission statement, set of objectives, and slogan.

MISSION STATEMENT:

Develop and provide an off-highway vehicle ethics awareness program for public and private lands that is consistent among all agencies and initially oriented toward hunters who choose to use OHVs as part of their hunting experience.

OBJECTIVES:

1. To significantly reduce illegal use of OHVs used during the hunting season.

2. To incorporate an OHV ethics message in all state Hunter Education Program student manuals by July 1, 2004.

3. To develop a comprehensive package of ethics awareness tools that are available for agencies and private organizations by January 1, 2002. (Brochures, posters, fliers, PSAs, etc.)

4. To publicize nationwide the "On The Right Trail" program.

SLOGAN:

On The Right Trail

Russ Ehnes, Executive Director, of the NOHVCC states about the conference and it's results, "While getting a group this diverse to agree on anything can be challenging, I think we hit a home run with this summit. The results of this summit will no doubt result in a variety of educational products that can be applied across the nation."

For further information regarding "On The Right Trail" contact:

Bob Walker, State Trails Programs Coordinator, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, 1420 East 6th Avenue, Helena, MT 59620, Phone: 496-444-4585

National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council, 4718 South Taylor Drive, Sheboygan, WI 53081, Phone: 800-348-6487, Web: WWW.nohvcc.org,


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