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New York releases draft policy for ATV access on public lands

The purpose of this policy is to provide criteria for evaluating the suitability of roads on these public lands for public ATV access. Download full policy document (pdf 100kb).

From New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Map of New York

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Acting Commissioner Denise M. Sheehan today announced the release of a Draft Commissioner's Policy for public all terrain vehicle (ATV) access to recreational programs on State-owned land.

The proposed policy will ensure that ATV access on these lands will conform to the State Vehicle and Traffic Law, the Environmental Conservation Law, DEC rules and regulations and the Adirondack and Catskill State Land Master Plans; will not facilitate trespass on private lands; and will not cause environmental degradation.

The Division of Lands and Forests will evaluate whether roads or trails being considered for ATV access have met the above criteria using the Unit Management Plan (UMP) process.

THIS POLICY PROHIBITS:

  • the use of ATV's within the boundaries of Wildlife Management Areas, Tidal Wetlands and Environmental Education Centers
  • exceptions for persons with disabilities using CP-3 and non-ambulatory hunting permits are under consideration.

DEC does not offer ATV riding as a program on public lands it owns and manages, however, because ATV's could be used to access its programs (like hunting, fishing and camping) in some locations, development of this policy was deemed necessary.

In an issue related to the development of this policy, Governor Pataki has proposed legislation to increase ATV registration fees as part of his 2005-06 Executive Budget. The increased revenue will be used to provide funds for public education, enforcement and development of ATV trail systems on private and state conservation easement lands in a manner that is consistent with this policy.

"The development of this policy represents another significant step New York State is taking to ensure the continued protection of public lands," Commissioner Sheehan said. "This policy is important to ensure that ATV access in these areas is consistent with State law and policy. As the stewards of more than 4 million acres of land across New York State, we are committed to managing these public land resources in a responsible manner so that they may be enjoyed by this, and future generations of New Yorkers. We encourage the public to attend the upcoming meetings and provide comments to the Department to help shape the final policy."

The draft policy establishes that ATV riding is not a program offered on public lands owned in fee by DEC. It recognizes, however, that ATV use is one of several possible means that the public may utilize to access recreational opportunities on public and easement lands that are deemed appropriate for such use and are open to public ATV access without conflict with the State Vehicle and Traffic Law.

The purpose of this policy is to provide DEC staff with a set of criteria for evaluating the suitability of roads on these public lands for public ATV access. The policy also establishes that the determination to open any roads for public ATV access will be made through the Unit Management Planning (UMP) process for Forest Preserves, reforestation, multiple use and unique areas, and pursuant to the terms of each conservation easement and subsequent Recreational Management Plans that are developed to govern public recreation use on those lands.

In evaluating whether a road or trail should be opened or remain open to the public use of ATVs, a number of criteria will be evaluated, including: conformity with the State Vehicle and Traffic Law, the Environmental Conservation Law, DEC rules and regulations and the Adirondack and Catskill State Land Master Plans, impacts on natural resources, compatibility with other public use, public safety, and illegal off-road ATV use.

As part of his 2005-06 Executive Budget, Governor Pataki has proposed legislation to provide additional funds for public education, enforcement and development of ATV trail systems on private lands and State conservation easement lands, consistent with this ATV policy that is being developed by DEC.

For more information: Robert Davies, Director, Division of Lands and Forests, NYS DEC, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233, (518) 402-9405.

June 2005

photo of ATVs on trail

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