Shumlin Administration Wants ATV Rule Repealed

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(Host) The Shumlin administration has officially proposed repealing a rule that allows all-terrain vehicles on state land.

As VPR’s John Dillon reports, the announcement has pleased environmentalists and disappointed ATV riders.

(Dillon) The repeal of the ATV rule fulfills a promise made by candidate Peter Shumlin. He wasn’t in favor of the Douglas administration’s plan to let ATV riders use state property.

Anthony Iarrapino is a lawyer with the Conservation Law Foundation, which was poised to challenge the old rule in court.

(Iarrapino) "This would return to the situation before the unpopular Douglas administration rule where state lands were protected from the air pollution, the water pollution and the wildlife habitat degradation that CLF believes expanded ATV use on state lands would bring."

(Dillon) Iarrapino says public comments ran 4 to 1 against allowing the motorized vehicles on state land.

And the Douglas ATV rule also ran into trouble in the Legislature when a key rules committee voted against it.

Iarrapino says the Shumlin administration action means the CLF legal challenge is on hold.

(Iarrapino) "If this rule were to go into effect, our objectives of restoring protections for state land and upholding the rule of law would be fully accomplished."

(Dillon) Danny Hale is executive director of the Vermont All Terrain Vehicle Sportsman’s Association. He said the repeal proposal was not a big surprise, given the Shumlin’s administration’s objection. But he says his organization will continue to make the case that ATV riders have a right to use state land, and that they can use it responsibly.

(Hale) "We still have a desire to have short connectors across some state property. At some point we would like to get there. How we get there is a new question. That’s where we’re at, right back to square one."

(Dillon) Hale says his organization was not proposing a huge trail network on state land. He says riders do want to link private trail networks with trails across state property.

(Hale) "There’s enough land for everyone to have some access. Nothing that VASA has ever wanted to do included taking over an existing trail system or creating a trail system on state land."

(Dillon) The Agency of Natural Resources says it hasn’t ruled out the possibility that ATV trails could be built on public property some day. John Groveman is the agency’s general counsel. He said there were too many unanswered questions raised last year about the environmental and legal impact of the ATV proposal.

(Groveman) "But it doesn’t mean that there will never be ATV trails on state land or that there would never be another other rule at some point in the future. It’s just that right now that the feeling is that the time is not right."

(Dillon) The state will hold a public hearing on the ATV rule repeal on April 26th.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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