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What to reduce first? Footprints or tire tracks?

When it comes to man vs. machine, machine usually wins, but not always. When it comes to man & machine vs. Earth, guess who wins? Exactly, not Earth.

The havoc created by motorized “recreation” in the national parks is getting more and more attention. The New York Times recently had an article on the subject.

As luck would have it, Chelsea Green has a book on this subject, Thrillcraft. The book exposes the lasting damage done to the land, water, and air from the growing plague of jet skis, quads, dirt bikes, dune buggies, snowmobiles, and other motorized recreational craft that are penetrating the last bastions of wild America. Offroad vehicle use has been deemed responsible for wildlife habitat fragmentation, disturbance of sensitive wildlife, soil erosion, spread of invasive weeds, loss of silence, as well as water and air pollution.

Here’s a snippet from The New York Times article that captures some of that sentiment from the ranchers and people most directly affected:

“Forty years ago when I was out cowboying I never saw a soul,” said Heidi Redd, who operates the Dugout Ranch near Canyonlands National Park in southeastern Utah. “Now it’s at a point where you realize the public land is not yours, you’re just one of the users. And whether it’s A.T.V.’s, horses or climbers, it’s a traffic jam.”

“There are so many of these machines,” said Dave Petersen, a bow hunter who monitors public lands issues here in Durango for the environmental group Trout Unlimited. “It’s made our big public lands much smaller, for the wildlife and for us.”

Environmentalists worry about the destruction of fragile soils and erosion, when outsize Western rainfalls course through the ruts left by hill-climbing all-terrain vehicles. There are also concerns for streams, rivers and wetlands, precious resources in the arid West and magnets for those who think all-terrain-vehicle riding is best when muddy. “They wouldn’t do this in their backyard,” said Liz Thomas, a lawyer for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “But it’s not their backyard.”

To read more about Thrillcraft, its authors and the organizations behind it, check out this great review from The Chronicle Herald of Nova Scotia.


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