Tucson, AZ — Reckless off-roading has become an acute law enforcement problem and is now the single greatest threat to American landscapes, according to a new coalition of rangers and public land managers assembled by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Rangers say tough new policies, such as suspending hunting and fishing licenses and, in extreme cases, confiscating vehicles, are needed to stem irresponsible off-road vehicle use.
The coalition, called Rangers for Responsible Recreation, consists of more than a dozen of America’s most seasoned law enforcement and natural resource management specialists from every major public lands agency covering several different administrations. The coalition contends off-road abuse is creating chaos on our public lands and ruining the outdoors for everyone while overburdening an already strapped ranger force. As Don Hoffman, a retired Forest Service wilderness ranger in Arizona states:
“Rapid population growth, accelerating off-road vehicle sales and ineffectual regulation have combined to make the indiscriminate use of off-road vehicles the greatest threat to Arizona's quiet, wild places.”
Ron Kearns, a retired biologist and law enforcement officer with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona, adds:
“I have observed a dramatic increase in the use and misuse of off-road vehicles on the Kofa since I began my law enforcement duties there in 1982. The abuse involves driving off the 300 miles of designated roads on Kofa resulting in irreparable damage to desert pavement and pristine lands. The Fish and Wildlife Service must increase law enforcement efforts.”
From a national perspective, Jim Baca, former Director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management now serving as New Mexico's Natural Resource Trustee, contends:
“There is no greater threat to our country's public land treasure than off-road vehicles. Additionally, they are killing and injuring too many young people because of improper training, operation and inherent safety deficiencies.”
The Rangers for Responsible Recreation are also urging a congressional inquiry that accounts for the real costs to taxpayers from off-road abuses on our public lands, as well as augmented law enforcement funding dedicated to coping with the avalanche of problems occasioned by reckless off-roading.
“Off-roading is becoming the most widely destructive, problematic and demanding use of public lands,” states Southwest PEER Director Daniel Patterson, an ecologist who formerly worked with the Bureau of Land Management, noting that off-road abuse has morphed motorized access into a destructive “wreck-reation.” “America needs a new national approach to what has become a plague on our legacy of conservation. No one has a right to abuse our public lands.”