Recent efforts in the West Virginia General Assembly to promote off-highway vehicles (ORVs) on public lands is a growing concern among conservation groups in West Virginia. In the 2021 session of the West Virginia General Assembly there were 8 bills and 2 resolutions introduced to promote the use of off-road vehicles on West Virginnia’s public lands. While none of the measures passed, the shear number of legislative initiatives has focused attention on the issue.
West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (WVHC), a founding-member of ABRA, has taken a strong stand against opening up the National Forests, wildlife management areas and state parks and forests to such vehicles as motorcycles, motorized dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, etc. Among reasons cited by WVHC for its concerns are:
- ORVs cause damage on public lands that require increased maintenance and repair of trails and other features of public lands, as evidenced at locations elsewhere in the United States where ORVs are allowed
- The effects of ORV use on soils, overall alter watershed functions and air quality are profound.
- Public lands should be places of rest, solitude and refuge. The noise and commotion associated with ORVs is incompatible with these characteristics of public lands.
- The negative effects of ORVs on vegetation and wildlife habitats are significant.
At WVHC’s request, ABRA’s Conservation Hub Advisory Committee agreed last week to accept as a study project issue the impact of ORVs on public lands. Information on the issue will in the future to the Conservation Hub portion of the ABRA website. For additional information, consult the lead article in the June issue of The Highland Voice, the monthly publication of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.