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Know the West

ORVs named one of top threats

  Off-road vehicle use is one of the most serious threats to wild places, according to a Wilderness Society report outlining the 15 most endangered wild lands in the United States.

Jerry Greenberg of The Wilderness Society says that although mining and oil drilling industries can't be ignored, soil erosion and pollution from ORVs are fast-growing problems on public lands. "These machines - when you see the damage left behind - it's just incredible," Greenberg says. Sales of dirt bikes, snowmobiles and Jet Skis have all increased in recent years.

Marsha Karle, chief of public affairs for Yellowstone National Park, says inclusion on The Wilderness Society's list of the 15 most endangered wild lands brings necessary attention to enforcement problems at Yellowstone. Though off-road vehicles are restricted to park roads at all times, she says law enforcement officials are not always present when a violation occurs. "We just don't have enough people to go around," she says. Yellowstone has proposed a ban on snowmobiles in the park (HCN, 9/13/99: Tempers flare over winter plan).

Greenberg says The Wilderness Society isn't calling for a complete ban of off-road vehicles, but he hopes the group's report will raise awareness among managers and ORV users. Commercials often show riders traveling through untouched lands, he says, "and we need to get manufacturers to understand they are selling irresponsible behavior."

Contact The Wilderness Society at 202/429-2642 or visit the group's Web site at www.wilderness.org for a copy of the report.