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Poll: Room in the Pinelands for Conservationists and ATVs?

Beyond the angry words and accusations, it may ultimately be an issue of conservation versus recreation

A battle has arisen between those who enjoy driving off-road vehicles in challenging wilderness areas and state conservationists seeking to protect the Pinelands, a 1 million-plus acre expanse of preserved forest and wetlands in South Jersey. Some drivers of all-terrain vehicles have been driving off regular trails and dirt roads, which environmentalists say can destroy the state and federally preserved watershed, endangering natural habitats and the drinking water of millions.

Drivers of off-road vehicles deny this, but say they have as much right to enjoy the wilderness areas as anyone and that state or self-appointed officials have over-reached in their efforts to lock down most of the preservation area from recreational use.

Which argument do you buy?

  • Even the state realizes that you have to look at the whole picture when you consider blocking a group of citizens from enjoying our natural environment. Drivers of ATVs have a legitimate right to use public lands, just as others do. For a group of conservationists to decide they just don’t like that form of recreation and say they can block it is infringing on the rights of others.

  • The vast majority of off-road drivers observe the rules and only use those backroads that are marked. Nevertheless, it remains unclear what is allowable and what isn’t. And some trails are unreasonably blocked off. Officials need to reconsider which trails are accessible to vehicles and which aren’t.

  • A delicate balance is needed here. Many residents living near the Pinelands see its use as a tradition, and they’ve invested in ATVs and other equipment in order to enjoy the outdoors and challenge themselves. On the other hand, the Pinelands has been a preserve area because it is critical to our natural environment and protects an aquifer that provides drinking water to millions. We should stake out some areas for ATV enthusiasts, but pristine areas should be protected. The state, Pinelands Commission, and forestry experts need to step up enforcement. Vandalism should not be tolerated in such an important area.

  • If we must have some areas dedicated to ATV use, they should be few and far between. Further restrictions are needed as they are likely outdated. What’s more, vandalized areas must be continually patrolled until drivers get the idea that it won’t be tolerated. The state and federal government have spent millions on protecting this area for a reason — we need it for the future of the planet. The recreational wants of a few should not come before the needs of the entire region.

  • Once again, the DEP and Christie administration are buckling to complaints from a small group of people that happen to support their agenda. Despite denials, this move to throw out the MAP developed by state officials is simply political, as are claims that the state needs more input. It’s simply a delaying tactic and like all those who care about the environment, I’m counting the days until we’re rid of Christie and his phony message and constant pandering to those on the right.

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