Environmental groups opposed the expansion of ATV trafficking through the forestlands of north-central Pennsylvania during a state Senate hearing Wednesday at the Pennsylvania College of Technology.
ATV advocates, however, have pointed to the economic benefits and family-friendly aspects of outdoor recreation enjoyed by many people across the state.
A pilot program for the Tiadaghton State Forest ATV Pilot Connector that runs northwest along Highway 44 from near Haneyville to Potter County was introduced in 2021.
Clinton County Commissioner Jeff Snyder said there was room for any of the various outdoor recreational activities among the hundreds of thousands of acres in his county for the enjoyment of the people.
“Don’t tell me you can’t have ATV trails”, he said.
He rejected the idea that ATV club members were tearing up the roads.
But people like Pine Creek Preservation Association member Cynthia Bower have made no secret of her feelings about ATV traffic in the region’s wilderness.
The people who live and work in the Pine Creek Valley, she said, consider it a special place and want it to stay that way.
In a presentation, she posted images of trails that have resulted in ruts and erosion.
She said she feared ATV traffic along wild trout streams and damage to fish populations.
“We are opposed to the ATV pilot connector”, she said.
Clinton Ivins, a member of Slate Run Sportsmen, also declared his opposition.
He said the ATV connector would only lead to an expansion of these recreational activities.
âThe expansion of ATVs is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean it has to happen everywhere,â he said.
Henry Sorgen, president of the Central Mountain ATV Association, Inc., touted the benefits of ATVs.
He noted that ATV recreation is a particularly big industry in West Virginia.
“This is what we want to bring to north-central Pennsylvania”, he said.
Sorgen said his organization prides itself on its self-control and has spent money repairing yards in the rare event that club members have destroyed property.
The people who cause problems with ATVs are a very small minority, he noted.
Jason Albright, director of forestry operations for the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said the agency monitors and manages ATV activity taking into account its impacts on the environment, economy and other factors.
Timothy Schaeffer, executive director of the State Fish and Boat Commission, said impacts to fishing and aquatic life, especially with wild trout streams, are under investigation.
“Many of these flows overlap with the expansion of ATVs”, he said.
State Senator Gene Yaw, of the Township of R-Loyalsock, chairman of the Senate Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy, said the salt from roads flowing into waterways poses one of the greater negative impacts on inland waterways.
State Senator Chris Dush, R-Wellsboro, said people with physical limitations who could otherwise access the great outdoors may benefit from the use of an ATV.
“This is an inclusive benefit for people with disabilities”, he said.
State Senator Scott E. Hutchinson, of R-Oil City, said: âWe should encourage the use of the outdoors as much as possible. “