Public Land Access In Vermont

Ever wonder why Vermont is unable to allow managed motorized recreation on public lands like our neighbor next door?  Vermont is one of only several states across the country that does not allow responsible motorized recreation on public lands. Rhode Island and Hawaii are the other two states that come to mind and understandably, both of those states don’t have a lot of public land available. Vermont however has tens of thousands of acres of public lands. 

Is it really the potential environmental issues (that we’re all lead to believe) that prevents responsible motorized recreation? Does Vermont have a specific soil type that is more fragile and susceptible to erosion and the degradation of our water quality than any other place in the country? Do we have more rare and endangered plant communities and animal species that requires additional  protection than any other state in the country?  Do our motorcycles and ATV’s produce more emissions and actually sound louder here than any other state in the country?  The answers to these questions is of course, no. If 47 other states have found a way to mitigate any potential environmental issues then certainly Vermont could also.  If it’s not the environmental issues, then what could it be, our management policies?

Our land management policies were founded on the principals of Gifford Pinchot (the father of American Forestry). For well over one hundred years those policies have success-fully served our public lands across the country. Those three guiding principals are; sustainable silviculture, the greatest good for the greatest number, and multiple use. Currently, we are seeing those successful policies being replaced by end-less litigation and very, very questionable science to a point where our land managers  job descriptions in some cases, more closely resemble those of  museum curators rather than active land management.

When urban philosophy moves to the rural landscape we are lead to believe that breaking sticks is bad for the environment.  Apparently, applied silviculture, best forestry management practices and the working knowledge that we have acquired for the past two hundred years is to be replaced with new “science.”

When representatives of national environmental organizations tell us that they “only want us walking quietly in the woods” or that “someone has to speak for the environment” we’re to believe that these are valid land management policies… seriously?! With a few notable exceptions, the vast majority of our public lands have been a working landscape for well over 250 years. At one time over 75% of Vermont’s landscape was converted from forestland to active agricultural production. Prohibiting environmentally compatible and sustainable motorized recreation on public lands is not based on science, it is simply the unwillingness to share our resources.

Education is also a key component to any land management policy. Just as educating the errant rider on inappropriate behavior, so is educating the non-motorized community on how an environmentally compatible and sustainable OHV trail system is a responsible use of our public lands. The refusal to even acknowledge that OHV recreation is a historical land use activity as well as a con-temporary family activity that is deserving of legal opportunity and can be accomplished in a sustainable manner certainly doesn’t appear to be a balanced approach to sharing our resources.

Every user group who has access to public lands has impacts to the landscape, period.  Whether it is motorized or non-motorized, without a maintenance and management policy for each specific use the impacts eventually become unacceptable. By telling the motorized recreational community that our impacts are too great for public lands without even giving us an opportunity to finally prove one way or the other and ignoring the successful OHV programs in 47 other states, clearly demonstrates …yet again, the unwillingness  to share our resources in a responsible manner.

Unfortunately the future for all recreational uses on public lands in Vermont is in jeopardy.  Well funded and politically connected, state and national environmental advocacy groups are imposing their own specific philosophy on our local land management policies. Until such time as we are able to promote and defend the responsible policies that are a balance of everyone’s interests and not just one elitist view-point, we can expect to see future closures and limitations on all the uses of our public lands. It’s all about sharing our public lands responsibly and unfortunately some people just don’t want to…or perhaps don’t even know what it means to share.

Please consider, joining a club, participating and become involved.


Reprinted with permission from the Vermont Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Associaition’s, 2011 Newsletter.

The BlueRibbon Coalition is a national recreation group that champions responsible recreation, and encourages individual environmental stewardship. With members in all 50 states, BRC is focused on building enthusiast involvement with organizational efforts through membership, outreach, education, and collaboration among recreationists.

The Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) season is here. Federal employees, please mark BlueRibbon Coalition and Check #11402 on your CFC pledge form to support our efforts to protect your access. Join us at 1-800-258-3742 or

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Posted by on Dec 2 2011. Filed under News and Information. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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