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Energy & Environment

Vilas Committee Discusses Conflicts Between Grouse Hunters, ATV's

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EAGLE RIVER- Conflicts in the fall hunting season between ATV/UTV's and ruffed grouse hunters were discussed recently at the Vilas County forestry committee after concerns were expressed by Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) representative Jon Steigerwaldt who oppossed any more motorized trails on the county forest until the cumulative impacts of motorized trails can be determined on wildlife.

“Concerns from recreational users in Vilas County are growing over the increased presence of ATV/UTV traffic,” Steigerwaldt said. “These trails need to consider other users in the 15 year plan being developed. ATV/UTV trails need to connect communities and we do not support more ATV/UTV trails on the county forest at this time. “There's a need to reduce negative hunter-ATV interactions and we would propose closing ATV trails that do not connect communities from September 15 to November 30.”

Steigerwaldt claimed that the county is “more interested in recreational development than sustainability” but claims of not weighing interactions was countered by several committee members.

Supervisor Art Kunde thought “you make good points but one plan does not fit everyone” adding that “we need to generate revenue to the county and we've been mindful of 'pinch point' areas of various users.” Committe chairwoman Holly Tomlanovich pointed out “there are 48.7 miles of county forest roads of which 12.4 miles are ATV routes.” She pointed out the Tamarack Springs Off Highway Motorcycle (OHM) area was very underutilized with Tom Timkin adding they first looked at the Muskrat Creek area for off highway cycles but switched to Tamarack Springs when sensitive species, nesting turtles and spruce grouse, were discovered.

Steigerwaldt noted the OHM system needed to consider a buffer since it overlaps the Karner Blue Butterfly potential range and Rusty Patched Bumble Bee potential zone. It was also noted that all town roads in these areas are open to ATV/UTV trails all year and not to confuse town roads with county forest roads.

Supervisor Dan Swiecichowski indicated the county has a Recreational Trail Safety Committee where all recreation user representatives come together to discuss conflicts that may exist and how to minimize them. “Every user group hated us for going with ATV use on the county forest but the limited development we now have has benefited the public and we are not going backwards,” he said.

Forest administrator Al Murray felt the county and RGS can work together on habitat improvement for grouse and other species.

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