WA Law a Compromise for ATV Users and Environmentalists

By Steve Jackson

A new Washington state law that was heralded as a compromise between all terrain vehicle (ATV) enthusiasts and conservation groups has not seen success in Okanagen County, where a lawsuit now threatens a travel plan of ATV users.

Washington state lawmakers' last session managed to craft a bill that allows counties with a population of less than 15 thousand to be able to decide if they will allow ATVs to travel on roads with speed limits of under 35 miles an hour. Spokane lawmaker Matt Shea says the bill was a compromise that included including environmental groups and ATV user groups, who worked on the measure.

Shea: “This is one of those win-win situations, where you have a tremendously diverse coalition of people coming together to solve problems in Olympia and during a very contentious session, the fifth longest in the state.”

But, shortly before the bill took effect this summer, Okanagan county commissioners approved a plan to be grandfathered in that allows ATV’s to also travel on some 600 miles of county roads with a speed limit over 35-mph.

Conservation Northwest is one of two groups who are now suing to block that plan. The group’s Director, Mitch Friedman, says Okanagen county’s efforts to bypass a carefully constructed compromise essentially torpedoed a tenuous agreement that was set up as a way to build trust between groups who are often diametrically opposed.

Friedman: “So for Okanagan county to come in and not only stick a nose under or tent, or put an atom bomb under it, that affects all the stakeholders and the ability resolve disputes over ATV’s in the future.”

The suit says commissioners failed to conduct an environmental review before adopting the ordinance. The Okanagen county commissioners say they have been advised not to comment on the case.
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