Pa.Chapter of Sierra Clubs opinion of Dirt Bikes

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#1
ORV Effects in Pennsylvania

By Richard Whiteford, Sierra Club

Off-road vehicles, particularly 4-wheelers or all-terrain-vehicles (ATVs) and dirt bikes, are the new craze. The Evil Knievel look-a-likes go airborne over dirt piles, splash through puddles, streams and wetlands, do broad-slides on gravel, climb steep cliffs, and speed through forests and backcountry seeking the ultimate thrill. They are great fun, but many new riders in this rapidly growing pastime show no respect for private property or the environment.

Suburban sprawl is rapidly adding an influx of new riders while devouring land on which to ride. The results: many off-road vehicle riders flagrantly trespass on neighboring farms and state and federal forests. In some residential areas they smash through hedges, drive across people's lawns, and make quiet neighborhoods sound and smell like the Indi-500.

Respecting private property should go without saying, but respecting the environment is not something that most people, especially people with no compunction for trespassing, consider. In fact, few have any understanding of the magnitude of the environmental damage caused by off-road vehicles.

At a time when human activity is destroying natural ecosystems at an unprecedented rate and species are going extinct at a rate faster than in any period in ancient history, environmental concern should be our top priority. We are causing Earth's sixth mass extinction.

Pennsylvania has 1,122 species that are nearing extinction and 82 natural ecosystems that are on the brink of disappearing. Many of these ecosystems are various classes of wetlands, stream corridors, cliffs, and forests.

By fragmenting natural ecosystems with roads, developments, and other disturbances, we impede many species' ability to evolve and adapt to their changing environment. So, in addition to causing extinctions, we are preventing nature from progressing as creation intended. As an example, fragmentation is separating pollinators from their host plants causing both populations to crash.

Riding in forests seriously fragments the forest community and kills important plant, microorganism, amphibian, and reptile species that support the harmony that sustain nature's health and balance.

Fragmentation and habitat destruction has already driven 682 plant species to the brink of extinction in Pennsylvania. Fragmentation, soil disturbance, and the destruction of the natural plant community opens areas to invasive plant species such as multiflora rose and oriental bittersweet. These species invade disturbed areas, strangling and out-competing the natural plants and quickly dominate the area.

Bikers love riding on skidder trails in forests that were harvested by lumber companies. But responsible lumber companies spend a lot of money restoring the area before they leave. They build sedimentation ditches on sloped skidder trails to prevent water erosion. They also plant groundcover on the trails to prevent the intrusion of multiflora rose and other invasive plants.

Bikers speed on the skidder trails and ramp these ditches breaking them down allowing rainwater to erode the slopes. Riding on skidder trails also kills the ground cover allowing the intrusion of invasive plants. Lumber companies should block the skidder trails with large piles of tree slash to close the trails.

Noise from bikers clamoring through the woods scares neotropical birds from their nesting areas and the trails created by the vehicles fragment their breeding grounds. It is especially detrimental to ground nesting birds like ovenbirds, wood thrush, hermit thrush, veery, and other birds like grouse and quail.

Dr. Stephan Hames at Cornell Lab of Ornithology who studied over 2,400 breeding sites across the United States and Canada determined that habitat fragmentation caused a "five-fold decrease in the probability of attempted breeding."

In the spring, roughly from March through early May, temporary puddles, known as vernal pools, form from melting snow and spring rains. Frogs, toads, and salamanders breed and lay their eggs in these pools. Often, they use the same pool year after year. The eggs remain until they hatch and the tadpoles and larvae remain until they can leave the pool for their permanent home. Off-road vehicle riders splashing through vernal pools at top speed kill thousands of frogs, toads, and salamanders just for the thrill of a splash.

Driving through streams kills the benthic (bottom dwelling) life in the stream. Creatures like stoneflies, caddisflies, water pennies, damselflies, and mayflies; plus larger species like crayfish, fresh-water mussels, and snails play a critical and very complicated role in the stream ecology that maintains water quality at a level that supports the life of fish - and us.

Pennsylvania has 65 species of native fresh-water mussels. Stream degradation from pollution and stream-bottom disturbances forced seventeen species from Pennsylvania and another eighteen are considered critically imperiled. Eight are listed as Endangered under the Federal Endangered Species Act. Also, almost forty percent of the fish species in the state are in danger of going extinct.

Powerline right-of-ways are also popular riding areas. Most are not policed and the utility companies are located elsewhere. A study done by a biologist, Jeff Hohman, for the East Kentucky Power Cooperative revealed the importance of undisturbed powerline right-of-ways as refuges for many species, including rare wildflowers like Dwarf Iris (Iris verna). A second yearlong study verified that 103 bird species, 12 amphibians, 6 reptiles, and 9 mammals depended upon powerline right-of-ways as habitat in an 8.5-kilometer stretch of the Baltimore Gas & Electric right-of-way. Powerline right-of-ways are not baron wastelands. If managed correctly, they become important feeding and nesting grounds for many species and should not be disturbed.

Wetlands are delicate ecosystems that are vital for water purification, flood control, and are home to over half of the endangered and threatened species. To date, Pennsylvania has lost over half of its wetlands. Wetlands are a favorite watering-whole for bikers who love splashing in the water and doing figure eights in the mud while annihilating the wetland vegetation. It is because streams and wetlands are such fragile ecosystems that state laws prohibit driving in streams or disturbing or driving in wetlands

Considering the environmental damage, the price paid by other living creatures, the total lack of respect for private property, and refusal to abide by regulations on state lands by a large majority of bikers, it is time to curtail their activities. There is legislation being reintroduced in Harrisburg to do just that. Please ask your representatives and Governor Ridge to support.
 

XRpredator

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#3
Up here on the Palouse River Divide the local motorcycle club, in cooperation with the USFS, has developed a trail system that uses bridges and such to cross the wetlands and gulches, limiting erosion and disturbance of "tadpoles and mayflies." BUT, now the local wackos are trying to take over the trails for hikers only, even though the dirt bikers built and paid for (through off-road sticker purchases) said trails.

They'll work with us, Ivan, to get the trail systems made. But once they're there, they'll do all they can to keep us off them. It's like making a deal with the devil.:silly:
 

XRpredator

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#4
Unfortunately, this was more of a handshake deal (those sometimes still work around here) several years ago. And some of those contracts aren't worth the paper they're written on.

These goofs have the time and money behind them to hire lawyers to push their way through. Most of us in the dirtbike crowd have to work for a living!
 

KWJams

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#5
From The Pa. Chapters home page

Welcome to the Pennsylvania Chapter**Protecting the environment for ourselves and all those who come after.
Protecting the environment for OURSELVES:scream:

I can not believe that they can actually make that statement. :confused:

The bad thing about this is that probably twenty-thirty times our numbers have read that biased perspective. :( and they each probably make three or four times more money each year than any of us.
 
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#6
At a time when human activity is destroying natural ecosystems at an unprecedented rate and species are going extinct at a rate faster than in any period in ancient history, environmental concern should be our top priority. We are causing Earth's sixth mass extinction.
You can respond to this by sending comments to:
pennsylvania.chapter@sierraclub.org

I would spend more time on this but I'm to busy riding. I want to ride as much as I can before the 6th mass extinction!:p
 
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#7
I live in SW Pennsylvania. I'm sorry to say people are accepted the greenies attitudes more and more.

One of my favorite riding areas was completely logged about two years ago. I mean wiped out. Nothing but the trails and cuttings left. Well a friend and myself loaded up and made the drive up the old deserted dirt road. At the top where we normally unload were PROTESTORS. They were saying the local OHV use was killing the land. Huh? I would say cutting every tree down for miles did that. Well it boarders State game land, so those trees are still standing, but you can't ride there. The thing is you either have to drive through or ride through a four-foot wide 6-inch deep stream to get to the trails. I usually jump it; there are mounds near it where dozers pushed a path through. But that was their ammo, the stream. The ridiculous part? There is a pull off about 100 yards from that stream. Students and others park and hike in to a cave system that is very popular. They let those people pass because they didn't have a dirt bike or quad in their truck. I was furious. The front guy answered my anger with " They aren't killing the land like you guys do".

We didn't ride that day because my friend was afraid to leave his truck unattended since they were using the parking area for their protest zone. I've been back a couple times since then and haven't seen them again. The lumber company owns that land so I imagine they heard about it and ran them off. Workers drive by there and continue down the road several miles to where they are still logging. I really wish I could have found out what organization they were with.

My point to this long-winded post is enviros have tunnel vision. They just want OHV's gone, and that's their main agenda. The fact that they let the Tahoe with those caves explorers through without a fight proved that to me.

Coop
 

BRush

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#8
Who is Richard Whiteford?

This guy is obviously a pro. He knows how to weave hyperbole, junk science "facts", and some truly breathtaking assumptions from skimpy data to make a compelling emotional argument that the planet will stop on its axis if dirtbikes are not banned tomorrow. Shoe-horning in the term "mass extinction" is a particularly nice touch. Ever notice how all the professional agitators are, first and foremost, alarmists? Makes me tired just reading it.

===========================
Richard D Whiteford
Sierra Club
Executive Committee Member

Richard Whiteford is a published author, with over 200 articles and features
on environmental topics, and an experienced public speaker with more than
150 presentations to his credit He has over seven years of experience work-ing
in the areas of environmental awareness and preservation with a focus on
biodiversity and endangered species He has also presented on topics such as
sprawl, land preservation, and the human population explosion In addition,
Mr Whiteford is an experienced teacher At various schools, universities,
camps, and preserves, he has taught on topics ranging from environmental
writing to wetland ecology

Areas of Expertise: Sprawl; global warming; endangered species;
biodiversity
==================================
 
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#9
Brush thank you for the heads up and I will but Richard on my list of agitators. Normally in Pa. this type of writing comes from **** Martin, also a good name to remember. Ex-enduro rider/ex-motorcycle salesman turned Sierra Club poster boy. Both of these guys can take a scientific paper cut out the facts they like and creat a environmental ransom note.
 
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#10
Brush thank you for the heads up and I will but Richard on my list of agitators. Normally in Pa. this type of writing comes from Richard Martin, also a good name to remember. Ex-enduro rider/ex-motorcycle salesman turned Sierra Club poster boy. Both of these guys can take a scientific paper cut out the facts they like and creat a environmental ransom note.