Off-road vehicles have damaged every kind of ecosystem found in the United States...”
--”Off-Road Vehicles on Public Lands” White House Council on Environmental Quality
Ouch. Considering that the United States has such varied ecosystems as deserts, rainforests, salt marshes and oceans, that’s a very wide-reaching impact! But if you love off-roading with your ATV and don’t want to stop, the best way to make sure you’re minimizing your environmental impact is to educate yourself about how ATVs damage the environment. Then, you can do your best to help others make a smaller impact as well. Here are some facts to get you started:
- ATVs and other off-road vehicles compress and compact soil, which keeps it from absorbing water and nutrients. This type of soil damage can take decades or even centuries to recover.
- The use of ATVs increases erosion, causing landslides and affecting the health of local habitats.
- Off-road vehicles spread weeds and invasive, exotic species that kill sensitive native vegetation.
- ATVs can crush vegetation and root systems, sometimes leading to the extinction of endangered species.
- Two-stroke engines in older off-road vehicles creates pollution in the air, ground, and water, according to the EPA. This pollution poisons plants and kills aquatic wildlife.
- Many animals are killed by ATVs either by being run over or indirectly due to habitat loss.
- The noise created by ATVs disturbs the peace, and can disrupt mating of some species that communicate by auditory signals.
These impacts are quite serious. Worst of all, because these damages accumulate over time, many riding areas are eventually closed to ATVs to enable the areas to recover.
So how can you have fun and still reduce your impact on the environment? Being a responsible ATV owner and operator is a good start. Encouraging others to employ these best practices is even better.
- Stay on designated trails and avoid riding on vegetation off the trails.
- Keep your machine in top running order, free of fluid leaks. Make sure all emissions equipment is functioning properly. If you’re using a two-stroke ATV, consider upgrading to a modern four-stroke unit.
- Ride your ATV above the ordinary high water mark, which is visible in the form of a stain on the trees and rocks along the edge of a waterway. The areas below the water mark are extremely fragile and critical to the habitat of vegetation and aquatic wildlife.
- Avoid gouging your wheels in the road.
- Prevent the spread of invasive weeds that kill vegetation by cleaning your tires and undercarriage after every ride.
- Pick up your garbage and clean up after yourself.
- Reduce pollution by riding at lower speeds and riding closer to home.
- Be aware of your noise level in more populated areas. Ride in a higher gear to lower engine noise.
- Use biodegradable filter oil like Yamalube.
- Ride eco-friendly electric ATVs
As much fun as it is to ride your ATV, it is still a privilege. We can all reduce our impact on the environment and keep our privileges by making some adjustments and being aware of our surroundings. Doing so will ensure continued access to the sport we all enjoy.
Eric is passionate about sport biking and ATV riding. He writes from Corona, CA about finding the best UTV accesories and discount ATV parts.