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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Conservation Northwest and Methow Valley Citizens’ Council appeal Okanogan County ATV decision

The Methow Valley Citizens’ Council and Conservation Northwest have appealed Okanogan County’s determination that opening nearly 600 miles of county roads to All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) has no significant environmental impact. The groups believe this “Determination of Non-significance” under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) was reached with inadequate analysis and ignored substantial evidence of likely environmental damage raised in public comments.

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May 29, 2014

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Methow Valley Citizens’ Council and Conservation Northwest have appealed Okanogan County’s determination that opening nearly 600 miles of county roads to All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) has no significant environmental impact.  The groups believe this “Determination of Non-significance” under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) was reached with inadequate analysis and ignored substantial evidence of likely environmental damage raised in public comments. 

This appeal asks the Okanogan County Commissioners to set aside the Determination of Non-significance and to perform a more realistic and careful environmental analysis or to change the proposal by eliminating certain roads that are proposed for ATV access. The appeal charges that a major flaw in the County’s analysis is the County’s assumption that no ATV operators would illegally ride off-road, contrary to overwhelming evidence that illegal off-road riding is common and causes serious damage to soils, plants, streams, and wildlife. This off-road riding is especially damaging on public lands, which protect habitat for sensitive fish and wildlife species, and the proposal opens many roads that provide access to public lands.

“We’re very disappointed that once again, the County has ignored the law and failed to make any real effort to determine the environmental consequences of opening hundreds of miles of county roads to ATVs at once,” said Melanie Rowland, an attorney and board member of MVCC.  Dave Werntz of CNW added, “Okanogan County’s abundant wildlife and tranquility are among its greatest natural assets. The commissioners need to know how their policy might harm these assets and consider a plan that finds the right balance for the community.”

Other charges are that the proposal will cause added enforcement expenses for the County, as well as an additional burden on emergency responders and police because ATVs are not designed to be ridden on paved roads and are more likely to overturn on paved roads than any other vehicle, and ATV operators suffer more serious injury in collisions with other types of vehicles.  The proposal opens many miles of paved roads to ATV use.

No date for the hearing on the appeal of the County’s SEPA determination has been set.  A hearing on the ATV ordinance itself, opening 600 miles of County roads, is scheduled for June 16 at 3:00 pm in the Commissioners’ hearing room in Okanogan.

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