FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Okanogan County commissioners overstep state ATV law; groups file suit
Conservation Northwest and the Methow Valley Citizens’ Council today filed a lawsuit against sweeping ordinances allowing ATVs on most roads, including high speed highways, in Okanogan County.
A lawsuit was filed today against two sweeping ordinances passed late last month by the Okanogan County commissioners that allow all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) on most roads in the county, including high speed highways. The suit was filed in Okanogan County Superior Court by Conservation Northwest and the Methow Valley Citizens’ Council.
The commissioners hastily adopted the first ordinance just before a new state law was to take effect, in an apparent effort to circumvent the legislature’s action. The second ordinance gave a blank check for ATV access on every road that might possibly qualify under the new law, without thoughtful deliberation and despite the majority of local public comment. The new law was advanced in Olympia by a partnership of ATV interests and the conservation groups Conservation Northwest and Trout Unlimited. It received bipartisan majority votes in both the House and Senate.
“We had high hopes that the collaborative spirit from Olympia would continue into county implementation,” said Mitch Friedman, executive director of Conservation Northwest. “The commissioners instead snapped our olive branch with these extreme actions, far exceeding any thoughtful balance and their legal authority.”
“We are extremely disappointed that the commissioners chose to disregard the law and public comment and that a legal challenge is necessary," said Maggie Coon, who chairs the board of the Methow Valley Citizens’ Council. “We believe the county’s actions will increase confusion and encourage illegal ATV riding on sensitive lands, degrading important habitat for fish and wildlife.”
Conservation Northwest and the Methow Valley Citizens’ Council support responsible use of ATVs in appropriate places in a way that keeps people safe, respects private property, protects wildlife habitat, and minimizes conflict with other recreational users. The groups believe that the commissioners’ actions run counter to that goal.
Our blog about the new law, Accountability for ATVs