I write to express disappointment in the recent actions of the North Central ATV Club and the Okanogan County Commissioners. As staff for Trout Unlimited, I’ve worked hard the last few years with a group of folks among both environmental and ATV recreation interests to pass 1632, a sensible bill to both expand ATV routes and improve accountability among users to reduce conflicts and protect the environment.
The bill would have passed early this year except for concerns in Olympia with how it would be implemented in Okanogan County. The concern was high enough that one legislator tried to exempt the Methow Valley entirely. This led Representative Kretz to make this (paraphrased) statement on the House floor:
“The Methow is an incredible area; beautiful country. It is worth taking care of. There’s a wide range of recreational opportunities there. Some mix better and some aren’t really well suited with each other. My hope is that we’ll be able to determine routes that will keep conflicts to a minimum. I have talked with the Okanogan County Commissioners about this and have their commitment that we will work together. I look forward to working with them and the other interests in the Methow. I hope we can do a really inclusive process in Okanogan County. I would urge folks that are concerned about this to work the public process on a local basis and we can hopefully meet the needs of all the different interests.”
But before the ink was dry, the ATV club ignored the opportunity for quality process and compromise and petitioned the commission to not only open all qualifying roads throughout the county but to also open a long list of roads that are illegal and unsafe for ATV use. This undermines that spirit of the new law and the collaboration that got it passed, and threatens to unravel the momentum we’d developed for sensible resolution of recreation conflicts on our roads and trails.
By responding to an olive branch with a sword, the North Central ATV Club and Okanogan Board of Commissions have reinforced distrust that keeps us locked in conflict.