States Sell Out Mother Nature To Attract Tourists On ATVs


With state finances collapsing, it’s time for laws based on morality to get thrown out the window.

The most obvious example of this comes from California, where weed is about to be legal, and the coast of Santa Barbara will be marred by oil drills. At least in that case, the state faces a monstrous deficit and those two commodities–weed and oil–have a rock solid demand base.

A more tenuous example of the same type of action comes to us courtesy of Minyanville who points out states like Vermont and Michigan are relaxing regulations to attract the tourist dollars of ATV drivers. That’s right, ATV drivers:

Think of the swarming ATVs as the democratization of nature, long the preserve of the white-wine-and-Birkenstocks set. Still, the ATV invasion could open a new front in the culture wars.

There were an estimated 9.5 million ATVs in use nationwide in 2007, or nearly double the 4.8 million estimated to be chewing up nature in 2001, the Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates. Polaris Industries (PII) is perhaps the best know manufacturer of off-road vehicles. It competes with Arctic Cat (ACAT), Kawasaki Heavy Industries, and Honda (HMC).

The aptly named Hatfield-McCoy system in West Virginia is one of the nation’s largest systems of ATV trails and generated about $7.7 million for lodging, permits, food, fuel, and repairs in 2005, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Vermont — home to maple syrup and everything politically correct — has banned ATVs from public land, but the state’s Natural Resources Agency proposed lifting the ban in an effort to attract a new tourist market, and it may consider reviewing proposals for special ATV trails. If so, can a secession movement be far behind? Vermont could declare itself the Luddite capital of the world and a (blissfully) ATV-free zone.

Vermont may be bowing to the inevitable because some ATV riders have routinely ignored the rules and followed their muse across hill and dale —  tearing up every hill and dale in their wake.

In Michigan, where unemployment hit about 15.4% in June, despite Uncle Sam’s efforts to rescue General Motors and Chrysler, 36 northern counties now permit ATVs to be driven on the sides of secondary roads. The theory: This makes it easier for ATV enthusiasts to get to trails and riders will spend more money along the way.

Continue at Minyanville →

image: Flickr/eron_gpsfs

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