Tread lightly on your ATV

The number of all-terrain vehicle riders is increasing every year.

Today, more than 16 million people in the U.S. enjoy riding all-terrain vehicles.

In Wisconsin, ATV riding is overtaking the number of snowmobilers, reports the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

ATV riding also is getting the attention from land managers as they try to balance its popularity with protecting the natural resources.

Tread Lightly, a nonprofit organization formed in 1990, encourages people to recreate responsibly. As part of that mission, Tread Lightly has issued some tips on minimizing environmental impact from ATV’s.

1. Stay only on roads, trails or other areas designated for ATV use.

2. Try to stay in the middle of the trail to avoid widening it.

3. Cross streams only at bridges or at designated fording points during low water periods, where the trail crosses the stream. Approach the stream slowly, crossing at a 90 -degree angle. In Wisconsin it is illegal to operate in streams, rivers, and wetlands off of the trail.

5. On slick trails, moderate the throttle and use the clutch to gain maximum traction with minimum wheel-spin.

6. Try to avoid muddy trails, save then for future trips when they are dry.

7. Pack out what you pack in. Carry a trash bag on your vehicle and pick up litter left by others.

8. Following a ride, wash you ATV and support vehicle to avoid spreading noxious weeds the next time you ride.

9. Observe proper human waste disposal. Bury your waster at least six inches deep and camouflage the hole or pack out your waste.

10. Take an ATV training course to maximize safety. Always wear a helmet, eye protection and other safety gear.

To find places to ride, ATV enthusiasts should contact local Department of Natural Resources officials.

Additionally, experts offer the following riding safety tips:

– ATVs are designed for one operator only. Never carry a passenger.

– ATVs are for off-road use only. Never operate an ATV on paved surfaces. Never operate an ATV on public roads where riding on the road is prohibited.

– Protective clothing is a necessity. Always wear an approved motorcycle helmet, eye protection, boots, gloves, long pants and a long sleeved shirt or jacket.

– Never consume alcohol or drugs before or during ATV operation.

– Avoid excessive speeds. Travel at a speed appropriate for the terrain, visibility conditions, and your experience.

– Do not attempt wheelies, jumps, or other stunts. These can have disastrous results.

– An ATV is not a toy. Children should not be permitted to operate ATVs without specialized training and then they should be allowed to only operate an ATV of an appropriate size.

– ATVs with an engine size of 70cc to 90cc should be operated by people at least 12 years of age. ATVs with an engine size of greater than 90cc should only be operated by people at least 16 years of age.

– Wear appropriate riding gear including approved helmet, goggles, gloves, over-the-ankle boots, long-sleeve shirt and long pants.

– Read owners manuals carefully.

– Any added attachments affect the stability, operating and braking of the ATV. Just because an attachment is available doesn’t mean that it can be used without increasing your risk of being injured.


– Are tires and wheels in good condition?

– Are controls and cable operational?

– Does the chain have proper slack and is it lubricated?

– Is riding gear (including a helmet) available and worn?

Additionally, Wisconsin law requires those who use Wisconsin ATV trails to display either Wisconsin registration or an ATV trail pass.

Funds from this program will be designated for use as trail aids and related costs to enhance all Wisconsin ATV recreation.

The trail pass can be purchased online at the Wisconsin Online Licensing Center or over the counter at any license sales location.

In Michigan, owners of ORVs are required to obtain a title for an ORV through the Secretary of State; and license the ORV with the Department of Natural Resources.

A Michigan title is not required on nonresident ORVs used in Michigan.