DEP Commissioner Campbell
Warns Unlawful Off-Road Vehicle Operators that Public Lands
are Off Limits
(03/119) TRENTON - TRENTON - Emphasizing
the growing risk to public safety and increased damages
to New Jersey's natural resources, state Department of Environmental
Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell today
warned potential violators that regulations prohibiting
off-road vehicle (ORV) use on public lands are being strictly
"We have zero tolerance in dealing
with illegal off-road vehicle operators who pose an increasing
threat to public safety and are causing extensive damage
to protected natural resources," said DEP Commissioner
Campbell. "We are actively conducting area enforcement
sweeps to deter illegal operators, impounding unregistered
and uninsured vehicles, and seeking maximum fines for all
Between January 2003 and the second week
of August 2003, DEP conservation officers and park rangers
issued 484 summonses against individuals participating in
illegal ORV activities, resulting in fines of up to $1,000
per violation. A total of 62 vehicles were impounded over
the same time period, and 48 individuals were arrested and
During the year's first, three-day enforcement
operation conducted Memorial Day weekend, conservation officers
targeted illegal ORV use on the Forked River Mountain and
Greenwood Wildlife Management Areas that resulted in the
issuance of 56 summonses, four criminal charges, two township
ordinance violations and four vehicle impoundments.
Illegal ORV use results in pollution, damage
and destruction of sensitive natural resources such as forest,
streams and wetlands. In many cases, these resources are
destroyed and can not be restored.
In addition to the negative environmental
impacts resulting from inappropriate and unlawful use of
ORVs, the safety of department personnel has been at risk.
Conservation officers and park rangers have been threatened
and, in some cases injured, by off-road vehicle users while
responding to illegal ORV activities.
"There have been 161 incidents where
our conservation officers needed to take evasive actions
to avoid being injured and struck by ORVs, and four officers
were struck and injured," Commissioner Campbell added.
"ORV use on state lands continues to place a major
burden on our limited workforce and fiscal resources that
should be used to manage our wildlife and natural resources
instead of unlawful activities."
An incident resulting in an injured conservation
officer took place at Clarks Pond Wildlife Management Area,
Cumberland County, on May 18, 2003, when an officer attempting
to stop an illegal ORV was struck and thrown 32 feet. The
impact resulted in a fracture of the officer's leg and a
severe knee injury requiring surgery and rehabilitation.
Two individuals were placed under arrest as a result of
Between May through September, on average
approximately 45 percent of DEP conservation officers' time
is spent addressing illegal ORV use on state lands. Annually,
increased enforcement costs are approximately $140,000 for
fish and wildlife and $757,000 for parks and forestry -
totaling nearly $900,000.
In October 2002, Commissioner Campbell
announced a new policy regarding Off Road Vehicle (ORV)
activities on DEP-administered lands that calls for strict
enforcement of laws prohibiting ORV use on state property.
The policy initiated ongoing cooperative efforts between
the DEP and the Department of Transportation to establish
further sanctions to deter ORV violators. In addition, new
laws are being sought to ensure safe ORV use on specially
designated lands, including a comprehensive licensing, registration
and training program for all ORV operators.
Commissioner Campbell added that while
illegal ORV use is not tolerated, the department supports
the safe and proper use of ORVs in designated areas or during
specially permitted events.
Acknowledging that proper ORV operation
has a recreational value to a growing number of residents
in the state, the DEP's new policy also calls for its Office
of Natural and Historic Resources to develop appropriate
recreational areas for lawful ORV use - while meeting the
policy's safety and natural resource protection requirements.
Two such facilities will be established and in full operation