Sports & Recreational Activities That are Damaging to the Environment

Ami Voeltz
Do It Green! Minnesota and excerpts from the National Audubon Society, Almanac of the Environment

Off-Road Vehicles

For many back country hikers, bird-watchers and cross-country skiers, aggravation is spelled “ORV”. Off-road vehicles shatter the wilderness silence, crush vegetation, terrify wildlife, leave rutted trails, and cause erosion. There are an increasing number of high-octane thrill seekers blazing their own trails in four-wheel-drive cars and trucks, dune and swamp buggies, motorcycles, snowmobiles, and the latest craze, fat-tired tricycles called all-terrain cycles or ATCs. Sales of ATCs have risen dramatically.

Current Regulations

A number of Executive Orders govern off-road vehicle use on National Forests and BLM lands. Executive Orders 11644 and 11989 (signed by Presidents Nixon in 1972 and Carter in 1977) were issued to “ensure that the use of off-road vehicles on public lands will be controlled and directed so as to protect the resources of those lands, to promote the safety of all users of those lands, and to minimize conflicts among the various uses of those lands.”

The Orders require federal agencies to monitor the effects of ORV use, and to immediately close areas or trails to ORV activities if it is determined that their use “will cause or is causing considerable adverse effects on the soil, vegetation, wildlife, wildlife habitat or cultural or historic resources of particular areas or trails of the public lands.” EO 11989 also authorized federal agencies to adopt a policy closing all areas to ORV use unless specifically designated open.

The Solution

It makes common sense to place reasonable limits on off-road vehicles which can have enormous impacts on public lands. Conservationists are calling on the Forest Service and BLM to enact the following five regulations to manage off-road vehicles:

  1. Limit ORV use to designated roads and trails; prohibit cross country travel.
  2. Designate ORV routes only where it has been shown that use of a route will not cause adverse environmental impacts.
  3. Allow ORV route designation, construction, and upgrading only following analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act.
  4. Prohibit ORV use unless monitoring and enforcement are fully funded and implemented.
  5. Prohibit ORV use in proposed wilderness areas and roadless areas.

The complete petition, including extensive citations, is available on the Wildlands Center for Preventing Roads website:


Did you know that one hour of waterskiing can create nearly as much smog as driving from Washington D.C. to Orlando, Florida? According to the book The Frugal Road, gasoline marine engines produce high amounts of air pollution, especially hydrocarbons, which then react to form smog. Most engines are used for recreational boating. The average marine engine causes considerably more damage than a car engine for each hour it operates because they have far less effective emission controls. (See: RECREATION: Sustainable Travel)

Golf Courses

Flawless, ultragreen havens surrounded by suburbs and country and even wilderness. So pristine, who would ever imagine that golf courses could be hazardous to the environment?

In the last twenty years, since the dawn of ecological awareness, a case has been building against those seemingly innocuous places. Golf courses are encountering the same hard scrutiny as freeways and factory yards. When a developer builds a golf course, they have to go through one environmental hearing after another before they get approval to start.

There are more than 13,000 golf courses in the U.S. An average of 110 courses are built annually, each consuming approximately 150 acres. This gobbling up of the land is furthering the depletion of wildlife habitats. Those animals that are attracted to the meadow-like expanses are met with flying balls, electric carts, and a relentless parade of humans. There are also environmental damages from golf courses. Fairways are regularly doused with volumes of chemical turf-care products such as pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers that runoff into our waterways and pollute them with toxins. There is also the constant use of water to keep those greens verdant and velvety. Before hitting another hole-in-one, consider the environmental effects of supporting golf courses. More information at: Global Anti-Golf Movement:

Of course, there are other recreational activities that can be damaging to the environment such as snowmobiling and ski-jets. Take some time to do some research before engaging in an outdoor activity to lessen the impact on the environment.

Act Locally
Minnesotans for Responsible Recreation
P.O. Box 111
Duluth, MN 218-525-0584
Damaging Activities

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