ATVs Turn Scenic River Into a Motorway

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The stretch of the Comite River that runs from the Wilson-Clinton Hwy in East Feliciana Parish to the entrance of White Bayou in East Baton Rouge Parish is a Louisiana Scenic River protected by the Louisiana Scenic Rivers Act. In the last few years some stretches of the river have been turned into motorways by hordes of ATV riders blasting through the water and along the sandbars. Videos titled "Riding the Comite River" which were taken by the riders themselves and posted on Youtube show the damage. The Scenic Rivers Act states that This system shall be administered for the purposes of preserving, protecting, developing, reclaiming, and enhancing the wilderness qualities, scenic beauties, and ecological regime of certain free-flowing streams or segments thereof.

The Scenic Rivers Act goes on to say This system shall further be administered for the purpose of preserving aesthetic, scenic, recreational, fish, wildlife, ecological, archaeological, geological, botanical, and other natural and physical features and resources found along these streams or segments thereof. Riding motor vehicles in designated Louisiana Scenic Rivers is contrary to the intent of the law and is a violation of the Act. It may be that the riders don’t know they are acting unlawfully but the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries should know it and should be writing tickets. LDWF recently proposed a specific rule to regulate this activity. The ATV riders showed up at a Commission meeting and made so much noise that the Commission delayed action on the issue. Property owners along the river are currently pushing for the rule. They have cited numerous cases of trespassing, trash and noise from the ATV riders.

This plague of motor vehicles may be spreading to other scenic rivers in our state. There are about 3,000 miles of designated scenic rivers out of an approximate total of 66,000 miles of rivers in Louisiana. That is only 4.5% of river miles in the state that are in the Scenic Rivers system. Sierra Club is working to protect those special Louisiana rivers that legally carry the highest degree of protection. We will support a Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries proposed rule to specifically limit the use of motorized wheeled vehicles in Scenic Rivers. We need to watch over our Scenic Rivers and send our objections to LDWF when we see something being done that risks the ecological integrity of the river. Click here to see the list of Louisiana Scenic Rivers. If you would like to be on our list to receive notices of hearings and actions relating to protection of scenic rivers please send an email to conservation-chair@louisiana.sierraclub.org

Video: Riding the Comite River

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