ATVs attack Jackson Township’s wilderness lands

Jackson residents who enjoy walks through the township’s remaining woodlands will notice recently increasing wanton and widespread damage to this habitat by invasions of motorized four-wheel vehicles or ATVs. The areas of damage center on trails once frequented by animals, walkers, joggers and horse riders.

For years these trails provided access to the wilderness and recreation for our residents. They remain historic clues to the way of life of the area’s early settlers. Neither feet nor horse hooves could possibly produce the destruction now being done to these once pristine paths.

Powered by gasoline engines and riding on oversized tires, these vehicles are unstoppable: digging ruts so deep that walkers can no longer follow their former paths, tearing up the fragile ground cover that protects the soil from erosion, pushing over and killing small tree saplings struggling to survive, driving wildlife from their habitats. Not coincidentally we also see an increase of irresponsible littering, beer and bottle containers along these paths.

Our remaining Jackson wilderness areas are sanctuaries. They need protection, particularly public land set aside for wildlife preservation, wetlands and forested park lands. It will do no good for the community to acquire and set aside property for preservation if we allow them to become playgrounds for off-road motorists intent on mayhem. State and township lands need to be clearly posted and access to these lands must be strictly restricted to non-destructive recreational activities.

Local and state government officials responsible for managing these lands need to take action. They must enforce existing ordinances, and if needed write tougher ones. They should increase funding available for patrolling our public lands by conservation officers and police. They should subject violators to heavy fines, confiscation of their vehicles and points on their licenses.

Unless we protect it, our precious natural environment will not only never be the same; it will not be there at all for future use and appreciation.

I urge readers sharing my concern to make their views known to Jackson Mayor Michael Broderick, state Sen. Robert Singer, state Assemblyman Joseph R. Malone, state Assemblyman Melvin Cottrell and our local law enforcement officers.

James T. Bruck