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Do Snowmobiles and the Mississippi Mix?

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 By Jim Wishner/Chris Thomas, Contact
January 16, 2008

Bemidji, MN – The State of Minnesota is proposing to allow off-road motor vehicles into the wilderness area around the headwaters of the Mississippi River – and the Sierra Club doesn't like the idea.

State officials want public feedback on a plan that would allow "off-road vehicle trails" in the Mississippi Headwaters State Forest around the first 40 miles of the river. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is holding a hearing on the plan this evening at Bemidji State University.

Proponents say it would increase recreational opportunities. But skeptics like Lois Norrgard with the Sierra Club's North Star Chapter say ATV and snowmobile use in the area would have a destructive effect.

"It alternates between boreal forests and vast wetlands. It has habitats for very special species. It is inappropriate to have motorized recreational trails in this forest. They would be very damaging, particularly to the soils and the wetlands."

Norrgard adds the wildlife in the area is as varied as the terrain, including wolves, hawks, eagles, trumpeter swans, and other waterfowl. It's another reason, she says, the wilderness at the head of the Mississippi is a state and national treasure that must be protected, not exploited.

The DNR plan can be viewed online, at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

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