Off-road vehicle use fuels tension, violence across U.S.

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"We see a growing amount of aggressive and lawless behavior taking place on off-road vehicles," says Harrison Schmitt, executive director of Responsible Trails America, a national group that calls for off-road vehicles to use designated trails. "We're starting to see people tired of the abuse and beginning to take the law into their own hands."

…In 2007, 4.7 million off-highway vehicle users visited public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), compared with 3.8 million in 2004, the agency reports.

At the same time, the U.S. government has stepped up efforts to restrict ATVs to assigned routes rather than allow them to ride cross-country. Development of rural areas has also gobbled up private land formerly used by off-roaders.

"We have more off-highway vehicle users and less lands. It's simple math. … It creates tensions," says Bob Ratcliffe, chief of the BLM's national recreation and visitor services program.