NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee Department of Agriculture and the Division of Forestry are teaming up to enforce stricter regulations against off-road vehicles and all-terrain vehicles in state forests.
“When people harm our state forests, it affects visitors and nearby residents, the landscape, drinking water, and the overall health of the forest,” said David Arnold, State Forester and Assistant Commissioner of Tennessee Department of Agriculture.
Anyone found using off-road vehicles in unauthorized areas of state forests may be charged with criminal trespass and/or vandalism. The offenses carry penalties as high as one year in jail and a $2,500 fine or the value of damages caused, whichever is greater.
“The damage we have seen takes years to reverse so our goal is to prevent it. Ag crime special agents are working with our foresters to protect state forests and to protect citizens’ right to enjoy Tennessee’s great outdoors.”
Tennessee Department of Agriculture say people who choose to use OHVs and ATVs for recreation should look for the jeep symbol that indicates the road is open to motorized vehicles. Roads are open to all forest visitors including bicyclists and horseback riders.
In the recent cases, people using recreational vehicles have damaged hiking trails so that the paths are unusable for other visitors. One of the biggest areas of concern is Prentice Cooper State Forest in the Chattanooga area.
“The type of damage we find in Prentice Cooper is preventable,” Captain Greg Whitehead said. “We urge people to be aware of what roads and trails are meant for OHV or ATV use. Ag crime agents are committed to working with visitors who treat the forest with care. But we also want people to know if we find visitors who are violating state forest rules, we will issue a citation which could result in fines and jail time.”