CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – The government has denied New Hampshire’s request to allow ATVs on some snow-covered rail trail corridors, striking down the state’s attempt to classify the off-road vehicles as snowmobiles.

The state asked the Federal Highway Administration for a waiver to allow ATVs on about 160 miles of federally funded rail trails in the state. To do so would have required ATVs to be classified as snowmobiles, because snowmobiles are the only motorized vehicles allowed on the trails.

The government rejected the waiver, and said ATVs are not snowmobiles.

In a statement released Tuesday, the Bureau of Trails announced ATVs would be banned on the affected trails immediately. It said would it would post signs in the next week.

A group called ATV Watch has been fighting the state Department of Resources and Economic Development, even suing the state to release documents about the policy.

“For more than a year, DRED and the staff at the Bureau of Trails have worked to subvert the federal laws prohibiting ATV use on the rail trails by arguing that in New Hampshire an ATV is essentially a snowmobile,” said ATV Watch Director Andrew Walters.

The request also is coming under fire in the Legislature, where two proposals would ban ATVs on the rail trails.

One proposal comes up for a vote on Wednesday in the House.

It bans ATVs and trail bikes on state-owned rail trails that were bought with federal money.

The committee that reviewed it recommended the ban be approved and criticized the state’s attempt for a waiver to allow ATVs on the rail trails.

“The majority of the committee believes that such a waiver is a policy change that, if desired, should be initiated by the Legislature,” the committee reported to the House. “It is a betrayal to the municipalities in which these trails run and private groups who participated in the acquisition of the trails to alter their use without a public process.”

Rail trails not bought with federal money and most other winter ATV trails are not affected.


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