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Rabun man fined for illegal ATV use

POSTED: May 4, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Some environmental groups have criticized the U.S. Forest Service for not enforcing rules against off-trail ATV use in the Chattahoochee National Forest.

But forest officials want the public to know that they’re cracking down on violators.

On April 7, a Rabun County man was ordered by a U.S. magistrate judge to pay almost $1,400 in restitution for creating an illegal ATV trail.

Brian Keith Kilby, 38, of Persimmon, also paid $375 in fines for driving an ATV illegally on national forest land, baiting for wildlife on national forest land, hunting over bait, hunting out of season and building a trail without a permit.

"In this case, the trail was obvious and led directly from his residence," said Dave Jensen, chief ranger for the forest’s Chattooga River ranger district.

Authorities said Kilby not only created a trail, he also built a permanent deer stand in the forest and hung barrels full of food nearby to attract deer, bears and raccoons.

"Portable deer stands are allowed if you remove them at the end of the day when you finish hunting," said Jensen. "Hunting with bait is always illegal in Georgia."

Karen McKenzie, spokeswoman for the Chattahoochee National Forest office in Gainesville, said no one knows how long Kilby had been using his homemade structures on federal land.

"Apparently he had quite a setup," she said. "It wasn’t near a hiking trail. It was kind of off in the woods, and our law enforcement officers stumbled on it."

McKenzie said people often forget or ignore the fact that you can’t do certain things on public land.

"Sometimes people living adjacent to the forest think it’s their own personal space," she said. "With so many people wanting to build homes next to the national forest, we do have an increasing problem with encroachments. Cutting down trees, burning debris, a whole host of situations."

All-terrain vehicles pose a particularly vexing problem for law enforcement. The Chattahoochee has few areas designated for ATV use. Riders are supposed to transport their ATVs to a trailhead and then ride their ATVs from there, on designated trails.

But people who live near the forest may consider that to be inconvenient and pointless when they can just walk out of their house and jump on an ATV.

"It’s very hard to catch and stop individuals who ride ATVs from their homes into the national forest," said McKenzie.

Riders may think it’s a harmless activity, but McKenzie said the vehicles can cause significant environmental damage.

"Illegal trails aren’t built on a proper grade, and they don’t have drainage sites, et cetera, so there are erosion concerns," she said.

Kilby was ordered to pay about $1,400 in restitution because that’s the amount the Forest Service estimates it will cost to rehabilitate the area where he built the trail. He could not be reached for comment.

Jensen said trail crews will obliterate evidence of the trail and reseed the soil, eventually returning the land to its original condition.

"We have a lot of resource damage from ATVs across the district," he said. "We’re hoping for more cases in which we can collect restitution."

McKenzie said the Forest Service hopes Kilby’s case will send a clear message.

"We want people to know that if you’re caught, there are definite consequences," she said. "You may have to pay for the damage you caused."


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