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Originally published July 18, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified July 18, 2007 at 4:47 PM

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Public lands in West chewed up by off-roaders, say former rangers

A group of former government workers said they have had enough of off-roaders tearing up the desert. The group, Rangers for Responsible...

TUCSON, Ariz. — A group of former government workers said they have had enough of off-roaders tearing up the desert.

The group, Rangers for Responsible Recreation, cites data from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management that details rampant abuse from off-road vehicles in Arizona and four other Western states.

Off-road vehicles are destroying watersheds and streambeds along with plants and wildlife, said former BLM director Jim Baca.

His group wants stiffer fines, taking away off-road vehicles when drivers abuse the desert and suspension of hunting and fishing licenses.

Off-roaders say it's a few that are spoiling it for everyone else.

Brian Blangsted, who has been riding dirt bikes in the open desert of southern Arizona for nearly 30 years, said some off-road vehicle riders promote safe riding to preserve access to scenic trails.

BLM numbers from 2004 to the first half of 2007 for Arizona, Nevada, California, New Mexico and Utah show more than 6,600 violations involving off-road vehicles in hit-and-run and reckless driving incidents.

Other statistics show more than 2,300 violations stemming from illegal use of closed trails and other areas that are off-limits to the public.

With a little more than 600 violations, Arizona ranks fourth behind California, Utah and Nevada.

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