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Supreme Court says state can restrict trail use by heavy off-road vehicles

Alaska Dispatch

The Alaska Supreme Court ruled Friday that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) can limit trail use by heavy off-road vehicles that tore up an Interior Alaska trail, according to The Associated Press.

The court found DNR's commissioner was within his rights to limit vehicle access on the Rex Trail, which runs 50 miles from the Parks Highway to the Wood River in Alaska's Interior. The trail, which extends mostly across state and federal land, is popular with moose hunters. By 2007, according to The Associated Press, hunters using heavy off-road vehicles had damaged the trail, including deep ruts. New trails were established to avoid some of the ruts.

So-called "moose buggies" with wheels, tracked vehicles, and former military vehicles all created water-filled ruts up to four feet deep, said DNR northern region manager Chris Milles. Damage during moose season got frozen in place by winter freeze-up.

In May 2008, Milles restricted vehicles weighting 1,500 or more beyond the trial's first 1.5 miles. The ban began April 15 and lasted until Oct. 31.

Robert Caywood and 25 other plaintiffs challenged the trail restrictions with a lawsuit. For more on the Rex Trail click here.