DULUTH - The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will allow off-highway vehicles to ride on all routes in the Cloquet Valley State Forest unless they are specifically posted as closed.
The final decision, announced Tuesday, is a victory for off-road enthusiasts who wanted to continue open access to the forest. Many residents and environmental groups had wanted tighter controls on the vehicles.
Members of the Friends of the Cloquet Valley State Forest had hoped the DNR would require that specific trails be marked as open before all-terrain vehicles or off-highway vehicles could travel on them.
But the DNR controls only about 15 percent of the land within the forest, which is about 35 miles north of Duluth, and agency officials said they wanted to match rules expected to be adopted by St. Louis County, which manages the rest of the land.
"We've worked closely with St. Louis County to create a plan that provides consistent, careful management of resources while still allowing important recreational access," said DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten. "Consistency is critical to public understanding, compliance and enforcement of the new route designations."
The new DNR plan, which will take effect later this year, will:
Allow continued use of motor vehicles on about 350 miles of designated state and county forest roads and on more than 400 miles of nondesignated access routes.
Close about 188 miles of current trails that the DNR feels are environmentally unsustainable for off-highway vehicles.
Reclassify nearly 19,000 acres as closed to off-highway vehicles.
Designate about 30 miles of hunter walking and ski trails within the state forest.