Local News

Appeals Court Strikes Down County ATV Ordinance

Jun 16, 2016

Stating that local governments must consider more than the narrow, limited environmental impact of their action, a three judge panel of the Court of Appeals Division III ruled that Okanogan County’s ATV ordinance violated State Environmental law and is invalid.

The judges said local government must not “close its eyes to the ultimate probable environmental consequences.”

The court reversed Okanogan County Superior Court Judge Hank Rawson’s ruling in the case brought against the county by the Methow Valley Citizens Council and Conservation Northwest.

In the unpublished opinion filed Thursday morning, the judges also reversed Rawson’s award to the county of fees and costs in the case, and instead awarded fees and costs of the appeal to MVCC and CNW. The majority opinion was signed by Chief Judge George B. Fearing, Judge Laurel H. Siddoway.

The judges said the county “is free to enact another ATV ordinance, but only after a sufficient environmental checklist ” is completed that must include a complete disclosure and review of the information relevant to the environmental impact to the areas surrounding the roads that will be opened by the ordinance.

The panel found that the County ignored concrete evidence that illegal ATV off-road riding causes significant environmental harm and is difficult to prevent because of the remoteness of the activity.

In his dissenting opinion, Judge Kevin M. Korsmo wrote that there was a “total disconnection between the county ordinance and the appellants’ claim of harm.” He wrote that the county does not have to account for the possibility that some riders would comply with new law in order to disobey other laws. He said, “the county gave that pitifully weak argument more than sufficient consideration and, unsurprisingly, rejected it.”

Okanogan County Planning Director Perry Huston, who is the SEPA responsible official for the county, said in a phone intervie that he had just received the opinion and had not had a chance to fully review it. So, he said, he does not yet know what the Commissioners will decide, in regards to whether they will appeal the decision. 

Top of page
© 2018 Okanogan Country Radio. All rights reserved.