Environment: Mechanized Monsters

America still contains hushed places­beaches, mountains, snowy woods ­where a man on foot can find the old communion with nature. Now those oases have suddenly become vulnerable to a new breed of vehicles that are unbounded by roads or rules.

Powered by short-stroke engines, "off-road vehicles" ride on bloated tires or whirling treads that enable them to go almost anywhere at average speeds of 30 m.p.h. Proliferating from Maine to California, they now include 200,000 dune buggies, 2,000,000 trail bikes, 1,100,000 snowmobiles and, newest of all, 25,000 all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).

No one disputes the...

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