CAPT Interdisciplinary Writing

Session 2

(Spring 2003 Test)


Recreational Vehicles and the Environment




The purpose of this Interdisciplinary Writing Test is to determine how well you can write to persuade others to think as you do about an issue.  In this test, you will read three short articles about an important issue, take a position on the issue, and write a first draft of a persuasive letter.  You must support your position with information from each of the source materials.  Your response will be read and scored by trained readers.


About This Test

In this Interdisciplinary Writing Test, you will think about and take a position on an important issue: limiting the use of recreational vehicles on public lands.   While you are working on the test, you will use skills and knowledge you learned in your language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, the arts and other classes.


The Issue


Off-road vehicle* use on public lands has increased since the 1980s.  Increased use has led to heated debate between those who want to limit the use of such vehicles on public lands and those who want to continue to have access to those lands for their recreational enjoyment.  Those who favor limiting or the outright banning of off-road vehicles stress the damage done to the environment and the loss of wilderness.  Opponents argue that off-road vehicles allow more people to see and enjoy the sights.



Your Task


You will read a few short articles about the use of recreational vehicles on public land, take a position on the issue and write a persuasive letter to the U.S. Forest Service.  (The Interior Department oversees the use of most federal parks and forests.)  In your letter you must support or oppose limiting the use of recreation vehicles on public lands.  Your letter must include information from each of the source materials.






*Off-road vehicle (ORV), off-highway vehicle (OHV), all-terrain vehicle (ATV), and recreation vehicle are all terms that refer to vehicles such as snowmobiles, dirt bikes, and four-wheelers.




Text Box: Source One






The following article appeared in the May 2000 issue of E, published by the Earth Action Network, Inc. The article discusses the issue of all-terrain vehicles and the environment.


All-Terrain Destruction




Few issues are raising more hackles in the nation's backcountry than the use of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). The unexpected proliferation of these motorized, single-rider four-wheelers, on the market since 1983, has crept up on the blind-side of land and wildlife managers in little more than 15 years.

ATVs are included under the broader heading of off-road vehicles (ORVs) or off-highway vehicles (OHVs). According to the National Survey on Recreation and the Environment, the number of Americans driving ORVs increased from 19.4 million in 1983 to 27.9 million in 1995. The whopping 43.8 percent increase is largely due to ATVs, and has sent federal, state and private agencies scrambling to address their impacts on land, on wildlife and other resource users.

Off-road vehicles have been used in the nation's forests and fields for decades. But, says Shawn Regnerus, who monitors ORV use for the Predator Conservation Alliance, "ATVs are completely different animals than motorcycles and traditional four-wheel drives. Motorcycles take skill to ride, and they can't carry much gear. Traditional 4x4s are now pretty much restricted to roads. But ATVs are easy to ride, carry plenty of gear and travel off roads and trails. An ATVer can go just about anywhere, if he or she is outfitted with a winch and a chainsaw."

It's that go-anywhere feature that's causing big problems. A report by the White House Council on Environmental Quality titled Off-Road Vehicles on Public Lands says ORVs (including ATVs) have damaged every kind of ecosystem found in the United States.

Jonathan Kempff, forest trail coordinator for the Gallatin National Forest in Montana, sees first-hand what ATVs are doing. "They go through and all of a sudden a single track trail is converted to a double-track trail. It's a problem all over the West, not only on Forest Service (FS) land but also on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) grassland. Man, it's terrible on open hills because it's pretty much free rein everywhere."

The damage done by ATV use in the backcountry goes beyond an explosion of user-created trails that is killing vegetation and causing soil erosion, says Gayle Joslin, a biologist with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

"Summer is the most critical time for wildlife to regain nutritional status and prepare for winter," says Joslin. "Now, we have these [ATV] disturbances in areas where wildlife normally had peace and quiet and opportunity to feed without being harassed. We also have habitat fragmentation, damage to riparian areas and the spread of weeds, and that impacts the wildlife forage base."

The ATV users primarily responsible for these problems are hunters, say Clark Collin, executive director of the Blue Ribbon Coalition, and Russ Enis, executive director of the Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council, both organizations representing motorized recreation. But Joslin disagrees, saying that most hunters are not happy with ATVs in the backcountry.

Dick Owenby, a recreational specialist with the U.S. Forest Service, has a broader view of the types of riders causing the problems: "With two or three hours practice, my 75-year-old mother could drive to places she couldn't drive with any other vehicle. We have created a new group of people out there using a vehicle they're not familiar with. I don't think they have a good understanding of the impacts they're having."

If ignorance is part of the ATV problem, education could be part of the solution. But educational information on land use ethics hasn't been getting to ATVers, says Collin, because they have had little involvement with OHV groups that advocate responsible off-highway driving: "We certainly promote the concept that, in most areas, OHVs should stay on existing routes and shouldn't be heading off cross-country."

To get that message across, Enis says the OHV Conservation Council is working with a number of other groups around the nation to have a comprehensive educational program on ATV ethics and responsibilities ready for distribution this summer.

Other people close to the ATV issue feel that a lack of decisive land management guidelines is at the heart of the problem. "The FS and BLM have done a poor job of designating, mapping and publicizing what trails are open and closed to ATV use," says Don Amador, western regional representative of the Blue Ribbon Coalition.

Kempff agrees that the land management agencies need to be more proactive in dealing with ATVs: "If the ATV user is driving in a contentious fashion on a system that is open to that use, I can't fault the user if there is resource damage. To me, that's an administrative problem for the Forest Service or BLM. If something like that is unacceptable to us, then we should do something about it."

In one widespread attempt to tame the four-wheeled ruckus, the FS and BLM, in October 1999, jointly proposed limiting the use of ATVs and other ORVs to existing roads and trails on 16 million acres of public land in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota. But a number of environmental groups say the proposed plan does not go far enough, since it would allow travel on thousands of miles of trails that ATVers have created themselves by repeated use. These "illegal" trails were not sanctioned by the FS or BLM and they are not included in their management plans. They should be closed down, says Bill Meadows of The Wilderness Society.

Dick Kramer, FS co-leader on the Montana/Dakotas proposal, says, "It's a stopgap measure to prevent things from getting worse until we have time to do site-specific travel planning on the local level."

But that may take years, Regnerus points out, and every year more unauthorized trails are being imprinted on the backcountry by ATVs. "Enforcement is a really big problem," he says. "You can have all the laws you want on the books, but without really active enforcement, it's useless."



Reprinted with permission from the E/The Environmental Magazine, Subscription Department: P.O. Box 2047, Marion, OH 43306, Telephone: (815)734-1242. Subscriptions are $20 per year.





Text Box: Source Two


The following article appeared in the February 7, 1999, issue of the New York Times. The article discusses some of the environmental and use issues surrounding snowmobiles in national parks.


A Move to Rid Parks of Snowmobiles




An arctic gale was blowing in Squeak Creek as Ken Todd roared down from the Continental Divide, bucking his powerful snowmobile through drifts on a road in Rocky Mountain National Park.

It was a motorized tableau that a coalition of environmental groups would like to erase from the National Park System. In a midwinter attack, the coalition, called the Bluewater Network, has petitioned Bruce Babbitt, the Interior Secretary, to ban snowmobiles from the 28 places among the National Park System's 378 that allow them. In the Northeast, snowmobiling is allowed only in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in Pennsylvania and Acadia National Park in Maine.

But the environmental coalition, representing an estimated 1 million members, is butting helmets with about 2.5 million Americans, the estimated number of people who ride snowmobiles every winter.

Mr. Todd, pulling his machine out of a drift here, flipped up his helmet visor and bellowed over the wind at an altitude of 10,000 feet, ''The extremists would have the parks shut down to everybody.''

Whether or not the environmental groups succeed, their petition highlights sharpening conflict between snowmobile riders and cross-country skiers on public lands. In National Forests, not part of the Park System, managers are zoning land for motorized or nonmotorized use. Here in Colorado this recreational segregation has come as snowmobile riders have expanded their reach with more powerful machines.

            In addition, public lands managers and the public are growing less tolerant of the noise and air pollution from off-road recreational vehicles.

Thirty years after they first became popular, snowmobiles are still so noisy that they are sold without horns, and their emissions are dirtier than the blue smoke pumped out by 1950's automobiles. A modern snowmobile emits roughly 225 times the carbon monoxide and 1,000 times the hydrocarbons and nitrous oxides of a modern car, said Russell Long, executive director of Bluewater Network.

Yellowstone has also become the poster park for the environmental groups' attack. Of the six National Park areas that receive more than 1,000 snowmobile visits a winter, Yellowstone receives the most, 60,110 last winter.

At the West Yellowstone entrance to the park, in Montana, carbon monoxide accumulations have caused nausea in park rangers, forcing the park to pump fresh air into ticket booths and to cut lines of snowmobiles by selling tickets in town.

Last month, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality installed an air pollution monitor at West Yellowstone. Yellowstone officials say that the park has already violated Federal air quality standards, sometimes surpassing pollution levels found in Denver, the region's largest city.

On Jan. 21, the Bluewater Network took a shotgun approach to snowmobiling, petitioning Secretary Babbitt to close the National Park System to snowmobiles, asking the Environmental Protection Agency to set air and water pollution rules for snowmobiles, asking the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to regulate snowmobiles for creating carbon monoxide health risks to workers, and asking the National Transportation Safety Board and the Consumer Product Safety Commission to study the high accident rates among snowmobilers.

''A small minority of thrill seekers are turning our National Parks into playgrounds at the expense of the majority who would like to keep their National Parks with clean air quality and free of all this noise,'' Dr. Long of Bluewater said from his office in San Francisco.

But the $6 billion-a-year snowmobile industry is enjoying a renaissance on the wings of more reliable machines and warmer clothing. After a deep slump in the 1980's, the number of snowmobiles registered in the United States has rebounded to 1.4 million machines, close to the high of 1.6 million in 1978. Over the last decade, the average price of a machine rose by 55 percent, to $5,800, as aging baby boomers turned to snowmobiling as a way to enjoy the outdoors in winter.

''People don't want to be couch potatoes in the winter,'' said Christine Jourdaine, executive director of the American Council of Snowmobile Associations, a club group based in East Lansing, Mich. ''They want to go out and enjoy the great outdoors.''

In the United States, clubs maintain 132,000 miles of snowmobile trails, breathing economic life into dozens of remote towns. Here in Grand Lake, which bills itself as Colorado's Snowmobile Capital, snowmobile rentals pump nearly $2 million each season into a town with a winter population of 369.

In National Parks, snowmobiles are allowed only on roads or lakes used by cars or boats in the summer.

''These are ours -- everybody's -- National Parks and Forests,'' said Brian Mahony, president of Grand Lake Trail Groomers, a club that grooms 107 miles of snowmobile trails in the National Forest, Colorado's largest trail network. ''When you ride over eight feet of snow on the ground, there is, aside from the emissions, no impact.''

''You have 12-year-old kids driving snowmobiles at 80 miles an hour down roads where you are not supposed to go over 25,'' said Mr. Bruce, a computer company executive from Boulder. ''Over the weekend, the noise is absolutely deafening. There is this whole blue haze that hangs over the National Forest.''

In moves that can cut hydrocarbon emissions by one third, snowmobile manufacturers are shifting to biodegradable oils and to gasohol, said Edward J. Klim, president of the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association, a trade group based in Haslett, Mich. Mr. Klim said he suspected that environmental groups would not stop with taking the taste of oil out of the air.

There is no hidden agenda, said Jasper Carlton, executive director of the Biodiversity Legal Foundation, a Colorado group in the Bluewater Network.

''We want snowmobiling out of the National Parks,'' he said. ''The Forest Service is next. When they refuse, we are going to sue them.''


Copyright ©1999 The New York Times. Reprinted with permission.






Text Box: Source Three


The Christian Science Monitor published this article on October 5, 1999. The article details some of the issues involving ORV usage and public lands.


Crush of Off-Road Vehicles Plies* West's Public Lands






n the tradition of John Wayne, cattle drives to Abilene, Texas, and rugged individualism comes an invention fast becoming a symbol of the changing New West: off-road vehicles.

Yet for Mark Williams and his neighbors in quaint Jamestown, Colo. (pop. 290), ORVs are noisy, smelly annoyances rumbling through town on the way to the Roosevelt National Forest. More than that, they're sullying the town's water supply by muddying James Creek, according to one independent study.

"I hate to beat on the Forest Service," says Mr. Williams, water- quality coordinator for the Boulder County Health Department. "But my goodness, they have a handbook on good watershed practices yet their own standards are being blatantly violated by ORVs and their approach to management seems to be no management at all."

The problem is epidemic, critics say, and the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are dragging their feet, in part because they often receive millions of dollars from gasoline taxes earmarked for ORV trails - a charge the agencies deny. Off-road enthusiasts defend ORVs as a way for the elderly, physically challenged, and families with kids to enjoy public lands off-limits to the average motorist.

Now, with ORV visitor days estimated to reach 118 million a year by 2020 - up from 5.3 million in 1979 - the Forest Service is being forced to rethink how its holdings will be managed in years ahead.

"The Forest Service and BLM have never stepped back and looked carefully at the increasing range and capabilities of off-road vehicles," says John Adams with the Montana Wilderness Association. "Without review, planning, or even acknowledgment, ORVs are transforming recreation in our Western public lands."

Mr. Adams points to a litany of concerns - the effect of ORVs on sensitive plants, animals, and landscapes - including places where ORVs have hastened the listings of endangered species. Hikers and horseback riders rue the loss of quiet trails. And activists worry about the quality of the water their families drink.

Forest Service officials acknowledge they're playing catch-up, but so is everyone else. "I wouldn't say the Forest Service or any other federal agency is behind the curve on this issue as much as society as a whole is behind the curve in being able to deal with the collective emergence of three- and four-wheelers, snowmobiles, and jet skis," says Chris Wood, a senior Forest Service policy adviser in Washington.


All 155 national forests are drafting "travel plans" that spell out where machines are allowed to travel on and off roads. The BLM has yet to formulate a national strategy.

Even now, say some officials, ORVs cause less damage than dune buggies and jeeps caused 20 years ago, when there were few limits. "It all depends on how you look at it," says Tom Thompson, assistant forester for the Rocky Mountain region.

For their part, ORV riders say they just want to have fun. Clark Collins, executive director of the Blue Ribbon Coalition, a powerful lobbying group for ORV interests, decries any government effort to tightly restrict access for motorized recreationists on public lands. He says some riders have been abusive, but he contends that it is no reason to ban everyone else.

With 500,000 members and a handful of American and Japanese ORV manufacturers contributing to the cause, the coalition earlier this year was instrumental in persuading Congress to fund the $270 million Recreation Trails Program. Under the program, some hiking and horseback-riding trails will be converted to accommodate wide-bodied ORVs.

Considering that the US government intends to dismantle some of the Forest Service's estimated 370,000 miles of roads in coming decades, the measure was seen as crucial for ORV owners. But former Montana Congressman Pat Williams asks: "Do we want Yamaha and Kawasaki to be setting the policy of how we manage recreation on our public lands?"

Critics say ORV riders represent a small fraction of outdoor recreationists, yet they get access to a disproportionately high percentage of public lands. For example, in Utah, 94 percent of the 23.5 million acres of BLM land is open to ORV use, says the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

"Most public agencies disregard the ecological impacts of roads, and attempt to justify timber roads as benefiting recreation and wildlife management," notes prominent conservation biologist Reed Noss in a recent ecological analysis. "Even when a land manager recognizes the desirability of closing roads, he or she usually contends that such closures would be unacceptable to the public."

Others have a different view. When the Forest Service in 1990 eliminated the so-called 40-inch rule - which gave a green light to increased use of ORVs that are more than 40 inches wide - Montanan Frank Culver cried foul.

Despite claims by the Forest Service that it widely advertised its intention to cancel the rule, just five comments nationwide were submitted to the federal record.

"Nobody knew about it, and if the conservation community had, you know there would have been a major uproar," Mr. Culver says. "Abolishing the 40-inch rule was arguably one of the most significant natural-resource decisions the Forest Service has made.... [It] opened the door for much of the mess the agency finds itself in."


Copyright © 1999 by Todd Wilkinson. Reprinted with permission.


CAPT Map for Self-Assessment







Holistic Overview:



Remember to Treat Yourself to CAPT Success!!  GOOD LUCK TO ALL OF YOU!!



Why are you writing the Letter?



Be polite!



Use all Three (3) sources!



Speak to him or her frequently!


Topic Sentences

Be organized!


Set-up Quotes

Tell your audience that an expert is talking!




Sample Essays

Hug Trees, Not Rvs or Omeeds…


US Forest Service Representative Roe:


Recently there has been a great controversy surrounding the use of off-road vehicles on public lands. In fact off-road vehicle use has been increasing since the 1980’s. There has even been a 44 percent increase in their use (1). This is a dangerous increase that will seriously impact Connecticut’s environment. Representative Roe, please help Connecticut limit the use of ORV’s on public lands because they damage the land and cause air pollution.


Representative Roe, one of the main reasons that we need your help is that these ORV’s  are hurting the state’s public lands. This is a beautiful state and we need to keep the land as clean as possible. The White House Council on Environmental Quality reported that, “ORV’s have damaged every kind of ecosystem found in the United States” (1). Clearly the rest of the country is concerned about this issue and it is time for Connecticut to get to work on this problem. Gayle  Joslin, biologist with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks says that ATV’s hurt areas where animals need to feed and rest. She also says that they “kill vegetation and cause soil erosion” (1). Mr. Roe, we obviously can not have this happening in our great state of Connecticut.







Representative Roe, along with hurting our lands, these ORV’s also cause toxic air pollution. This is bad for everyone and we must act now. Russell Long, Executive Director of Blue Water Network, a conservation group, says that snowmobiles are worst than cars from the 1950’s for emissions. He says, “a modern snow mobile emits roughly 225 times the carbon monoxide and 1000 times the hydrocarbons and nitrous oxides of a modern car”(2). These poisons do not belong in Connecticut’s air. People in Montana are really concerned about their air as well. Forest officials there talk about how the air in yellow stone national park has violated federal air quality standards (2).  I am in disbelief that this is happening in a national park.



Representative Roe, now is the time to act to limit the use of the ORVs on public lands.  They are hurting the land and our air.  Mark Williams, the Water Quality Coordinator for Boulder, CT, says that ORVs are noisy, smelly, and hurting the water supply out West (3).  Well, I’m afraid of the same thing happening here.  ORV use is estimated to get towards 118 million visits in 2020 from only 5.3 million in 1979 (3).  We have to stop this increase now by limiting those machines in our beautiful state.  It is not too late to get this done.  Please get the state legislature involved in helping us limit their use.


Thank you so much for your time and consideration.




A Concerned Student


Sample 2

Dear US Forest Service Manager Fulton:

Recently there has been a great controversy over the issue concerning the use of recreational vehicles on public lands. Off-road vehicle (ORV) use on public lands has increased since the 1980’s, according to the state of Connecticut. In fact, there has been a 43.8% increase in the number of Americans driving ORV’s according to the National Survey on Recreation and the Environment (1). The more ORV’s the more problems will occur on public lands. Manager Fulton, I want you to help limit the use of these destructive ORV’s on public lands because they damage the land and cause air pollution.


Manager Fulton, one of the reasons I want you to limit these highly destructive ORV’s is because they damage the land. These ORV’s can go anywhere on public lands and often go on lands where the wildlife and animals will be endangered. These riders need to be aware of all of the bad things that can come from their limitless riding. Gayle Joslin, a biologist with the Montana department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks says, “ATV use…is killing vegetation and causing soil erosion…We also have habitat fragmentation… and the spread of weeds, and that impacts the wildlife” (1). Clearly, ORV’s are damaging our land and this can be stopped. The White House Council on Environmental Quality released a report saying, “ORV’s have damaged every kind of ecosystem found in the United States” (1). Even the White House is getting involved in limiting ORV’s. Manager Fulton, please help Connecticut get involved so that our lands are safe from damage.


Along with hurting the land, these ORV’s also pollute the air, which is another clear reason to limit them. There are enough problems with pollution in the United States, please do not let ORV’s become an additional problem. Russell Long, an executive director of Bluewater Network, an environmental group says, “A modern snowmobile emits roughly 225 times the carbon monoxide and 1,000 times the hydrocarbons and nitrous oxides of a modern car” (2). Carbon monoxide is clearly dangerous to our health and the health of the forests. There is no place in our air for deadly poisons. Long continues to say that snowmobiles pollute the air with their noise and they are dirtier than 1950’s automobiles. In fact Yellowstone park has “violated Federal air quality standards” (2). The fact that a national park has unsafe air makes me very concerned. I hope that you share these concerns with me.


Manager Fulton, it is essential to limit the use of ORV’s in our public lands. You know that these awful machines are hurting our land and air. Mark Williams, water quality coordinator for the Boulder County Health Department says, “ORV’s are noisy, smelly annoyances [that are] sullying the water supply” (3). Colorado is known for its outdoor adventure activities, and this destruction is ruining their natural beauty. Please Manager Fulton, do not allow this to happen in Connecticut. Please help me to ensure that there will be a limit on the land and terrain that can be used by the ORV’s in our state and our country. It is not too late to protect Connecticut.


Thank you for your time,

Sincerely, Rae Fulton




Source: Dr. Michael Fulton, Writing Consultant, Staples High School