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The U.S. Forest Service is publicly apologizing for using four-wheel A-T-V’s on 150 yards of the Appalachian Trial – and for causing some damage to the trail’s natural appearance. The personnel used the machines where opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline are perched on a pole and in a tree. Motorized vehicles are not permitted on the national scenic trail.

News release: USDA Forest Service law enforcement officers working at the site where protestors are violating a National Forest closure order in Virginia have damaged about 150 yards of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (ANST). Beginning April 11, 2018 until April 30, 2018 officers used Utility Terrain Vehicles (UTVs, or side-by-sides) to travel on the ANST between the site where a protestor is sitting on a pole (monopod) and another is sitting in a tree. The officers are conducting twice daily welfare checks on the two protestors, who say they oppose the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline on the George Washington-Jefferson National Forests. The use of the UTVs caused damage to the ANST, according to Michael Donaldson, Special Agent in Charge for the USDA Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations, Southern Region. “We are still evaluating the damage, but this is clearly our mistake and I apologize that it happened,” he said. “Of course, we will see that the trail is repaired as soon as possible.” Donaldson said the damage is still being evaluated, but involves exposed bare soil, widened trail tread, and UTV tracks through a low wet area.