The Austin Chronicle

Beds, Banks, and (Dirt) Bikers

By Amy Smith, December 27, 2002, News

Lest you think protecting the environment is a lost cause in the new Legislature, along comes a bipartisan push to salvage Texas rivers with a proposed ban on off-road vehicles in the state's waterways. Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs is leading the charge to pass legislation prohibiting the all-terrain machines from further destruction of aquatic life and plants in rivers and riverbeds. Off-road enthusiasts have argued that the "beds and banks" law would deny them their right to access public rivers. But Combs, in a press conference outside the State Capitol on Thursday, pointed to documented studies showing the damage off-road vehicles do to water quality and fish and wildlife. The proposed ban is not about access, she said. "This is a resource-destruction issue."

Joining Combs, a Republican, at the press conference were Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, and Rep. Robert Puente, D-San Antonio, who sponsored companion bills to prohibit the vehicles. San Antonio Republican Sen. Jeff Wentworth, who represents parts of Travis Co., has also thrown his support behind the bill.

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