Wildlife and Fisheries agents are cracking down on illegal ATV riding in the Comite River, after receiving several complaints over the summer.

Five Denham Springs men were cited for riding ATVs and a Suzuki Samurai in the Comite River just south of Zachary on Saturday, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries said in a news release Thursday.

Louisiana’s Scenic Rivers Act prohibits the use of wheeled or tracked motor vehicles in designated waterways, except for certain permitted uses and direct crossings by adjacent landowners for noncommercial activities, according to the release.

Violations carry penalties of $250 to $500 in fines and up to six months’ jail time.

The law is designed to prevent activities that may directly and significantly degrade the ecological integrity of a natural and scenic river. The ban on four-wheeling, which became effective in March 2014, came in response to a study showing that use of the motorized vehicles disturbs the wildlife, increases sedimentation in the channel and decreases fish diversity, said Kyle Balkum, LDWF biologist director.

The agency also had received numerous complaints of trespassing associated with the activity, Balkum said.

“On the weekends, sometimes hundreds of ATVs were using the Comite as a trail ride up and down,” Balkum said.

Agents cited Joe Baggett, 36; Dylan Boyd, 21; Kevin Rothman, 35; Micah Boyd, 46; and Dustin Boyd, 25, after finding them riding down the Comite River about 12:45 p.m. Saturday, LDWF spokesman Adam Einck said.

The state Legislature created the Louisiana Natural and Scenic Rivers System for the purpose of preserving, developing and reclaiming the wilderness qualities, scenic beauties and ecological regimes of certain free-flowing streams in the state, according to the release. Roughly 3,000 miles of waterway have been designated as part of the system.

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