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Responsible Use of Off-Highway Vehicles Stressed in Mendocino National Forest

August 31, 2004 -  The Mendocino National Forest is asking the public help spread the word about safe and appropriate use of Off-Highway Vehicles (OHVs) on the national forest.

With the onset of the fall deer hunting season Forest officials have seen a rise in the level of OHV use, and also a significant increase in illegal use. Illegal use has included operating in closed or restricted areas, trespassing around locked gates and riding double or without helmets on all terrain vehicles.

"We have received several public complaints regarding illegal OHV trespass and resource damage to glades and other sensitive areas. Due to this increasing lack of compliance, we have decided to emphasize OHV education and enforcement efforts,"said Jack Horner, Recreation Officer. “The public feels that the resource damage and violations of OHV laws is unacceptable and we agree. Our mission is to provide safe, environmentally sound recreation for all visitors," he said.

One particular area of concern is the newly annexed 22,500 acres of the previously privately owned "Commander Tract" on the Grindstone Ranger District.

"Operation of OHVs on public lands is no different than any other activity. It is the responsibility of hunters, fishermen and other outdoor enthusiasts to know the established laws regulating their sports, and likewise for OHV users," Horner said.

The Forest Land and Resource Management Plan allows OHV travel only on designated trails and certain unimproved roads. There are hundreds of miles of designated OHV routes on the southern portion of the Forest. Many of these areas are specifically managed for OHV recreation and where this is the predominant use.

Additionally, there are 1900 miles of unimproved roads where the public can legally operate OHVs, unless gated or signed as "closed". It should be noted that the Forest does not manage these roads exclusively for OHVs and in some areas these routes may not connect with other roads or trails where OHV use is allowed.

Free maps of designated OHV trails are available at all Mendocino National Forest offices and the Forest Recreation Map, for sale for $6.00, identifies all roads and trails where OHV use is allowed.

In addition to stepped-up enforcement to control illegal use, the Forest's law enforcement officers will also be aggressively enforcing vehicle registration, spark arrestor and noise laws relating to the operation of OHVs, both in the field and at strategic checkpoints.

"We have no desire to discourage legal recreationists, but we need to raise public awareness and work on this problem together with the users so we can continue to sustain OHV use on this Forest," Horner said. "With all the miles of legal trails and roads, there should be no reason that visitors should not be able to have a safe, legal OHV experience on the Mendocino National Forest."

For additional information, please contact Jack Horner at (530) 934-1167, TTD (530) 934-7724; or Patrol Captain Daryl Rush at (530) 934-1164.

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