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OHV Use Draft Policy in National Forests and Grasslands

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Joined: 01 Jan 2004
Location: Uzbekistan

PostPosted: Sat Jul 10, 2004 2:33 am    Post subject: OHV Use Draft Policy in National Forests and Grasslands Reply with quote

WASHINGTON, July 7, 2004 – U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service today released its proposal for managing motorized off-highway vehicle (OHV) use in national forests and grasslands, which will enhance recreational opportunities for the public and better protect the environment by requiring units to establish a designated system of roads, trails and areas.

“OHVs are a great way to experience the national forests, but because their popularity has increased in recent years, we need an approach that will sustain natural resource values through more effective management of motor vehicle use. The benefits of improving OHV use include enhanced protection of habitat and aquatic, soil, air and cultural resources,” said Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth. “The Forest Service wants to improve its management by balancing the public’s enjoyment of using OHVs with ensuring the best possible care of the land.”

In 2002, national forests and grasslands had more than 214 million visits. Nationally, the number of OHV users climbed sevenfold in the last 30 years--from five million in 1972 to 36 million in 2000. OHV users account for about 1.8 million or five percent of visitors to national forests and grasslands. Currently each of the 155 national forests and 21 grasslands has guidelines regarding OHV use, with some national forests managing use on a designated system of roads, trails and areas, while other do not. As a result, the Forest Service does not have a clear, consistent policy regarding motor vehicle use on national forests and grasslands.

The proposed rule represents a nationally consistent approach to travel management by requiring each forest and grassland to designate a system of roads, trails and areas slated for motor vehicle use. It would allow national forests to denote use of routes and areas by vehicle type and, if appropriate, by time of year. Once the designation process is complete, OHV use would be confined to designated routes and areas, and OHV use off these routes (cross-country travel) would be prohibited. Snowmobile use would continue to be managed as it is currently—allowed, restricted or prohibited on roads and trails and in areas on National Forest System lands.

“While some forests have begun to designate roads, trails, and areas for OHVs, I expect units to make significant progress in improving management of OHVs in the next two years,” said Bosworth. “We want to improve our management of outdoor recreation by having a system of routes and areas offering the best opportunities for OHV use while still meeting our responsibility to sustain National Forest System lands and resources.”

The proposed rule calls for the Forest Service to continue to engage with motorized sports enthusiasts, conservationists, state agencies, local governments, tribal governments, and others to identify routes offering the best opportunities for OHV use while still meeting its responsibility to protect the environment. The public would continue to be allowed to participate in the process of designating roads, trails, and areas or revising designations and would continue to receive advance notice to allow for public comment on proposed or revised designations. The agency has partnered with these groups in the past to provide enhanced motorized recreation opportunities by constructing, marking, maintaining and restoring trails as well as by providing training and safety instruction to users.

OHVs include motor vehicles that are designed or retrofitted primarily for recreational use off road, such as minibikes, amphibious vehicles, snowmobiles, motorcycles, go-carts, motorized trail bikes, and dune buggies.

The agency is accepting comments for 60 days after the proposal is published in the Federal Register. The rule text submitted to the Office of the Federal Register is available on Written comments may be sent to:

Proposed Rule for Designated Routes and Areas for Motor Vehicle Use
c/o Content Analysis Team
P.O. Box 221150
Salt Lake City, Utah 84122-1150

Comments also will be accepted by electronic mail to or by facsimile to 801-517-1014. Comments also may be submitted by following the instructions at the federal eRulemaking portal at All comments will be analyzed and addressed in promulgation of a final rule.

The draft policy may be viewed online at
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Joined: 01 Jan 2004
Location: Uzbekistan

PostPosted: Sat Jul 10, 2004 3:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just in case you missed it:
Once the designation process is complete, OHV use would be confined to designated routes and areas, and OHV use off these routes (cross-country travel) would be prohibited. Snowmobile use would continue to be managed as it is currently—allowed, restricted or prohibited on roads and trails and in areas on National Forest System lands.

Soooo, here's a form letter to copy paste sign and email:

I'd like to comment on the July 7, 2004 USDA Forest Service Draft Policy on
Off-Highway Vehicle Use in National Forests and Grasslands (release no
I have a number of observations and comments:

1. It seems like we were just debating this issue a few years ago. At that
time, the public was overwhelmingly clear that we did not accept a "closed
unless open" policy in our national forests and grasslands. These lands
should be open for our enjoyment and this should not be debated.

2. The USDA Forest Service's job is to manage our forests and grasslands.
The current policy of having individual and inconsistent plans for each of
the 155 national forests and 21 grassland areas is not good management. I urge the Forest Service to develop consistent guidelines that apply to all
forests and grasslands. This is part of your job. However, creation of
such guidelines is a distinct issue from closing all the land unless you
declare it open. Indeed, adopting such an approach is not management at all
- it's an declaration that you are not willing to do your job. Management
is difficult; taking the easy way out does not work.

3. Having a "closed unless open" policy would limit individual use of the
forest too much. It is too radical of a change. The default action is to
close everything up and then the Forest Service would have to use it's
limited resources to figure out what areas should be open. That is a
difficult prospect. Instead, the USFS should keep the forests open for the
public. They should focus their efforts on those areas that need their
attention. These areas are easier to identify; it will take less USFS
effort. This is basic risk management and every business does it.

4. The definition of a "road", "trail" and "area" is ambiguous. Is an old
railroad grade a road, a trail or an area? Would it be open or closed?
Because I fear the USFS will take the easy way out, vast parts of the forest
will be declared areas and by definition, and these areas will be closed.
This will deny the public from some of the best OHV trails.

5. The USDA Forest Service definition of OHV in the draft policy is very
narrow. This is incorrect. The average Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) is an
OHV by today's standards. The sevenfold rise in visitors is partially due
to the large increase in SUVs being sold. The closed unless open policy
affects everyone - not just those listed in your draft policy.

6. I'm pleased to see that the USFS is trying to engage motorized sports
enthusiasts. We definitely want to contribute. Many of us support groups
like The Blue Ribbon Coalition and Tread Lightly! and we ask that you
strongly listen to their discussions on these topics.

7. The USDA FS admits that most of the users of the land are responsible.
Instead of closing all the lands for these users, the USDA FS should focus
their efforts on the "bad apples" and more overall education. In Oregon,
the State Forestry Department has done an excellent job working side-by-side
with OHV users in the Tillamook State Forest. A system of trails, annual
trail maintenance and clean-up activities, patrolling and enforcement and
vehicle licensing are all required. It's a system that meets the balance

I strongly urge the USDA Forest Service to back away from the "closed
unless open" policy. This policy does not "enhance recreational
opportunities" at all.

Thank you for considering my comments.
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Joined: 01 Jan 2004
Location: Uzbekistan

PostPosted: Sun Jul 11, 2004 12:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's a press release from the following groups:
American Hiking Society * American Lands Alliance * Colorado Mountain Club* Natural Trails & Waters Coaliton * North Cascades Conservation Council * Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility * Sierra Club * The Wilderness Society * Washington Wilderness Coalition * Wildlands CPR

Draft Off-road Vehicle Rule Well-Intentioned, But Largely Ineffective

Proposal Must be Significantly Strengthened to Address Growing Threat

Washington, DC - Conservation, recreation, hunting and other groups across the country today called proposed rules issued by the USDA Forest Service for off-road vehicle use on America's National Forests well-intentioned, but largely ineffective. While the proposal is a small step forward, it needs significant strengthening.

Although some of the proposed changes are positive, they alone will not solve this growing problem. Oddly, while Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth has identified unmanaged off-road vehicle use as one of the greatest threats to National Forests, the proposal frequently highlights the importance of "enhancing" opportunities for off-road vehicle recreation rather than creating a better balance between this small use and the many other uses of National Forests. To ensure necessary and common-sense protections for public land, wildlife and other recreational users, the Forest Service must include additional measures in the final rule. The most important of these include:

* Within two years, designating roads and routes that are appropriate for off-road vehicle travel. At the end of this period, such use could only occur on designated roads and routes;
* Designating roads and routes based on a full and public analysis of the site-specific environmental impacts and user-conflicts;
* Immediately barring use of all unauthorized, renegade routes; and
* Authorizing off-road vehicle use only to the extent that effective monitoring and enforcement are annually funded and implemented.

Inclusion of a timeframe in regulation for completing route designation is even more important in light of following statement in the proposal: "The proposed rule would have no effect on the ground until designations of roads, trails, and areas are completed at the field level, with opportunity for public comment." (see page 41) In spite of the seriousness of the threat, the Forest Service refuses to make any firm commitment to starting and completing route designation in a reasonable period of time.

"The proposed rule unfairly favors relatively few off-road vehicle riders at the expense of millions of recreationists who seek some peace and quiet," said Jim Furnish, who ended a 34-year career with the Forest Service as the agency's third highest official overseeing the National Forest System. "Off-road vehicle reform is badly needed to heal the land and create some peace -- this proposal is sluggish and doesn't get to the heart of the problem."

The Forest Service is proposing several policy changes that would be beneficial if effectively implemented on the ground. These include:
* Prohibiting cross-country travel by motor vehicles except under limited circumstances;
* Authorizing ATV and dirt bike use only on roads and off-road vehicle routes specifically designated as open for such use; and
* Enabling law enforcement officers to issue citations more easily.

"Tens of millions of hikers and other human-powered recreationists turn to National Forests to experience fresh air, clean water, abundant wildlife, lush vegetation, and quiet, natural sounds," said Celina Montorfano, Director of Conservation Programs for the American Hiking Society. "However, uncontrolled off-road vehicle use is adversely affecting that experience in National Forests across the country through resource damage, pollution, and incursions on non-motorized trails."

"Unregulated, irresponsible and out-of-control use of ATVs threatens our hunting heritage," said Dave Stalling, President of the Montana Wildlife Federation. "Simply put: unmanaged ATV use is reducing habitat security, increasing big game vulnerability and, in the long term, greatly reducing hunting opportunities."

Last year, Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth identified unmanaged recreation, particularly off-road vehicle use, as one of the greatest threats to America's National Forests. He described a litany of adverse impacts to the land, wildlife and other visitors and highlighted the proliferation of unplanned - or renegade - dirt bike and all-terrain vehicle (ATV) routes that crisscross many National Forests. Since then, Chief Bosworth has also stressed the urgent need to address this problem: "This is not an easy issue to tackle, but if we wait a day, a week, or even a year, the impact on the land and the issue surrounding this problem will become even harder to deal with. We need to address the issue now."

"The Forest Service has taken a small step forward today," said Scott Kovarovics, Director of the Natural Trails and Waters Coalition. "The proposed rule is a start, but it must be significantly strengthened by including a two-year timeframe to designate routes and immediately prohibiting use of renegade ATV and dirt bike routes."

The underlying legal framework for off-road vehicle management on federal public lands is provided in Executive Orders issued by Presidents Richard Nixon in 1972 and Jimmy Carter in 1977. President Nixon's Order (number 11644) states that the purpose of federal off-road vehicle management is to "ensure that the use of off-road vehicles on public lands will be controlled and directed so as to protect the resources of those lands, to promote the safety of all users of those lands, and to minimize conflicts among the various uses of those lands." This Order further requires that agencies "minimize" adverse impacts on natural resources, including water, soils and vegetation, and wildlife and wildlife habitat, as well as conflicts with other uses when designating routes for off-road vehicle use.
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