Dale Bosworth, Chief at the U.S.D.A.
Forest Service has identified unmanaged recreation, especially
impacts from OHVs, as one of the key concerns facing the
nation's forests and grasslands today.
In a speech he delivered April 22, 2003, he said, "The issue is
this: Back when we had light recreational use, we didn't need to
manage it [recreation]; but now that it's heavier, we do..." "At
one time, we didn't manage the use of off-highway vehicles,
either. But the number of people who own OHVs has just exploded
in recent years. In 2000, it reached almost 36 million. Even a
tiny percentage of impacts from all those millions of users is
still a lot of impact. Each year, we get hundreds of miles of
what we euphemistically refer to as 'unplanned roads and
trails'. So, the great issue is unmanaged recreation."
Jack Troyer, the Regional Forester for the Intermountain Region
(Region 4), is heading up a National OHV Policy Team that has
been tasked to implement this change. The new policy is based on
three pillars that are designed to minimize or eliminate impacts
from unmanaged OHV use.
1. Moving the agency to a designated use system. Travel will be
allowed, restricted, or prohibited on roads, trails and
specifically designated off- highway use areas. This means that
wheeled OHV travel will be allowed only on designated roads,
trails and in designated areas.
2. Cross-country travel by wheeled OHVs will generally be
3. The decisions of which roads, trails and areas to designate
for OHV use will be made at the field level.
For now, the policy change will be limited to wheeled OHVs, and
not snowmobile use.
Is This A Bad Thing?
Not necessarily. Our analogy is this: "Everyone thinks the hen
house is a mess and needs to be cleaned up. The only problem is
that the Fox is in charge of the job!" I wouldn't be doing my
job properly if I didn't say that the Chief has hit the
proverbial nail on the proverbial head. The problem is unmanaged
The plain fact of the matter is, very little of the Forest
Service's recreational travel route inventory was "planned." The
vast majority of routes used by recreationists today were
constructed for other purposes such as logging, mining or access
to grazing allotments. If the general public waited for the
federal land managers to "plan" recreational travelways we would
still be waiting.
OHV users; therefore, are unfairly criticized for the increase
in "resource impacts," and "proliferation of new, unplanned
roads and trails." Although these are important concerns that
must be addressed in this planning effort, the situation is not
reflective of "out of control" OHV users as much as an
indication of the unmet demand for recreational infrastructure.
Compounding this situation is the way some land managers have
responded to the increase in popularity in OHV recreation.
Unwisely, rather than work to accommodate the increased demand
for trails and trail systems, land mangers have frequently
reacted by restricting OHV opportunities. More importantly,
opportunities to manage OHV use by marking roads and trails,
providing usable maps, identifying OHV trails and systems; and
entering into cooperative management agreements with OHV user
groups have, by and large, been ignored.
Although, more pro-active management is clearly permissible
within the existing management plans, a quick search on most
National Forest websites finds land managers more often choose
to implement parts of their OHV policy associated with
limitations and closures, than management.
Generally, the BlueRibbon Coalition, Stewards of the Sequoia,
CORVA & other groups support the move away from
allowing cross-country travel, to allowing use only on
designated roads and trails. Our concern is that the new policy
be implemented pursuant to lawful planning, with full public
involvement, accurate inventory of roads and trails, assessment
of current recreational use, and with consideration to
recreational value of existing roads and trails.
What Does This Mean To You?
The change in OHV policy will require a major effort from all
OHV organizations. Just because your favorite road or trail was
constructed years ago and is enjoyed by thousands doesn't mean
that road or trail is on the FS's inventory. As individuals, and
as organizations, we're going to have to become involved, or the
Fox is going to eat us out of house and home!
I cannot emphasize enough how urgent it is to get involved with
your local Forest in this effort. This new policy won't go into
effect tomorrow, it went into effect yesterday.
If you are concerned about trails in
the Sequoia forest then contact
to find out how you can be more involved in keeping your trails
If you are concerned about another
forest contact the local access organization for that forest.
The easiest way to track changes to your favorite road or trail
is to call the Forest Service office near you and request to be
put on the mailing list for the Schedule of Proposed Actions (SOPA).
The SOPA is the way the Forest Service informs the public about
planning changes. Do not wait another minute. Call today!
Reprinted from KTM Talk