(May 19) - For decades, off-road vehicle enthusiasts
have been mostly free to roam federal forests and
rangelands. Those freewheeling days could be numbered,
government agencies, the Forest Service and the Bureau
of Land Management, are developing plans to restrict the
vehicles to designated routes as part of an effort to
curb environmental damage and ease conflict among users
of public lands.
"The days of
blazing new trails are coming to an end," said Leo Drumm,
off-highway vehicle coordinator for the Nevada BLM.
"There has to be some controls."
efforts to address off-road travel are under way across
the West, any changes probably would have the biggest
impact on Nevada and its wide-open spaces - including
the 6.3-million-acre Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest,
the largest national forest outside Alaska.
government controls 87 percent of the state's land, and
the vast majority of the backcountry is unrestricted to
Forest Service's national policy on off-roading awaits
final action nearly a year after it was unveiled,
individual national forests such as Humboldt-Toiyabe are
being encouraged to address the issue because of soaring
off-road vehicle use.
recognizing at the same time the need to work on this
issue," said Bob Vaught, supervisor of Humboldt-Toiyabe.
"There's widespread agreement that we need to do a
better job of managing off-highway vehicle use."
and 2000, the number of off-road vehicle users increased
from about 5 million to 36 million, causing conflicts
with other users such as horseback riders as well as
with the growing number of homeowners who live near
Ribbon Coalition, a motorized recreation advocacy group,
said it wants to keep as many roads and trails open as
"(Environmentalists) are spending millions of dollars to
close public land to public uses," said Brian Hawthorne,
the Idaho-based group's public lands director. "That's
where the controversy is generated. What we want are
managed off-highway trail systems and areas that are
sustainable and that we can enjoy for generations to
of the Nevada Hunters Association said most off-roaders
are responsible and are being unfairly singled out.
"Out in the middle of
the desert, what damage are you doing with an ATV?" Lent
asked. "It doesn't hurt anything. There's so much land
out there I don't know how they would harm it."
land managers are taking a cue from Forest Service chief
Dale Bosworth, who said unmanaged recreation is one of
the four biggest threats to national forests. And
conservationists are concerned that not enough roads
will be closed to protect wildlife and habitat.
"We need to
encourage them to act in a way that will result in real
on-the-ground protection," said Jeremy Garncarz of the
Wilderness Society in Denver. "We're losing wildlife
habitat on a daily basis because of these problems."
welcome the push to keep off-road vehicles to designated
areas, said Stan Rauch, hunter outreach coordinator of
the Washington-based National Trails and Waters
Coalition, which seeks better management of the vehicles
on public land.
sportsmen have accused those who go off road to hunt
using all-terrain vehicles of disturbing their hunts and
punching out more new roads in remote regions across the
"It's a good
positive development for the land and users looking for
a quality experience on public land," said Rauch, a
big-game hunter from Victor, Mont.
managers said they will work with various groups to
identify routes, trails and other areas suitable for
off-road vehicles. Implementation will vary, but some
districts are shooting for as early as 2007.
federal land managers said it's premature to discuss
road closures, they won't rule them out.
"We're growing up as
a state and we can't handle the unrestricted
cross-country travel like we did in the past," said
Drumm of the Nevada BLM. "Every time you go out you find
more new trails."
"We must make
this an insecure and inhospitable place for capitalists
and their projects.... We must reclaim the roads and
plowed land, halt dam construction, tear down existing
dams, free shackled rivers and return to wilderness
millions of tens of millions of acres of presently
settled land."óDavid Foreman, Earth First!