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OHV reform – reining in motorized use on public lands

Moderating Motorized Use

Off-highway vehicles (OHVs)—including dirt bikes, ATVs, side-by-sides (UTVs), dune buggies, snowmobiles, jet skis, rock crawlers, and multi-purpose vehicles—destroy and pollute fragile landscapes on public lands. OHVs carve deep tracks into soil or snow, leach chemicals and erode dirt into streams, destroy riparian areas and native vegetation, and spread non-native weeds. Persistently loud motors harass wildlife and obliterate the peace and quiet of wild places and wilderness. Advances in technology leading to greater power, range, and capabilities allow OHVs to encroach farther into otherwise remote landscapes.

Yet despite this damage and disturbance, federal land management agencies poorly manage and rarely enforce restrictions on OHV use on public lands. Guardians is working to change this to ensure wild places with clean water, connected wildlife habitat, and quiet recreation. We are fighting to rein in motorized use on public lands. We advocate to stop OHV abuse by reshaping national policy and engaging in on-the-ground efforts. By building partnerships with allies, we amplify our ability to protect wild places, wildlife, and waterways from destructive OHV use.

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Strategies for Curbing Motors

Through advocacy, litigation, policy, and grassroots organizing, we keep forests and wildlife safe from rampant OHV and OSV use.

To minimize impacts of OHVs on water, soil, wilderness, wildlife, and quiet recreation, the U.S. Forest Service published the travel management rule. It requires all national forests to identify a system of trails and areas for OHV use, and to close cross-country OHV travel (travel off of designated roads and trails). But not all forests have complied with this requirement. That’s where we come in—safeguarding wild places, wildlife, and waterways by making sure the Forest Service ends cross-country travel on all national forests. Working in partnership with our allies, we apply pressure on forests that have yet to comply, and, where necessary, litigate against rampant and unrestricted cross-country OHV use. And we support allies by providing advocacy tools, information, and other resources for other grassroots groups to build on our successes.

Where the Forest Service has completed summer travel plans to close cross-country travel and minimize impacts from OHV use, we defend against challenges to further expand motorized use. Fair travel plans are the result of an extensive public process by which the Forest Service and public carefully identify routes, trails, and areas for OHV use. Proposals to increase OHV use beyond existing travel plans turn a blind eye to that process and add new scars to the landscape. By defending fairly established travel plans, we keep a check on potential backsliding.

Over-snow vehicles (OSVs), such as snowmobiles, disrupt quiet winter landscapes. This stresses winter wildlife like Canada lynx, wolverine, and grizzlies at a time when they are particularly vulnerable. And the noise and pollution torments quiet winter recreationists like cross-country skiers and snowshoers. For many years, national forests allowed snowmobiles to run rampant across the landscape. But in response to a court order, in 2015 the Forest Service clarified by rule that forests must complete winter travel plans. The 2015 OSV rule directs all forests to identify a system of routes and areas for OSV use and close cross-country OSV travel.

WildEarth Guardians is reining in OSV use on our public lands through advocacy, policy, grassroots organizing, and litigation. Our goal is to ensure all national forests complete winter travel plans that protect wild places, wildlife, and waterways from unbridled winter motorized use.

Motorized use, generally
Winter motorized use

Keeping It Wild on the Bitterroot National Forest

For years, we’ve been fighting to keep OHVs off the Bitterroot National Forest. Guardians’ Rewilding Attorney tells the tale.

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Photo Credit: Susanne Nilsson, Flickr

How You Can Help

Help protect the magnificent wild places of the West! Be a guardian for public lands by joining the conversation, learning about current issues, and making your voice heard. Together, we're a powerful force for nature.

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