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.
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
- 36 C.F.R. part 212 (Subparts A, B, and C of the Travel Management Rule). Final rules as published in the Code of Federal Regulations.
- “Travel Management; Designated Routes and Areas for Motor Vehicle Use.” Forest Service’s final 2005 Travel Management Rule as published in the Federal Register.
- National Visitor Use Monitoring Program (NVUM) is the Forest Service’s estimates of the volume of recreation visitation to National Forests and Grasslands, including the type of activity, demographics of visitors, visit duration, measure of satisfaction and trip spending connected to the visit.
- “Off-road vehicle best management practices for forestlands: A review of scientific literature and guidance for managers.” Scientific literature review on the environmental and social effects of OHVs in forested landscapes, and recommendations to help forest managers minimize OHV impacts.
- “In Need of Protection: How Off-Road Vehicles and Snowmobiles Are Threatening the Forest Service’s Recommended Wilderness Areas.” Idaho Conservation League prepared this report highlighting the need for a consistent national policy to protect wilderness characteristics of Recommended Wilderness Areas from OHVs and OSVs.
- “Finite Recreation Opportunities: The Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and Off-Road Vehicle Management.” Article by John C. Adams & Stephen F. McCool analyzing the Forest Service’s and BLM’s management of OHVs and recommending improvements to managing motorized use.
- “Six Strategies for Success: Effective Enforcement of Off-Road Vehicle Use on Public Lands.” Report explains challenges and identifies tactics from around the country for successful OHV enforcement, even on limited agency budgets.
- “Key Concepts for Implementing the Minimization Criteria.” Joint recommendations from The Wilderness Society and BlueRibbon Coalition/Sharetrails.org encouraging BLM to prioritize travel management planning and to work collaboratively with stakeholders.
- Summary of Off-Road Vehicle Scientific Research Reviews. Brief annotated list of off-road vehicle articles through 2011 summarizing literature on the environmental and social impacts of motorized recreation.
- Bibliographic Database. Database of over 22,000 citations documenting the physical and ecological effects of roads and OHVs that is searchable by key words.
- Resources Database. Central listing of literature reviews about the ecological effects of OHVs, restoration, and roads. This also includes articles about federal policies that regulate OHVs and analyses of key off-road vehicle litigation.
Winter motorized use
- “Use By Over-Snow Vehicles (Travel Management Rule).” Forest Service’s final 2015 OSV rule as published in the Federal Register.
- “Over-Snow Vehicle Use Designations.” Guidance letter from the Forest Service’s Washington, D.C. office highlighting changes under the revised 2015 OSV rule.
- “Winter Travel Management on National Forests Under the New Over-Snow Vehicle Rule.” Fact sheet outlining the legal requirements of the Forest Service’s 2015 OSV rule.
- “Winter Recreation on National Forest Lands.” Comprehensive analysis of motorized and non-motorized winter recreation use, opportunity, and access on National Forest lands.
- “Snowmobile Best Management Practices for Forest Service Travel Planning: A Comprehensive Literature Review and Recommendations for Management.” Literature review of the environmental and social impacts of winter motorized recreation, and recommendations for OSV management.
- “Winter Recreation Impacts to Wetlands: A Technical Review.” Scientific literature review regarding OSV impacts to wetlands and fens in central and southern Rocky Mountains.
- “Projected climate change impacts on skiing and snowmobiling: A case study of the United States.” Study simulates natural snow accumulation at 247 winter recreation locations across the continental United States for years 2050 and 2090 to monetize potential impacts to various winter recreation activities.
- “Winter Snow Level Rise in the Northern Sierra Nevada from 2008 to 2017.” Study estimates hourly elevation where snow melts to rain (snow level) during winter precipitation events from 2008 to 2017.