Many states have forest plans that allow for cross-country travel.
There is a move, as noted in this article, for those forests to shift
to a "designated route" travel plan.

The Forest Service in California is in the early stages of a complete
route inventory of all forest routes. Their final goal is to create
a designated route system by 2007.

Arizona forests are also working on a similar effort.

Early indications are that if a route is not on the forest inventory,
it is considered closed. Routes on the forest inventory will be
evaluated for benefit and either added to the designated route system
or closed.

Public involvement is essential to ensure your routes of interest are
included in the inventory AND documented.

It is up to you to help preserve your recreation routes of interest.



Feds ponder how to curb misuse of off-highway vehicles

Salt Lake Tribune

Calling off-highway vehicles one of the four "great threats" to
ecosystems, the U.S. Forest Service is considering new rules that
would clamp down on unregulated use.

A special planning team of Forest Service officials met in Salt Lake
City on Wednesday to begin planning strategies to better manage the
exploding popularity of OHVs, particularly the ubiquitous all-terrain

The team _ led by Jack Troyer, the Ogden, Utah-based Intermountain
regional forester _ was organized quietly last summer at the
direction of Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth.

"Jack has been charged by the chief to figure out how we are going to
go about dealing with this issue," said agency spokeswoman Heidi

In the near future, the Forest Service is expected to announce
proposed changes to federal rules to virtually prohibit so-called
cross-country OHV travel, in which vehicles depart from designated

The initiative is being met with cautious optimism by
environmentalists and OHV advocacy groups, which still are trying to
learn more about it.

"There are few areas in the forest where open, cross-country travel
is really appropriate," said Brian Hawthorne, director of the Utah
Shared Access Alliance, an OHV group.

"We want to see trail systems that are manageable, sustainable and

Forest Service officials say unauthorized cross-country travel has
proliferated, causing management headaches.

"Tens of millions of OHVs are now in use _ far more than even 10
years ago," Bosworth said last year in a speech on Earth Day.

"With all those millions of users, even a tiny percentage of problem
use presents us with a big and growing problem."

Bosworth said "hundreds of miles of wildcat roads and trails" are
created each year, damaging meadows, streambeds and other sensitive

Conservationists for years have complained about the rising tide of
OHV use, but they say the Forest Service, like the U.S. Bureau of
Land Management, has been slow to respond.

The federal land-management agencies say they have too few resources
to identify and mark appropriate trails or to enforce existing laws.

But the recent statements from Bosworth and the formation of the
Troyer-led team have encouraged environmental groups.

"There appears to be a commitment at all levels in the (Forest
Service) to get a handle on this problem," said Scott Kovarovics,
director of the Washington-based National Trails and Waters
Coalition. "They genuinely want to change how they've managed this

To date, supervisors of the country's 175 national forests, which
cover 192 million acres, have generally been left with little
national guidance or clout in tackling OHV issues. As a result, some
forests are more strict than others in regulating OHV use.

In Utah, the Wasatch-Cache and Uinta national forests, through newly
revised management plans, restricted OHVs to designated trails only.
The Ashley National Forest recently instituted an emergency ban of
cross-country travel pending the revision of its management plan.

While the environmental and OHV communities agree with the concept of
cracking down on unauthorized OHV use in the forests, they may
disagree over how the Forest Service should do it.

Kovarovics said the agency needs to "start with a blank map,"
immediately closing unauthorized routes until OHV use has been
determined to be benign to the environment.

"There's never been an analysis of all the impacts of unauthorized
trails," Kovarovics said.

"If they say everything that exists now is legal and they're just not
going to add to it, then that's not real reform."

Hawthorne said he is nervous about a national rule change, arguing
that OHV issues should be dealt with on the forest's district level.

He also said he hopes reason will prevail when it comes to closing roads.

Closing all unauthorized roads is not practical, he said. "You are
going to make a lawbreaker out of the law-abiding fisherman who has
always been driving down a certain road."

Closing all the unauthorized routes also could overly concentrate
motorized use on authorized routes, causing traffic congestion and
road damage, which leads to environmental damage, he said.

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