Forest Service OHV Policy
Principles embodied in the forest service final rule for motorized recreation in national forests and grasslands include:
1. The forest service acknowledges that motorized recreation is an appropriate form of recreation in national forests.
2. The forest service has determined that decisions concerning motorized recreation in national forests can best made at the local level, with the full involvement of federal, tribal, state and local governments, motorized and nonmotorized users, and other interested parties.
3. For the first time, the final rule provides a definition for "off-highway vehicle."
4. The final rule states each national forest will make "motor vehicle use maps" available to the general public and will endeavor to post this same information on the forest service website.
5. The forest service rejected the notion that all areas should be closed to OHV recreation until such time as the implementation process is completed.
6. The forest service indicated that OHV designation would be implemented at each national forest at the time the designation process is completed at each national forest.
7. The forest service indicated that it would continue to encourage and rely on volunteer assistance for the construction, improvement and maintenance of roads and trails for motorized recreation.
8. Designation decisions at the local level will determine the appropriate consideration of other federal laws, such as issues relating to threatened or endangered species.
9. The forest service will seek public comment on the directives they have prepared for forest service personnel to use for the implementation of this rule. These directives will be in the forest service manual and the forest service handbook.
10. The final rule provides that actual designation of routes shall be the responsibility of the ranger districts of the NFS. In other words, forest supervisors and district rangers will be making these determinations after receiving public input.
11. The forest service states that decisions regarding NEPA compliance for the implementation phase of the rule will be determined at the local level depending upon site-specific factors including: the local history of travel planning, public input, and environmental impacts at the local level.
12. The forest service acknowledged that some user-created routes should be incorporated in the final designation process. However, such determinations should be made at the local level by officials with first-hand working knowledge of the national forest after working closely with local governments, users and other interested parties.
13. The forest service does not believe that a complete inventory of all roads and trails must be completed prior beginning the implementation/designations process.
14. The final rule recognizes that designations of roads, trails and areas for motor vehicle use will not be permanent. Such designations could be revised depending upon environmental impacts, changes in public demand, route construction and usage.
15. The final rule does not require local officials to reconsider previous decisions designating existing roads and trails for motorized recreation. Such reconsideration is at the discretion of the local official after consultation with the public and user community.
16. The final rule does not set a specific deadline for the completion of the implementation of the rule. The forest service, however, stated that it hopes to complete the designation process as quickly as possible.
17. The final rule requires the forest service to see public involvement in the designation process.
18. While acknowledging that specific funding for the designation process is the purview of the Congress, the forest service stated its commitment to utilize available funding sources for an early implementation of this rule.
19. The forest service did not embrace the concept of a no-net-loss policy in terms of OHV routes.
20. The forest service confirmed that the final rule's prohibition on motor vehicle use of the designated system only goes into effect at the administrative unit or ranger district once that unit or district has completed the designation process. Completion means having motor vehicle user maps identifying those areas so designated available to the general public.
21. The forest service does not believe that immediate closure of all user-created routes, without local evaluation and public input, is necessary or appropriate.
22. The forest service believes that certain units or ranger districts will be able to complete the designation process earlier than other districts and that prohibition on cross country travel will be become effective at different districts at different times.
23. Forest service said that licensing issues affecting motor vehicles remains the responsibility of the state governments where each national forest is located.
24. The forest service has indicated that it may consider developing national safety standards for OHV use on forest service land sometime in the future, but not at this time.
25. The forest service announced its intention to develop a national standard for OHV noise levels in a future rulemaking.
26. The final rule addresses all forms of motor vehicle use and not just OHVs.
27. The final rule does not address the specific designation of routes for nonmotorized use; rather it focuses solely on motorized designations.
28. The final rule does not require every national forest to designate routes for motor vehicle use. It only provides a framework for such designation for those national forests where such use is appropriate.
29. While the final rule addresses motor vehicle use on Forest service land and snowmobiles are "motor vehicles," the final rule exempts snowmobiles from the cross-country travel ban. However, it leaves such restrictions to the discretion to the local manager on a case by case basis.
30. The final rule permits temporary, emergency closures of trails without public notice for purposes of resource protection, to protect public health and safety, to facilitate cooperative work and for volunteer work and mitigation.
31. Nothing in the final rule revokes any existing rights-of-way held by private parties or alters any treaty rights held by tribal governments.
32. The final rule anticipates that local forest units will publish new motor vehicle use maps annually and update signs as necessary or appropriate to reflect any change in designated routes.
33. Mountain bicycles are not regulated under the provisions of this final rule.
34. The final rule does not change existing fines and penalties for violations of the rule.
35. While the final rule encourages the use of signage for purposes of identifying designated routes, it recognizes that adequate signage is not always possible. Therefore, the agency will place greater emphasis on requiring users to rely on the use of motor vehicle maps from forest service offices or websites.
36. The final rule will provide local agency officials the discretion to allow limited use of motor vehicles beyond designated routes for specific purposes (big game retrieval or dispersed camping). The agency anticipates this provision will be used sparingly to avoid undermining the purposes of the final rule.
37. The final rule does not provide a blanket prohibition or allowance for motor vehicle events. The decision regarding such events will be made at the local level by the appropriate agency officials.