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USDA Forest Service
Shasta-Trinity National Forest

Contact: Megan Godwin
(530)226-2320

Shasta-Trinity National Forest Partners with Diverse Groups in Off-Highway Vehicle Impact Study

BRC's Don Amador (left) and other riders helping with research project on Shasta-Trinity National Forest
BRC's Don Amador (left) and other riders helping with research project on Shasta-Trinity National Forest

REDDING, Calif. (June 25) – This summer U.S. Forest Service employees on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest (STNF) are working in conjunction the University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology and the BlueRibbon Coalition in a wildlife study that is truly the first of its kind.

The study focuses on the potential effects of off-highway vehicles (OHV) on the federally threatened northern spotted owl, a subject in which there is currently little scientific data. While the study alone is quite notable, the unusual collaboration between the diverse groups makes this project a stand-out.

"This is one of the first times an OHV community has solidly partnered with academia on such a scale," said BlueRibbon Coalition Western Representative Don Amador. "This project is laying the foundation for great partnerships between these types of groups."

The groups include the STNF, University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the BlueRibbon Coalition, California Parks and Recreation and the Redding Dirt Riders. The study is being conducted in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest this summer and researchers and interns are living in barracks at the Hayfork Ranger Station.

"The Shasta-Trinity is part of the heart of these owls' habitat," said Forest Service Wildlife Biologist Paula Crumpton. "The results from the study will help wildlife biologists implement sound management principles where there is similar owl habitat."

The University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology works to "quantify change in the abundance and distribution of endangered species as well as the degree to which these species are disturbed by human pressures in remote areas." The BlueRibbon Coalition is a group who strives to ensure that responsible use of public lands is maintained for the benefit of all recreationists. Their motto is "Preserving our natural resources for the public instead of from the public."

While it seems these groups may have opposing interests, they have formed an unlikely bond and are working together to achieve a common goal.

"That is what makes this study really unusual. The OHV riders are actually helping us implement these experiments in the field," said Lisa Hayward, post doctoral researcher with the University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology and project manager.

The study requires that the owls in the test area are exposed to certain events to look for collective effects on physiology and reproduction throughout the season. The primary event involves using hour-long “simulated enduro events” with volunteer OHV riders to analyze data for short-term changes in behavior or physiology. These "simulated enduro events" mean that three to five volunteers will ride their motorcycles back and forth near owl territories for an hour, totaling about 45 passes by owl territory.

Researcher recording sound data at owl test site on Shasta-Trinity National Forest
Researcher recording sound data at owl test site on Shasta-Trinity National Forest

Both Hayward and Amador explain management practices regarding land use in the area could possibly have been more restrictive than necessary. The goal of the study is to properly assess the impact these OHV users are making.

"Good science is always the best tool in determining management practices," said Amador. "Then you just have to let the chips fall where they may via mitigations, restrictions or new recreational opportunity."

Forest Service Wildlife Biologist Kelly Wolcott agrees. "It's really significant that OHV users are going out on a limb participating in activities that could restrict recreation. But generally speaking, this kind of research tends to loosen regulations up."

Even though there are such different groups involved in the study, everyone has the same ultimate goal – that the research gathered will help land managers implement smart and effective land management policy.

"Hopefully the public will be happy with whatever results come from the study," said Hayward.

Hayward is still seeking volunteers to ride their OHVs past owl territories for one hour while researchers measure owl behavior and/or hormone levels. Volunteers are compensated $50 per day and provided with lunch.

For more information on the study or to volunteer, please contact Lisa Hayward at lhayward@u.washington.edu or visit www.ohvstudy.com.


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