USDA Forest Service
Shasta-Trinity National Forest
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
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
Researcher recording sound data at owl
test site on Shasta-Trinity National
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
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 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
email@example.com or visit