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By: Robert Janis

US Forest Service

A Q&A With The U.S. Forest Service

The United States Forest Service is another federal agency that gets involved in ATV recreation. ATVSource recently had a chance to submit questions concerning the Forest Service and its policies toward ATVs. The answers appear below. Several members of the Forest Service staff participated in answering the questions. We at ATVSource appreciate the time.

ATVSOURCE: How many acres does the Forest Service have jurisdiction over?
FS STAFF: The Forest Service manages almost 193 million acres of National Forest System (NFS) lands.

ATVSOURCE: How much of that is for trail use?
FS STAFF: The Forest Service manages an estimated 148,000 miles of National Forest System trail and 375,000 miles of National Forest System road.

ATVSOURCE: How much of that is open to ATVs?
FS STAFF: Approximately 32,000 miles of National Forest System trail, and 275,000 miles of National Forest System road are open to various classes of motor vehicles.

ATVSOURCE: What are your plans for trail development for 2010?
FS STAFF: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funded many trails related projects. All ARRA funded USDA Forest Service projects can be viewed at: http://fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMEN ... 098109.pdf.

ATVSOURCE: What is your policy toward opening up land for ATV recreation?
FS STAFF: Off-highway vehicles are a legitimate use of National Forest System lands, when properly managed and in the right locations.

ATVSOURCE: Off road enthusiasts are concerned about losing the land they now have for ATV recreation. What is your policy concerning trail closings? Are there plans to review the current policy?
FS STAFF: The 2005 travel management rule requires all national forests and national grasslands to designate those NFS roads, trails, and areas on NFS lands that are open to motor vehicle use, by class of vehicle and by time of year if applicable. This designation process identifies which NFS routes and areas on NFS lands are open to ATVs, as well as other types of motor vehicles. Decisions on which routes and areas to designate for motor vehicle use are made at the local level, by District Rangers or Forest Supervisors.

ATVSOURCE: It has been assumed that the Travel Management Rule would be complete by 2010. There are a lot of people in the OHV community who look at it as a closure rule. Do you want to address that?
FS STAFF: The Forest Service plans to complete the designation of those NFS routes and areas on NFS lands that are open to motor vehicle use by December 31, 2010. Once designated, routes and areas are identified on a motor vehicle use map (MVUM), and motor vehicle use inconsistent with the designations is prohibited. This prohibition will largely curtail cross-country travel with motor vehicles that is currently allowed on some national forests and grasslands. Decisions about which roads, trails, and areas to designate for which uses will be made at the local level, by District Rangers and Forest Supervisors.

ATVSOURCE: Once routes are designated as part of the Travel Management Rule, are you committed to follow through or are you done?
FS STAFF: Managing routes and areas designated for motor vehicle use is a priority. The Forest Service is currently preparing an implementation guide to assist field units with managing such use. The guide is organized around the 4 Es of education, engineering, enforcement, and evaluation.

ATVSOURCE: What new policies are being considered concerning watershed and restoration, and wilderness designations on Forest Service lands as they effect OHV recreation?
FS Staff: The Chief of the Forest Service has stated that ecological restoration is one of the goals of the Forest Service. This means restoring ecological functions associated with healthy forest ecosystems. The Forest Service is looking beyond its boundaries to take an “all lands” approach, and will work with partners to accomplish this goal.
The Forest Service identifies recommended wilderness as a part of its land management planning process. Each national forest has a land management plan, and they are periodically updated. Only Congress has the authority to designate new wilderness.

ATVSOURCE: How can off road clubs and state associations become involved in your policy-making process concerning trail closures or lands eliminated from recreational use?
FS STAFF: The Forest Service encourages the public to participate in the designation of NFS roads, NFS trails, and areas on NFS lands for motor vehicle use. Members of off road clubs and state associations should contact their local Forest Service office to determine the opportunities for involvement in the designation process.

ATVSOURCE: What is the future of development and expansion of trails on lands under your jurisdiction?
FS STAFF: Future trail development may be addressed strategically through the land management planning process, and specifically through local “project level” decisions. Such decisions are typically made at the local level, by District Rangers or Forest Supervisors. Revisions to route and area designations for motor vehicle use may be done at any time.

ATVSOURCE: Do you work with local off-road groups concerning trail development, maintenance and closings? If so, explain how?
FS STAFF: The Forest Service has multiple volunteer agreements and other partnerships with off-highway vehicle groups. Partners assist the Forest Service with trail maintenance, construction, and reconstruction, restoration work, volunteer trail patrols, and educational activities.

ATVSOURCE: Do you offer grants to local clubs to help them with trail development and expansion? If so, explain the programs.
FS STAFF: The Forest Service and the National Forest Foundation manage a website that provides information on grant opportunities from many sources and for many types of work. The website is found at: www.partnershipresourcecenter.org. Go to “Resources for Partnerships”, and “Funding.”

ATVSOURCE: There are many groups that offer grant programs to help manage OHV use like Yamaha and Polaris. Do you have some kind of program that takes advantage of grant programs like this or do you educate your people in methods to take advantage of these programs?
FS STAFF: The Forest Service is currently preparing an implementation guide to assist field units with managing motor vehicle use. This guide includes a chapter on implementation strategies which includes a section on grant opportunities.

ATVSOURCE: Do you have volunteer programs to assist in providing more resource for the management and maintenance of trails?
FS STAFF: Yes, the Forest Service works with many volunteers in many different program areas. Information on this program may be found at: www.fs.fed.us/volunteer/.

ATVSOURCE: How much of your budget is committed to management of OHV recreation?
FS STAFF: OHV recreation management is funded out of several categories including recreation, trails, roads, and law enforcement. Other work not related to OHV management is funded out of these categories also. No budget category exists that is used only for OHV management.


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