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By: Robert Janis

GAO Report May Show More Friendly Policies toward OHV

The federal government and off-highway vehicle recreationists have not always gotten along concerning where OHV’ers can do their recreation. However, a recent General Accounting Office report may indicate that the government might be a little friendlier now.

The report evaluates the use of OHV recreation on federal lands administered by the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the National Park Service.

After much research including interviewing various people who have a vested interest and traveling to several locations to view areas, the report came up with a number of recommendations that most OHV’ers can probably support.

For example, the report suggests that the Secretary of Agriculture order the Chief of the Forest Service to create more strategies to achieve the goal of improving OHV management and come up with a time frame for carrying out the strategies and monitor the progress. Moreover, it asks the Secretary of Interior to order the Director of the Bureau of Land Management to improve its priorities concerning recreation and visitor services and to come up with a time frame for carrying out goals for OHV recreation. It also suggested that the Secretary of Interior direct the BLM to come up with a way to measure performance.

The GAO Report also seems to have discovered a problem with communication between the government and the public concerning OHV use on federal lands. In order to improve this problem it recommends that the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture require the directors of the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to improve communications with the public concerning OHV trails and areas by developing user-friendly signs and maps. It is also suggested that the agencies ascertain from the district courts the range of fines for OHV-related violations and petition for any appropriate modifications that are warranted.

Other facts from the report that could be of interest to OHV’ers include:

  • Federal agencies have said that the use of off-highway vehicles like all-terrain vehicles, off-road motorcycles, dune buggies, and other four-wheel drive vehicles can be used on federal lands in appropriate locations and with proper management.
  • Officials at units visited by the GAO researchers have said that they have experienced an increase in OHV use because of the closing of land from OHV use near their units.
  • About 20 percent of OHV use on U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management land is for hunting; about 70 percent of the use is for OHV recreation.
  • A majority of Bureau of Land Management field unit officials reports that OHV use accounts for half the recreational activity on their lands.
  • Most field unit officials from all three agencies say that the environmental impact of OHV use occurs on only 20 percent of the lands they manage.
  • Social and safety concerns related to OHV use occasionally or rarely occur on federal lands.
  • A majority of field unit officials say that they have developed partnerships with outside user groups.
  • Most BLM and Forest Service units complain of insufficient financial resources which affect their ability to properly manage OHV use in their unit.

The report also indicates that there may be a problem in the sustaining and management of areas of recreation due to the number of personnel a unit has to do such work. Field units with full-time managers were more likely to sustainably manage OHV use. Moreover, units that have full-time OHV managers are better able to get funds from outside resources than units without a full-time OHV manager.

There appears to be some problems. But most, if not all of them, can be limited or even abolished with more cooperation between the state agencies and local OHV enthusiasts clubs. For example, local clubs can provide more volunteers to assist the units that may not have a full-time manager of OHV use. These volunteers can provide the management necessary, especially during the high traffic times on the trails.

Many national organizations with local chapters like the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council could probably hook up those OHV’ers who wish to volunteer with the federal land units that need volunteers. Visit the site for more information on programs.

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