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
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
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
- 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
- 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.