Sports & Recreational Activities Damaging to the Environment


Off-Road Vehicles

For many backcountry hikers, cross-country skiers, and bird-watchers aggravation is spelled “ORV”. Off-road vehicles crush vegetation, shatter the wilderness silence, leave rutted trails, terrify wildlife, and cause erosion. The number of high-octane thrill-seekers which are blazing their trails in four-wheel-drive trucks and cars is increasing day by day along with dune and swamp buggies, snowmobiles, motorcycles, and fat-tired tricycles, all of which are called all-terrain cycles (ATCs). Sales of these ATCs have risen dramatically.

Current Regulations

There are a number of Executive Orders which govern off-road vehicle use on BLM lands and National Forests. Executive Orders 11644 (signed by President Nixon in 1972) and 11989  (by President Carter in 1977) were issued to “ensure that the use of off-road vehicles on public lands will be controlled and directed so as to protect the resources of those lands, to promote the safety of all users of those lands, and to minimize conflicts among the various uses of those lands.”

These Orders require the agencies to monitor the effects of off-road vehicle use and to immediately close the trails or areas to off-road vehicle activities if their use is determined “will cause or is causing considerable adverse effects on the soil, vegetation, wildlife, wildlife habitat or cultural or historic resources of particular areas or trails of the public lands.” Executive Orders 11989 also authorized the federal agencies to adopt a policy which closed all areas to off-road vehicle use unless specifically designated open.

The Solution

It is necessary to place reasonable limits on off-road vehicles use which can make enormous impacts on public lands. There are four regulations to manage off-road vehicles:

  • Limit off-road vehicle use to designated trails and roads; prohibit cross country travel.
  • Designate off-road vehicle routes only where the use of a route will not cause negative environmental impacts.
  • Prohibit off-road vehicle use unless enforcement and monitoring are fully funded and implemented.
  • Prohibit off-road vehicle use in proposed roadless areas and wilderness areas.