Confining off-roaders to roads

August 24, 2006 11:00 pm

The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest has begun a process of limiting all-terrain vehicle, off-highway vehicle and motorcycle traffic to designated roads and trails on the public lands the agency manages.

This is a national move to switch from allowing access except where prohibited to instead prohibiting except where allowed.

The end result does not have to be a drastic reduction in recreational opportunities for ATV users. The process, coupled with other forces acting on the forest, could actually create better recreation opportunities for ATV users.

Here's how:

As the Forest Service reviews its inventory of roads and identifies roads that it doesn't want to or can't maintain, these roads should be closed to street-legal vehicles, but not to ATVs. If there isn't money to maintain a road, there probably isn't money to obliterate it, either. The end result should be a forest route that is closed to your typical passenger car but open to motorized off-road vehicles.

This will be possible only if ATV users are invited to get involved in the process by the Forest Service, and if those ATV users collaborate in balancing resource and recreation preservation.

It makes sense not to allow off-trail travel just willy nilly. But it also doesn't make sense to limit travel to roads and then eliminate roads and access.

There's a successful balance to be struck on the issue of ATV on the National Forest.