Chapter 7 - All-Terrain Vehicle Assessment, Green Mountain and Finger Lakes National Forests - Finger Lakes National Forest Plan Revision
(Note: This has been excerpted and provides the first two of thirteen ATV Case Studies. The website address/URL for the entire document is provided below. Language Deception has been liberally sprinkled throughout the entire document.)
A. Introduction 2
B. The ATV Case Studies 3
1. Allegheny National Forest – Pennsylvania 4
2. Big Cypress National Preserve – Florida 7
3. Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests – Georgia 10
4. Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest – Wisconsin 12
5. Fishlake National Forest: Paiute ATV Trail – Utah 14
6. Hatfield-McCoy Recreation Area – West Virginia 16
7. Mark Twain National Forest – Missouri 18
8. Medicine Bow National Forest – Wyoming 20
9. Michigan National Forests: Hiawatha, Huron-Manistee, and Ottawa – Michigan 22
10. Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area – Oregon 25
11. Shawnee National Forest – Illinois 27
12. White Mountain National Forest – New Hampshire / Maine 29
13. White River National Forest – Colorado 31
C. Resource Agency Interviews 33
1. Overview and Summary 33
2. Interview Data Response Forms 40
(An index to page numbers for each interview is on p. 40)
D. ATV Registration and Operations Guidelines for New England and Region States 114
E. Recent Scholarly Journal Articles, Books, and Book Chapters 120
F. Miscellaneous Publications: Reports, Theses, and Legislative Materials 128
G. Popular Magazine and Newspaper Articles 133
H. Miscellaneous Web / Internet Sources 140
General management plans – the guiding management documents for all units of the national forest system – provide information about the multiple uses of forest lands and the directions to be followed in future management activities. These plans are typically organized around a 10 to 15 year planning horizon – a time period in which public tastes and technology may evolve in directions not necessarily predicted by earlier plans. One example of this is evident in the relatively sudden popularity of off-road and all-terrain vehicles (ORVs and ATVs) for recreational use of forest lands. The appropriate use of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) is of specific interest to GMNF and FLNF managers.
The Scope of Work on which this social and economic assessment is based requested a situation analysis of ATV / ORV-related topics (use, trends, research, policy considerations, etc.) using available secondary data and scholarly sources. While there was no funding to support primary data collection (for example, residential surveys about uses of and attitudes towards ATVs / ORVs in Vermont), the study team was asked to develop case studies related to ATV / ORV use on other national forest and resource lands. After conducting a wide-ranging review of activities and policies at resource sites across the country, 13 cases were selected for in-depth analysis.
Sites that had some measure of ecological similarity to the Northeast, and sites that had relevance based on use history, were chosen for inclusion; resource places that involved arid desert settings were excluded. Analysis of available data about the 13 sites resulted in a written narrative that discussed use history, policies, and outcomes of the adoption of ATV / ORV recreational opportunities. We then followed up these detailed case studies with a series of telephone interviews with the managers of the case study resource areas.
This chapter presents an overview and summary of the 13 case studies of resource areas (12 managed by federal agencies, and one under private management) that have experience with ATV and ORV recreational use. Additionally, other scholarly and public information pertaining to ATV / ORV use, trends, research, and policy analysis is also included in the chapter.
This chapter is organized as follows. In Section B, we first present the case studies in narrative form. In Section C, reports from the interviews conducted with managers at the case study sites are presented. These are accompanied by an overview that summarizes key points from the interviews, compared across case studies. In Section D, we review ATV registration and operations guidelines for the New England states and for several others in the region. Section E provides an annotated bibliography of recent scholarly journal articles, books, and book chapters.
Then, Section F provides an overview of miscellaneous publications related to ATVs / ORVs, including reports, graduate theses, and legislative materials. A review of popular magazine and newspaper articles is provided in Section G, while Section H offers a selection of miscellaneous web-based and Internet sources about ATV and ORV issues.
B. ATV Case Studies
Thirteen case studies were chosen on the advice of USDA Forest Service staff, and from the research team’s review of published literature. The cases primarily represent resource-based areas managed by the Forest Service, though the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service are also represented. Additionally, cases were chosen to represent conditions that are roughly similar to either environmental or social conditions of the northeast or its temperate forests. Thus, we did not seek examples from the desert southwest, or beach areas. The list of cases and case study reports immediately follow this overview and summary.
Several sources of documentary and secondary data, and web-based materials, were used in compiling the case studies. All sources are listed at the end of each case example. In the following pages, case study narratives from each of 13 resource areas are presented. (Three Michigan National Forests were grouped as one case study, though we later conducted separate telephone interviews with each forest.)
The ATV Case Studies
Allegheny National Forest – Pennsylvania
Big Cypress National Preserve – Florida
Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests – Georgia
Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest – Wisconsin
Fishlake National Forest: Paiute ATV Trail – Utah
Hatfield-McCoy Recreation Area – West Virginia
Mark Twain National Forest – Missouri
Medicine Bow National Forest – Wyoming
Michigan National Forests: Hiawatha, Huron-Manistee, and Ottawa – Michigan
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area – Oregon
Shawnee National Forest – Illinois
White Mountain National Forest – New Hampshire / Maine
White River National Forest – Colorado
Allegheny National Forest – Pennsylvania
Established in 1923, the Allegheny National Forest (ANF) currently manages 513,257 acres of land on the rugged plateaus of northwestern Pennsylvania. Stands of hardwood timber cover hillsides carved by rivers and streams and surround several reservoirs, including the 12,000-acre Allegheny Reservoir. The Forest also protects special natural features. The Allegheny River is part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System and two Wilderness areas protect the natural ecosystems of more than 9,000 acres while offering primitive recreation opportunities. The Tionesta Scenic and Research Natural Area, Hearts Content Area and Kane Experimental Forest are home to some of the most extensive virgin forests in the eastern United States. Five federally Endangered Species are found within the National Forest.
Recreation opportunities are abundant across the forest. Visitors enjoy camping, scenic driving, hunting (Pennsylvania leads the nation in the number of hunters), and water-based activities such as swimming, fishing, boating, and water skiing. Trail activities include hiking, cross country skiing, mountain bicycling, and motorized recreation with dirt bikes, ATVs and snowmobiles.
ANF has provided OHV trails since the 1970s, and ATV and motorbike use has been recognized as the fastest growing recreation activity on the Forest. Four ATV trail systems offering a total of 108 miles of trails are considered to be one of the premier public land OHV systems in the Northeast. Interestingly, the Marienville ATV/Bike Trail is divided into a Bike Trail Area and an ATV Trail Area, offering riders an experience suitable to their type of machine and skill level.
The more technical Bike Trail Area is narrow and winding, while the ATV trail, often using old roads and railroad grades, is wider and more level. However, both trails are open to trail bikes and ATVs, as are the other three trail systems.
In the summer, trails are open to ORVs from the Friday before Memorial Day until the last Sunday in September, and the winter season lasts from December 20 until April 1. Limiting use to these two seasons provides environmental protection during the fall and spring wet seasons, allows trail maintenance without visitor disturbance and minimizes conflicts with fall hunters.
Adverse weather may cause trails to be closed during the use seasons to prevent trail damage.
An OHV trail user fee was implemented on July 1, 2001, to give the Forest additional means in providing recreational opportunities. According to a June 16, 2003 ANF document about the fee demonstration implementation project, it costs between $15,000 and $30,000 to construct one mile of OHV trail and another $1,000 per mile per year to maintain.
Pennsylvania realizes an economic impact greater than $17,000,000 from summer use of motorized trails on the ANF, and in 2001 the annual economic impact of Forest OHV users was $68,540,505, according to a study by the ANF and the Pennsylvania Off-Highway Vehicle Association.
Ninety-five percent of the fee demo revenues are returned directly to the Forest and used to address trail maintenance and safety issues before being applied to new trail planning efforts. (A one-year pass costs $35.00 or day passes can be purchased for $10.00.)
The 1986 Forest Plan called for increased development of recreation opportunities, but implementation has failed to keep up with visitor demands. Funding constraints postponed plan revision efforts in 1997, but planning processes resumed in 2003. The Analysis of the Need for Change in Forest Plan Revision released October 1, 2003, notes the dramatic increase in water-based recreational activities and ATV use, compared to moderate growth of other uses such as horse riding, snowmobiling and hiking.
The analysis further describes the failure of the 1986 Plan to address the compatibility of trail uses such as ATV and horse riding, and suggests that the new plan take a comprehensive look at possible conflicts and safety issues in determining recreation development across the forest and the feasibility of combining motorized and nonmotorized uses.
In January 2003 the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources announced grants totaling nearly $700,000 would be available to municipalities, profit and nonprofit organizations for developing and improving ATV and snowmobile riding opportunities.
Funds were previously only available for state-controlled lands until changes were made to the Snowmobile/ATV law passed in 2001.
According to the release, the grants are needed because, “…our state forest lands cannot accommodate the volume of trails desired.”
According to the Recreation Strategy for the Allegheny National Forest, ATV sales in the state of Pennsylvania rank first in the northeast; they are also the third highest nationally.
Approximately 80,000 ATVs are registered and more than 300,000 are unregistered.
A local volunteer fire department sponsors a biannual Tour de Forest Trail Ride on the forest as an organization fundraiser. Nearly 2000 participants enjoy 50 miles of roads and trails. Events such as this contribute to local economies and experiences on the Forest are shared with other OHVers, increasing awareness of opportunities for motorized recreation on the ANF.
Recreation Strategy for the Allegheny National Forest, March 2002
Allegheny National Forest General Information
All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) Trails; List of ANF ATV trails, description of trail use fee program
Important Facts: Fee Demonstration Implementation, All-terrain Vehicles and Motorbikes
Allegheny Tour de Forest
Allegheny Trail Riders: Multi-use trail promotion organization
Pennsylvania Off Highway Vehicle Association: Statewide organization
PA ATVing: First Pennsylvania statewide ATV organization
Keystone Off Road Riders: Pennsylvania OHV organization
Allegheny National Forest Riding Trails: An Economic Impact Study & OHV User Survey, August 21, 2001
Off-Highway Vehicles in Pennsylvania: An Economic Impact Study & OHV User Survey, August 21, 2001
From Federal Register / Vol. 68, No. 186 / Thursday, September 25, 2003 / Notices:Implementation of the Current Forest Plan (Notice of intent to prepare an EIS)
Analysis of the Need for Change in Forest Plan Revision, September 2003
“Schweiker Administration Announces Grants for Snowmobile and ATV Riding Opportunities” January 14, 2003 press release
Big Cypress National Preserve – Florida
In 1974 the National Park Service designated its first preserve, Big Cypress National Preserve, located 60 miles west of Miami in southwestern Florida (National Park Service, nd.). It was created to protect the water quality and biological integrity of the Big Cypress Swamp, a major headwater source for the Everglades region, but provisions allowed for hunting, cattle grazing, oil exploration, and off-road vehicle use (Big Cypress National Preserve, 2000a; Great Outdoor Recreation Pages, nd.). The preserve is a mixture of forests, prairies and marshes, and protects more than 90 endangered, threatened, or imperiled species, including the American alligator and Florida panther (National Park Service, nd.; American Lands, 2000). Recreation activities include camping, boating, fishing, hiking, wildlife viewing and off-road vehicle driving (Big Cypress National Preserve, 2000a). The preserve is also the southern terminus of the 1,100-mile Florida National Scenic Trail (Great Outdoor Recreation Pages, nd.).
About 1,200 miles of off road trails existed in 1990, but a decade later mileage totaled 22,000 (Wilkinson, 2001). Off road use dates back to the 1920s, but the increase in use of swamp buggies, all-terrain motorbikes, four-wheel-drive trucks and airboats led to the proliferation of illegal trails, which the National Park Service has called “the worst example of overuse in the national system of parks and preserves” (Cerulean, 2003). The National Parks Conservation Association blames the destruction caused by the trails on the National Park Service for their lack of management rather than on ORV users who took advantage of lax regulations (Wilkinson, 2001).
Initiated in 1996, a Recreational Off-Road Vehicle Management Plan was released in August 2000, which provided for visitor access and enjoyment but protected the preserve’s natural resources by restricting ORV use (National Park Service, 2000). Development of the plan was directed by the 1991 General Management Plan, but was also prepared as part of a 1995 lawsuit settlement between the Florida Biodiversity Project and several federal agencies and bureaus.
The Florida Biodiversity Project contended that the agencies failed to comply with the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act. The management plan calls for 400 miles of designated ORV trails, 15 designated access points, a 60-day seasonal closure, and the issuing of no more than 2,000 off-road vehicle permits annually.
ORV users are also required to possess an operators permit and inspection sticker in addition to the annual permit (Big Cypress National Preserve, nd.). A 2002 Big Cypress News Release stated that a permit drawing would not be held in 2003 due to lower than expected permit sales in 2002 (Big Cypress National Preserve, 2002b).
The plan directs ORV management for 582,000 acres of the preserve, which totals 729,000 acres after the addition of the 147,000-acre Addition Lands in 1988 (Big Cypress National Preserve, 2000b). The preserve’s 1991 general management plan didn't include guidance for the Addition Lands, which the Park Service began administering in 1996. Development of a general management plan for the Addition Lands began in 2001 and the final plan, to be released in early 2004, will include ORV management guidelines.
Work on the new trail system in Big Cypress was halted in 2002 due to confusion surrounding federal permit requirements (Big Cypress National Preserve, 2002a). The Park Service subsequently filed for a 10-year permit for current and future trail work on 332 miles of land-based trails as part of the 400-mile system outlined in the ORV management plan; the 68 miles of airboat trails do not require fill work (National Park Service, 2003).
In August 2003, a United States District Court Magistrate issued a report upholding the ORV restrictions contained in the ORV management plan, a move that will defend the plan from attack by motorized interest groups and organizations (The Wilderness Society, 2003).
Big Cypress National Preserve. (2002a, December 2). “Big Cypress National Preserve Receives Consent on ORV Trails.” News Release. Accessed November 25, 2003.
The Wilderness Society. (2003, August 8). “Magistrate Approves Off-Road Vehicle Restrictions in Florida's Big Cypress National Preserve.” Accessed November 25, 2003.