Off-Road Vehicle and Travel Management

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Spring Basin Wilderness

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Spring Basin Wilderness

With 10,000 acres of undulating terrain, secluded canyons and spectacular vantages of the John Day Country, Spring Basin is magnificent to explore This public treasure, forever protected as Wilderness, offers a profusion of desert wildflowers in the spring and year-round recreational opportunities for hikers, horseback

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The Scope:

The SEORMP will establish where, when and how off-highway vehicles (OHVs) are allowed to operate on BLM lands.

What does the current management of OHV use on BLM lands look like?

The BLM is required to classify all lands within a planning district into one of three OHV designations: open, closed, or limited.

The official definition1 for each designation:

  1. Open: An open area is where all types of vehicle use are permitted at all times in the area, subject to operating regulation and vehicle standards.
  2. Limited: A limited area is where there are restrictions at certain times, in certain areas and/or to certain vehicular use. Generally, these restrictions fall into one of the following categories: number of vehicles, types of vehicles, time or season of use, permitted or licensed use only, use only on existing roads and trails, use only on designated roads and trails.
  3. Closed: A closed area is where off-road vehicle use is prohibited.

Where can OHVs currently operate?

Currently less than 0.5% of the lands in the planning area are closed to OHV travel.2 The majority of the lands either fall into the “limited” or “open” categories described above. Changes were implemented in 2015 to protect sage-grouse habitat per the Approved Resource Management Plan Amendment, also known as the sage-grouse plan. The sage-grouse plan limits OHV travel to existing routes in areas identified as critical sage-grouse habitat and resulted in 2 million additional acres being classified as limited instead of open. However, large areas outside of sage-grouse habitat are still open to cross-country OHV travel, and, under the current administration, the fate of the changes made as part of the sage-grouse plans remains unclear.

What are some of the concerns regarding OHV use on public lands?

When not properly managed, OHVs can fragment wildlife habitat, impact soils and plant species, increase erosion and spread invasive species. The Council on Environmental Quality stated in a 1979 report that ORVs (Off-Road Vehicles) have “damaged every kind of ecosystem found in the United States.” 3 The number of OHV users on public lands has dramatically increased in recent years. At the same time, advancements in technology have allowed motorized recreationists to reach increasingly remote areas. Both factors are leading OHV use to have a greater impact on the ground.

ONDA’s take:

The BLM should restrict OHV use to designated routes, eliminating cross-country travel and protecting intact wildlife habitat. By restricting OHVs to designated routes, the BLM can limit impacts to healthy ecosystems while still allowing for a rich experience for motorized recreationists. As noted in BLM’s guidance to field offices in 2007, “continued designation of large areas that remain open to unregulated “cross-country travel” is not a practical management strategy.” The BLM should implement this guidance in the Southeastern Oregon Resource Management Plan.

Citations:

  1. As described by the federal governments Code of Federal Regulations (43 CFR 8340.0-5)
  2. Per GIS analysis completed by ONDA
  3. Sheridan, David. 1979. Off-road vehicles on public lands. Council on Environmental Quality

 

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