The irresponsible use of off-road vehicles (ORVs) comprises a frontal assault on some of the best hunting and fishing country in the West. A growing number of off-road riders, and an ever-increasing number of machines, are encroaching on prime fish and game habitat. The result? Healthy trout streams and prime wildlife habitat are damaged, and big game leave in search of less trammeled areas. While there is a place for responsible ORV use, the reality is sobering – given the opportunity, far too many riders will leave existing legal trails and “pioneer” new routes across the terrain.
Motorized recreation is the fastest growing activity on our national forest lands. That’s not good news for sportsmen who venture into the backcountry on foot or by horseback. The go-anywhere nature of ORVs allows motorized access into pristine fish and wildlife habitat formerly explored only by more traditional sportsmen. And as traditional hunters know all too well, ORVs and big game don’t mix. The peace and quiet found in remote areas of the forest is disturbed by vehicles, and the noise can drive game out of prime habitat. ORV misuse not only fragments game habitat and leaves lasting physical damage on the landscape, it carries the potential to negatively impact watersheds. Damage to fragile high-country meadows from ORV misuse can last for years after the vehicles are gone, and sediment from ORVs driven in streambeds can damage fish habitat far downstream from the original disturbance.
Trout Unlimited and the SCP are not opposed to reasonable motorized access on public land. However, we believe that destructive riding must be stopped in order to protect healthy forests, clean water and our hunting and fishing heritage. TU also believes there’s an urgent need for a significant new commitment on the part of land management agencies, backed by proper funding, to police ORV use and enforce laws that prohibit off-trail travel. In response, SCP started working in 2007 to establish a rational and fair motorized-use policy in the West. We have staff working on ORV issues in four key western states – New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Nevada – and we’re working with the Forest Service and the BLM to ensure that travel management plans are put in place to protect fish and wildlife.
We’re also working with state officials to stop reckless riding, protect sensitive areas and restore lands damaged by irresponsible ORV users. Working with partners, federal agencies and sportsmen at the grassroots level, the SCP is dedicated to reducing unmanaged motorized travel on public lands. Doing this will help ensure the long-term sustainability of the West’s best habitat, and the hunting and fishing opportunities it harbors. Read more »