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Unregulated OHV use is being reviewed across the western states

Op-Ed to The Bulletin
by Robert Speik
January 3, 2003

Restrict off-highway vehicle access

Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) use is being reviewed by public Land Managers across the western states, according to an article by Courtney Lowery for The Associated Press, reprinted on November 26, 2003 by The Bulletin. When Dale Bosworth recently became Forest Service Chief, according to the article, he said that unregulated recreation, specifically off highway vehicle use, or “OHV” use, was a major threat to the national forests.

Souped up 4 X 4s, All Terrain Vehicles (four wheeled ATVs) and motorcycles of all types can quickly create their own illegal trails across virgin land. One rider follows another and soon one more wide, rutted dusty road is marked for years. 

OHV trails are not suitable for shared use. A non-mechanized recreationist, who might try to share the trails, must keep his eyes and ears open for fast approaching, helmeted and often leathered riders who sometimes seem committed to intimidating the very land they ride over. Horses, dogs and children particularly, cannot share OHV trails, not to mention hunters, birders and Scouts.

Several months ago, I wrote an essay for In My View, to point out that there was plenty of room for OHV use and separate, quiet, human powered use on our high desert lands east of Bend. The piece was generally well received except for a few hardheaded folks who were unwilling to give up just 10 miles of their 640 miles of approved OHV trails for the popular Badlands Wilderness proposal. Full time BLM and Forest Service OHV Recreation Specialists, who are funded in part, by our Oregon gas tax dollars, maintain for their exclusive use these trails on 200,000 dedicated acres.

In another recent In My View piece, Mollie Chaudet, Project Manager for the Upper Deschutes Resource Management Plan (UDRMP), explained the need to set guidelines for recreational OHV use in the vast study area managed by the BLM east of Bend and extending from Redmond to La Pine. Historically, unrestricted OHV use over all USFS and BLM managed lands did not pose a significant problem due to the limited numbers mechanized recreationists. While the Plan will exclude OHV use in the Badlands Wilderness Study Area, this move to regulate OHV use in portions of this vast BLM area is not related to our small Badlands Wilderness, but to regulation by Land Managers across the West.

Another group of recreationists, mechanized but human powered, have evidenced a more friendly attitude toward hikers whom they invite to use their extensive network of delightful single track trails in areas west of Bend and along Horse Ridge to the east. The Central Oregon Trails Alliance (COTA) builds these subtle shared use trails without gas tax dollar support and with Forest Service approval. Illegal ATV use has damaged some of these trails. COTA has joined with the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) in supporting BLM restriction of OHV use in The Badlands Wilderness Study Area.

Recently, real concerns have surfaced over the personal safety of the growing numbers of skiers and snow shoers in the area of Dutchman Flat. A Nordic skier struck by an unregulated snowmachine traveling at highway speed will certainly be badly hurt or killed. The Forest Service clearly agreed the problem did exist and planned to set a reasonable speed limit of 25 miles per hour on Dutchman Flat, but then changed the decision reportedly due to a lack of funds for enforcement. 

It might be noted that the snowmobile clubs provide financial support for the Sheriff’s uniformed snowmachine mounted law enforcement officers. The funds in part come from their own allocation of our Oregon gas tax dollars. I am not sure whether or not the snowmobile clubs have been asked to help finance the enforcement of Dutchman Flat speed limits. 

I see a relationship between the concern for unregulated use of both OHVs and snowmachines. While some skiers and snowshoers are delighted to share groomed snowmachine trails, many have expressed concern regarding the high-speed play of some snowmobilers in close proximity to themselves and their children. Recently, according to an AP article reprinted in The Bulletin, a Federal Judge ruled illegal, a Bush Administration order that would have permitted the return of the almost 1,000 snowmachine thrill rides per day in Yellowstone, which rides had been banned under President Clinton. The conflict with animals and people in Yellowstone has been well documented.

Mechanized recreationists should see that there are serious concerns and try their level best to work sincerely, with Land Managers and those folks who do not wish to, or can not afford to, own the expensive, noisy toys that some love to ride.

Robert Speik writes about his active retirement outdoor adventures for




Op-Ed to the Bulletin
by Bruce Jarmie
January 20, 2004


It continues to astonish me how anti off-highway vehicle (OHV) rhetoric attempts to sway our public agencies as well as the public at large with portents of doom that OHV usage will bring to our Central Oregon public lands.

Robert Speik, in his Jan. 3 "Restrict off-highway vehicle access" opinion, uses partial facts and insinuation in an attempt to instill fear. I love America, the land where everyone can have an opinion, regardless of accuracy. If one is to believe Mr. Speik, all off-roaders ride souped-up vehicles, make illegal trails, intimidate other people, including children, and the very land we ride on. My, what despicable people we all must be!

How easy it is to ignore the facts of what really constitutes OHV usage here in Central Oregon. As one of the "hardheaded" individuals referred to, who is against restricting OHV usage in our popular Badlands area, I would encourage you to understand that there are very serious concerns about diminishing OHV opportunities here in Central Oregon. Since you feel strongly about restricting OHV usage, why don't we look at the fine example our California brethren have provided for us.

For the past 30 years, they have embarked upon a plan of restricting OHV usage without planning for the explosive growth and popularity of our sport. Now they have a total lose- lose-lose situation. The OHV community is mad and in the courts suing; environmentalists like you are mad and in court suing; and the land managers are ready to give up because they are in court getting sued all the time.

When you analyzed the hundreds of thousands of acres of public land available for recreation here in Central Oregon, did you realize that there have been no new OHV trails built in over five years? Did you realize that our OHV opportunities have been systematically reduced over this same period? Did you factor in the hundreds of Central Oregonian families who have purchased OHVs in the past five years? We can follow those knowledgeable Californians: We can take an ever-expanding number of OHV families and restrict them to an ever-diminishing number of acres and expect all will turn out well.

After months of debate and oratory from the anti-OHV crowd, I have come to the following conclusion: This is not about sharing trails, being fair and respectful of each other's sports and cooperating towards solutions that best meet the needs of all Central Oregonians. The anti-OHV crowd simply wants to take public land now designated for OHV use that is close and convenient to Bend and dedicate it for their own use. This is a pure and simple land-grab, folks. Want proof? As far as I know, no OHV group has ever tried to stop any other sport from creating trail opportunities for itself. In fact, OHV groups have teamed up with mountain bikers, horse folks and hikers to create harmonious trail opportunities all over this country. Has anyone heard one cooperative word of assistance from our local anti-OHV folks in the past five years?

Mr. Speik, your agenda is revealed! So whether we are talking OHVs in the desert or fast snowmobiles in the mountains, the solution is simple: We need more opportunities, not fewer. Restricting usage won't work any better than Prohibition did in the 1920s. There may be incompatibilities between motorized and nonmotorized recreationalists that cannot be resolved. Closing down motorized areas to satisfy nonmotorized wishes is not a solution. If we have to close a motorized area, then should we not be compensating and opening an equivalent area?

We need to build more areas for OHVs to accommodate a popular and growing family sport. We need to build snowmobile parks and trail systems that are designed for today's snowmobile technology, not yesterday's. We can follow the Californians, or we can blaze our own trails.

Bruce Jarmie is an active OHV and horse owner and has lived in central Oregon for 10 years.

The Bulletin
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ATV map of their controled area
This map (and several others like it) was produced by the BLM for the exclusive benefit of OHV owners

We do hope the majority of OHV enthusiasts will actively support a Congressionally mandated Wilderness designation for this small bit of quiet desert called The Badlands.




Read more . . . 

  The Badlands Wilderness
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Badlands wilderness trail closures
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BLM's UDRMP plans for Badlands deal with exploding public use
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