Article in today's Bend Bulletin
The following is an guest opinion in today' Bend Bulletin newspaper. It is excellently written.
Don’t lock OHV users out of our national forests
By Ethan Lodwig / Bulletin guest columnist
Published: March 16. 2010 4:00AM PST
Properly designed multiple-use trail systems can be sustainable and are a valuable resource for the public’s enjoyment. Trail systems that are properly designed can mitigate problems with enforcement and user-created trails. People have no desire to go off the trail when they are given a quality trail experience. Multiple-use trail systems can be enjoyed by everyone: hikers, people with disabilities, hunters, mountain bikers, etc. Often off-highway vehicle users volunteer their time in the maintenance and construction of trails. There are many examples of sustainable and successful multiple-use trail systems in Oregon that have been used for decades.
Recently, there was an editorial article that mentioned that an OHV system in the Ochoco National Forest would only benefit a very few people. There was a study conducted in the Ochoco National Forest (ONF) from Jan. 1, 2000, to Dec. 31, 2000 (“National Visitor Use Monitoring Results, September 2001, USDA Forest Service, Region 6, Ochoco National Forest”). The sample size was 372 visitors of the estimated 600,000 visitors to the ONF. That’s 0.062 percent of the total visitors, and 43.8 percent of those included in the study “were not recreating.” They were “working,” “stopped to use the bathroom” or “just passing through.” So really the sample size of those who came to enjoy the area was 209, or 0.035 percent, of users. The 2 percent of respondents who stated they were in the forest for OHV recreation also said that it was not their “primary activity.” This means that four people interviewed in one year’s worth of visitors are the representative sample of all the OHV visitors to the ONF. And, of those four people none of them considered it their primary activity. Does that make them representative of all OHV users to the area?
According to the USDA’s “Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation in the United States, Regions and States” (A National Report from the National Survey on Recreation and the Environment, June, 2005): Nationally, about 22 percent of Oregon’s population over the age of 16 enjoys OHV recreation, which is very close to the national average of about 23 percent.
Whether they are accessing their favorite fishing area, trail, hunting, or camping, by using their 4x4, quad, side-by-side, ATV, or motorcycle, I believe that there are far more than 2 percent of visitors to the Ochoco National Forest that recreate off of the highway.
There are multiple articles from The Associated Press (one example: “National Forest visitors down, no one knows why,” Jeff Barnard, 2008) that document the exponential growth of OHV popularity in Oregon and the recent, overall diminishing number of visitors to Oregon’s national forests. Meaning the percentage of people visiting Oregon’s national forest lands to recreate off of the highway is increasing.
Annually, billions of dollars are circulated in Oregon related to OHV recreation. One example is the 2007 direct sales of new “youth ATVs and motorcycles” in Oregon was $52.3 million alone (Motorcycle Industry Council). Obviously, this figure does not include adult-sized vehicle sales, used unit sales, support vehicles, accessories, parts, service, protective gear, camping fees, restaurants, etc. OHV visitors spend millions of dollars close to recreation areas that boost local economies. So there is a growing and valuable demand for sustainable OHV trail systems.
I, like many other people, have enjoyed wilderness areas. I think wilderness areas are an important part of our nation’s Forest Service land. Indeed, in 2004, wilderness land made up about 67.7 percent of our national forest land. And, a total of 1.16 percent of visitors to the ONF enjoyed the wilderness area. So we have a small population that actually enjoys the wilderness area that is already there. The last thing this country needs is more land locked up into wilderness areas. Wilderness areas are cheap to manage because very few people go there. Our national forests are no longer “the land of many uses,” and for the public’s enjoyment. In Oregon we are losing thousands of miles of trails that have traditionally been used for OHV recreation.
In the United States, millions of families spend billions of dollars enjoying taking their children out for the weekend on camping and riding trips on OHV trails. It keeps families together. Despite what you may think of people who recreate on OHVs, we teach our children to be stewards of the trails and the land that we value so much.
Ethan Lodwig lives in Eugene.
Deschutes County 4-Wheelers
Oregon Executive Director Staff
PNW Forum Leader Team Member
Region 6 Delegate