The number of off-highway vehicle (OHV) users in the U.S. has climbed tenfold in the past 32 years, from approximately 5 million in 1972 to 51 million in 2004. The Forest Service now manages more than 300,000 miles of road and 35,000 miles of trail for motor vehicle use. More than 11 million people using OHVs visited national forest and grasslands in 2004. While most people ride responsibly, just a few riders can leave lasting impacts by traveling off roads and trails and creating unauthorized routes. Unmanaged OHV use affects wetlands and wildlife habitat, erodes soils, damages cultural resources and spreads invasive species.
State and county governments manage public roads, provide access to National Forest System lands and represent private landowners within and adjacent to National Forest System lands. Off-highway vehicle riders and non-motorized recreation visitors share an interest in enjoying outdoor recreation in a natural environment. The Forest Service works collaboratively with federal, state, county, and tribal agencies, motorized and non-motorized recreation user groups, conservationists and others to provide access to National Forest System lands on routes and in areas that are environmentally and socially sustainable. Many roads and trails are maintained and improved through cooperative relationships.
Motorized recreation is an appropriate use of national forests and grasslands. A managed system of roads, trails, and areas designated for motor vehicle use protects natural and cultural resources, address use conflicts, and secure sustainable opportunities for public enjoyment of national forests and grasslands.
E-Bikes in National Forests and Grasslands
Emerging technologies such as e-bikes are changing the way people enjoy their visits to national forests and grasslands. As these use trends change with time and new technologies, the way we manage lands to ensure their long-term health and resilience must change as well. This is why we are closely examining our policy to identify ways to expand access for American’s to enjoy these recreation opportunities on our forests and grasslands in ways that meet user needs while continuing to protect forest resources.
More than 60,000 miles of trails on national forests and grasslands are currently open to e-bike use. In addition, Forest Service officials at a local level may make special designations to allow e-bike use in areas that are currently non-motorized, as long as that use would not significantly affect forest resources.
These designations would still be required to undergo the appropriate environmental analysis and public engagement, just like any other project, to protect people, communities and resources from potential impacts. We are closely examining use trends and are seeking opportunities for public engagement in determining how best to balance use demands with what is best for natural resources on our forests and grasslands.
Resource Use Determination Process
- Travel Management Rule sets nationwide, consistent guidelines for the process.
- Regional forester provides regionwide guidelines for the forests.
- Forest supervisor provides forestwide consistency in process.
- District ranger develops proposal for a designated system of roads, trails and areas.