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Input sought in development of OHV plan

Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation
BOISE – A significant increase in registered Off-Highway vehicles (OHV) – specifically All Terrain Vehicles (ATV) – has left Idaho land and recreation management agencies in a challenging position, according to the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation (IDPR).

State and federal agencies in Idaho are teaming up to meet the increasing OHV demands and are turning to users in the form of public meetings, to get their ideas on how to best address the management needs.

“All agencies are struggling with how to provide opportunities and educate users as to where these opportunities exist,” said Dave Claycomb, OHV coordinator for IDPR. “There are many more ATVs out there now than just a couple of years ago, and those users need to know where to ride and what they can do to keep themselves safe.”
Registrations for ATVs are up significantly in Idaho, going from 24,207 in 1999 to at least 52,371in 2003, leaving agencies like IDPR little time to expand management programs to provide access, while also educating users on responsible use.

“It seems evident to the state and federal agencies charged with the responsibility to manage the land and recreation opportunities for the public, that OHVs are and will forever more, be a part of the landscape of Idaho,” said IDPR Director, Rick Collignon. “ The number of machines and their users increase each year. The question is how do we as public agencies work cooperatively to deal with this exponential growth.”

Late in 2003, the Idaho departments of Parks and Recreation, Fish and Game, and Lands entered into a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Forest Service and the federal Bureau of Land Management to develop a strategy to address OHV growth and the development of a coordinated statewide approach to improve management of OHV use by identifying management issues, challenges and opportunities.

“If we are going to be successful in managing the access to our public lands for recreational OHV use, there is a need for recreational users, conservation interests and all public agencies to settle on clearly defined and easily described expectations for travel on state and federal lands by the general public” said Collignon.

“Proper OHV management begins with a clear definition of travel expectations such as the eliminations of cross-country travel without a permit, designated travel areas and routes on state and federal lands supported with current, easily accessible mapping, as well as uniform signage at trail intersections, and uniform safety, vehicle, and operating restrictions, compliance ensured with the development of a user incident reporting program and coordinated enforcement efforts."

Public meetings and focus groups have been scheduled throughout the state to involve recreational users, conservation interests and all public agencies in the planning process for proactive OHV management efforts.

“There is a lot to take into consideration regarding OHV management, access and education,” said Chuck Wells, IDPR Outdoor Recreation Program Coordinator. “Our first priority is to ask our constituents what their thoughts are in regards to OHV regulatory needs."

The public meetings and focus group sessions will also be followed up with a survey of the general population to provide a broad range of input to the IDPR Board as they consider creating administrative rules to address the need for more management of OHV use in the state.

Under direction from the board, IDPR has developed a set of proposed rules and has organized the proposed regulations into three categories: OHV Education Initiatives, OHV Operator Safety Initiatives and OHV Resource, Experience and Compliance Initiatives.

Included within these initiatives are: Minimum operation and age requirements, education requirements for persons operating registered OHVs, Helmet requirements for operators and passengers, negligent operation regulations, incapacity of operator regulations, light requirements, noise limitations, a proposed “out of Bounds” rule that would define designated route and area requirements and a proposed “Three Strikes” rule where repeat violators convicted of three or more OHV registration requirements would be subject to having their OHV registrations revoked by the department.

IDPR is using three methods to gauge public opinion on the proposed regulations. The first is the schedule of public meetings where anyone may comment. Second, the agency will conduct a series of focus group sessions with land managers, law enforcement personnel, off highway recreationists and conservation groups.

"While these two methods offer general ideas and content, they are not a scientific measurements of people's views and depth of feeling on the issues," said IDPR Research Analyst Francis Achana, PhD. "That's why a third effort, a randomized survey will crown the information gathering process."

The public meetings will help the agency better understand the issues involved with regulation, while the focus group sessions will reveal areas of mutual agreement among interested parties. The agency will then use what it has learned from those efforts to refine questions for a survey, which will be mailed to randomly selected households statewide in June.

“Participants at the public meetings will be presented with draft rule options and asked to provide comments and recommendations on each, as well as alternative ideas,” said Claycomb. “Public input is an integral part of meeting the increased safety and management needs associated with the increased OHV use.”