Agency will try to track trails
The Bureau of Land Management has a new nationwide strategy for off-highway vehicle management. The plan, released Jan. 19, calls for local environmental analyses of vehicle impacts, saying that some endangered species habitat may need further protection from OHV use. It also broadens BLM's definition of off-highway vehicles, which will now include snowmobiles, personal watercraft, known commonly by the trade name Jet Ski, and possibly even human-powered vehicles like mountain bikes and Rollerblades. The plan also proposes permit programs to manage OHVs and generate user revenue, and backs federal funding increases for OHV management.
Jim Keeler, BLM's Washington, D.C., office OHV coordinator, describes the strategy as "a shopping list" for increased funding and staffing. But Andrew Hartsig at the National BLM Wilderness Campaign in Salt Lake City sounds a cautionary note: "Some of these strategies that they're using to go fishing for funding could result in worse OHV issues than if there was no plan at all." Hartsig is particularly concerned that a proposal to buy access easements across private land "could open up whole new areas to OHVs." Hartsig's group and others had pushed the BLM to adopt a "Closed Unless Posted Open" policy in the new strategy.
Adena Cook of the BlueRibbon Coalition, an off-highway vehicle users' group, says, "It's beyond the agency's mandate" to address endangered species and OHV licensing or registration issues. She does, however, support the proposed increase in properly trained law enforcement personnel. "We recognize that there are jerks out there ... There just comes a time when you have to get out there and haul them up short."
An implementation plan is in the works, and the BLM hopes to hire an OHV coordinator for each state by this summer.
The strategy is available online at www.blm.gov/ohv, or call 202/452-5125 for a copy.