Travel Management and the 2005 Final Rule

In 2005, the National Forest Service revised their regulations regarding travel management on National Forest System (NFS) lands. This 2005 final rule requires designation of those roads and trails that are open to motor vehicle use along with types of appropriate vehicles and seasonal closures. The rule and road designations are intended to:

  • Sustain natural resource values through more effective management of motor vehicle use
  • Enhance opportunities for motorized recreation experiences on NFS lands
  • Address needs for access to NFS lands
  • Preserve areas of opportunity on each National Forest for non-motorized travel and experiences

The Forest Service recognized the need for the 2005 final rule and revised regulations on motorized vehicle use and travel management, stating that:

Most National Forest visitors use motor vehicles to access [NFS lands], whether for recreational sightseeing; camping and hiking; hunting and fishing; commercial purposes such as logging, mining, and grazing; administration of utilities and other land uses; outfitting and guiding; or the many other multiple uses of NFS lands. For many visitors, motor vehicles also represent an integral part of their recreational experience. People come to National Forests to ride on roads and trails in pickup trucks, ATVs, motorcycles, and a variety of other conveyances. Motor vehicles are a legitimate and appropriate way for people to enjoy their National Forests—in the right places, and with proper management. The growing popularity and capabilities of off-highway vehicles (OHVs), [however], demand new regulations, so that the Forest Service can continue to provide these opportunities while sustaining the health of NFS lands and resources.

Some of the public’s input on the 2005 final rule stated that OHVs and certain motorized vehicle use are not appropriate for NFS lands, and suggested that National Forests should be managed primarily for preservation of natural values, water quality, wildlife habitat, endangered species, biological diversity, quiet, and spiritual renewal. The Forest Service, however, disagreed given that the National Forests are managed by law for multiple use. NFS lands are managed for timber, grazing, mining, outdoor recreation, and the aforementioned values, with each use being balanced rather than one given preference over another.