Grangeville, ID—Local ATV/UTV clubs have recently contacted the Forest Service asking if Utility Type Vehicles (UTVs) that are less than 50” wide are legal on Forest Service trails. Good question!
Currently on the Nez Perce-Clearwater Forests, UTVs are prohibited on motorized trails, but are allowed on open system Forest Service roads. UTVs are regulated the same as full-size vehicles. ATVs and motorcycles are allowed on Forest trails open to motorized use.
How many miles of roads are available for UTV use? On the Clearwater Forest, (2,961 miles) and Nez Perce Forest (approximately 1,750 miles) of roads are currently open year-round or seasonally to full-size vehicles including UTVs, following Idaho State Law.
The Forest Service established a national “Mode of Travel” list with a hierarchy of motorized vehicles to guide implementation of the 2005 National Travel Management Rule. The first category is Motorized Highway Legal Vehicles followed by a second category, Motorized Off Highway Vehicle (OHV). OHVs are further subdivided into Motorized OHVs greater than 50” in width, and Motorized OHVs less than 50” in width. These categories established the route designation standards used in Travel Management Planning.
In the past, ATVs were the primary vehicle used on motorized trails and several forests used an ATV definition to define the less than 50” wide motorized vehicle. ATVs are OHVs straddled and driven by handle-bars. In the last 5 to 6 years, the UTV has become the fastest growing segment of the OHV market. UTVs are OHVs side-by-side seats and driven by a steering wheel. See State of Idaho definitions of vehicle types.
UTV use on Forest Service roads or trails is allowed under the National Travel Management Rule as designated by Forest specific decisions. Because of the ATV definition, several forests in the region prohibit UTVs on less than 50” designated trails, while some forests allow this use. The following table summarizes area national forests policy on UTV use based on current direction or travel plan decisions (please refer to individual forest offices and websites for more information).
Area National Forests Policy
For UTVs < 50” wide
UTVs permitted on trails open to vehicles < 50 ” wide
UTVs not permitted on trails open to vehicles < 50” wide
Lewis and Clark
So, what is the status of the Nez Perce-Clearwater Forests travel management plans and how do they affect UTV travel? The Clearwater Forest Travel Planning Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and published a Record of Decision (ROD) in January, 2012. UTVs less than 50” are not permitted on motorized trails under the Clearwater Forest Travel Planning decision. Trail design, resource damage and user safety were all determining factors in the decision. For route-by-route decision, see FEIS, Volume II, Appendix B, Report 9000, starting on page B-122, Alternative C, Modified at: http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/nepa_project_exp.php?project=17992.
The travel management plan for the Nez Perce Forest, referred to as the “DRAMVU project,” which stands for Designated Routes and Areas for Motorized Vehicle Use, is near completion. In the DRAMVU action alternatives, UTVs less than 50” are not permitted on motorized trails, only ATVs and motorcycles. Release of the DRAMVU FEIS and ROD are expected after September 2013. For additional sources of information on DRAMVU, please see the NEPA project website for more information: http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/fs-usda-pop.php/?project=17752. The current route-by-route direction can be found in the Nez Perce Forest Road and Trail Access Guides available at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5209985.pdf.
Both travel planning efforts are designed to implement the 2005 National Travel Management Rule and ensure motorized travel is consistent with Forest Plan management area direction.
The final products of the two travel plans are Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs) which will be available free to the public to assist them in finding motorized use opportunities on National Forest lands. MVUMs show detailed information about the routes available for motorized access and recreation. A news release will be distributed from the Forest Service when the MVUMs are available.
Learn more about OHV laws, Idaho rules and guidelines, safety, trip planning and much more by viewing or downloading a free brochure, Idaho Off-Highway Vehicle Program, at: http://parksandrecreation.idaho.gov/activities/atv-motorbike.