Washington: Interpretation of pending all-terrain vehicle ban on Okanogan-Wenatchee NF

On Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest it is official policy that any non-wilderness section of the forest can be freely used by motorized vehicles unless it is specifically closed to them. If, for example, you are riding an all-terrain vehicle on a road or trail not off limits, you can turn left or right, ride over mountains and through valleys, wherever the topography allows, as long as the land is not posted as closed. The new policy, when it takes effect, will be the opposite. The forest will be presumed off-limits to motorized vehicles — snowmobiles not affected — unless the road, trail or region is specifically designated as open. Setting out overland, on your own, in areas not marked for motorized travel, will be illegal.

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For sustainability, to conserve natural resources and ensure a forest
with diverse recreation, this is suppose to be an important change.
Erosion, scarring, destruction of wildlife habitat, are on the
increase along with the popularity and capability of motorized
recreation. People blaze their own trails. Others follow in their
tracks. Open land can be crisscrossed with what the Forest Service
calls “user-built trails.”

But it is not the intent to exclude motorized vehicles from the roads, trails and all areas where they are habitually used. The Forest Service is devising a plan to designate the vehicular status of roads and trails and set the places where travel by motorized vehicle will be allowed. A full-time staff is
compiling the plan for the Okanogan-Wenatchee and has produced what
the legalese calls a “Proposed Action.”

It is not a decision. It is not any more than a starting point for conversation. On nearly all roads and trails now used by vehicles, the proposal shows them still allowed. Some roads open only to highway-legal vehicles will be opened to off-road vehicles as well. Some roads in sensitive or fire-damaged terrain are shown closed, but few.

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