Throughout the Southern Rockies, unregulated use of off-road vehicles (ORVs)—including dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles, four-wheel drive vehicles, snowmobiles, and personal watercraft such as Jetskis—are posing serious threats to the tranquility, wildlife, and wild landscapes of our cherished public lands. Vast, user-created motorized trail systems have invaded the region’s prized roadless areas, and have extended human influence into virtually all wildlands not protected by wilderness designation.
When not used conscientiously, ORVs cause habitat fragmentation, displace wildlife, degrade water quality, emit noise and air pollution, and exacerbate a growing infestation of noxious weeds. ORVs are also increasingly involved in user conflicts with private landowners and other recreationists. Hikers, hunters, equestrians, and other quiet trail users are finding that ORV traffic has effectively eliminated non-motorized recreation opportunities across hundreds of miles of traditional foot and pack trails, and is seriously degrading hunting opportunities on public lands.
Technological advances allow ORVs to penetrate farther, faster, and into steeper terrain with each passing year, placing our wild backcountry landscapes at increasing risk. While all types of recreation cause some resource impacts, the high-speed, cross-country capabilities of ORVs have made them a pervasive agent of landscape degradation and one of the greatest threats to our national forests, parks, wildlife refuges, and Bureau of Land Management lands.
To address this proliferation of unchecked motorized recreation and its resultant impacts, SRCA’s Responsible Motorized Recreation Committee works to promote balanced and ecologically sound management of ORVs on public lands in the Greater Southern Rockies. We do not seek to remove ORVs from all public lands. We do, however, aim to achieve balance in how our federal lands are managed by working through local, regional and national partnerships to:
- Raise public awareness of problems caused by unchecked ORV use, and build public support for responsible ORV use policies and behavior;
- Establish a mandatory “closed unless posted open” designated trail system, developed with thorough scientific environmental analysis and public input;
- Ensure reasonable protection of wilderness-quality lands and other sensitive landscapes, including such places as roadless areas, Wilderness Study Areas, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, Research Natural Areas, riparian zones, sensitive plant and animal habitat, wildlife travel corridors, and areas with important concentrations of archaeological and historic resources; and
- Provide resources for federal land management agencies to monitor natural resource conditions and enforce sensible ORV restrictions to protect against irresponsible resource damage, and work to obtain the necessary congressional funding to effectively do so.