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Designing Sustainable Off-Highway Vehicle Trails

An Alaska Trail Manager’s Perspective

Proper management of off-highway vehicle (OHV) trails is one of the most important tasks for trail managers today.

by USDA Forest Service


Designing Sustainable Off Highway Vehicle Trails


Proper management of off-highway vehicle (OHV) trails is one of the most important tasks for trail managers today. In 2004, former Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth identified unmanaged recreation as one of the Four Threats to the Nation’s forests and grasslands. His example cited the nearly tenfold growth in popularity of OHV recreation in the preceding 30 years and indicated that even a small percentage of problem use can have a large cumulative impact.

The 10 elements of the management framework presented here will help OHV trail managers develop sustainable trails and protect the environment surrounding the trails. In addition, the framework will help OHV trail managers evaluate trail sustainability and develop OHV trail management programs that meet users’ needs and expectations. The framework provides a step-by-step approach to OHV trail management, incorporating sustainable design and management concepts with traditional trail management expertise and modern technological tools. The framework can be applied in part or in whole and applies whether you are constructing new trails or managing existing trail systems. The framework is helpful when you are initiating a management program for “orphan” trails—those trails that have never had any management whatsoever.

Published November 2013

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