USDA Forest Service

Pacific Southwest Research Station
Pacific Southwest
Research Station

800 Buchanan Street
Albany, CA 94710-0011
(510) 883-8830
United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.

Research Topics

Recreation: Behaviors and Conflict

Off-Highway Vehicle Management in California

Recently the Chief of the USDA Forest Service (USFS) identified four major issues facing National Forests: fire and fuel, invasive species, habitat fragmentation, and unmanaged recreation. The Chief cited off-highway vehicle (OHV) use as illustrative of unmanaged recreation. OHVs are motorized vehicles capable of traveling off-road year-round and include OSVs (over snow vehicles).

OHV issues are complex and require research attention. Of particular interest are the perceptions of managers of OHV activity. They are most likely to understand the complex nature of OHV issues and to take the actions required for mitigating them.

A survey of 38 managers of OHV areas on National Forests in California was conducted. Managers, identified through an internal USFS mailing list, received questionnaires via email in advance of telephone interviews.

Management issues were divided into those related to natural resources, social institutions, and interpersonal relations. In the natural resources classification the issues most frequently observed or reported were: soil erosion/trampling, soil erosion/compaction, litter/trash on roads and trails, litter/trash at trail access points, vegetation damage, and graffiti or other vandalism. In the social institutions classification the issues most frequently observed or reported were: four-wheelers going off established roads or trails, OHVs going too fast, lack of safetywear, and alcohol use. No item in the interpersonal relations classification appeared in the top ten issues nor were any reported by more than one-quarter of the respondents.

Management actions were categorized into those which indirectly impact recreation visitors, those that directly impact recreation visitors, resource hardening, and bridge building or collaboration. For management issues named by 50% or more of respondents, bridge building actions were described as both "used most often" and "most effective." For example, 9 of 30 respondents identified bridge building actions as "used most often" and 11 of 30 respondents identified bridge building actions as "most effective" in mitigating soil erosion/trampling. Resource hardening and direct actions followed in frequency.

Managers did not frequently identify conflict between recreational users, however, some conflicts were evident (mostly between OHV riders and hikers/backpackers, and between OHV riders and mountain bikers). These issues could be some of the most difficult to mitigate.

Of the bridge building/collaboration actions, described as "used most often" and "most effective," personal contacts dominated. There are budgetary constraints to implementing a strategy of personal contacts namely funding, personnel, and training.

Publications and Products related to this subject:

Chavez, Deborah J.; Knap, Nancy, E. 2006. Manager perceptions of issues and actions for off-highway vehicle management on National Forests in California. Res. Paper PSW-RP-250. Albany, CA: Pacific Southwest Research Station, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture; 253 p.

Chavez, D.J.; Knap, N. 2004. Technology and natural areas: Issues and actions for off-highway vehicle management. [Proceedings paper]. Hawaii International Conference on Social Sciences; 2004 June 16-19; Honolulu, HI. [on CD ROM only] p. 595-608.

Research conducted by:
Last Modified: Aug 29, 2016 11:05:06 AM