Thursday, August 6, 2009

Forest Service: Watch out for youngsters on OHVs on national forest roads

The U.S. Forest Service is concerned about a new law passed by the 2009 Idaho Legislature that allows underage kids to ride motorcycles or ATVs on national forest roads without a driver's license.

"This change in law deeply concerns me because of the ramifications this change of law could have on the safety of people using roads on public lands managed by the Forest Service," said Bill Wood, supervisor of the Salmon-Challis National Forest.

"Mixing cars, recreational vehicles and commercial traffic on forest roads with children and young adults that are untrained and uneducated in the rules of the road or the basic operation of their vehicles is a recipe for disaster."

While Forest Service officials said they seriously considered closing their roads to underage OHV drivers, they determined that the cost of enforcing a closure like that would have been cost-prohibitive. So instead, they will work on public education about the issue, and changing the law in the 2010 legislative session.

Most national forests in Idaho have some verbage on their web sites about the issue. The Forest Service may undertake some additional public outreach efforts such as a Public Service Announcement (PSA) video and other measures as the fall hunting seasons draw near.

Here is a link to how the Boise National Forest handled the issue on the front of their recreation web page. The message is titled "Your Safety is Important to Us."

The same message ran on the front page of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest's web site.

Here is an op-ed piece in the Idaho Statesman penned by Region 4 Forester Harv Forsgren and acting Region 1 Forester Jane Cottrell Henifen.

Here is an article about the topic that ran in the Challis Messenger.

No matter what you might think about this issue, please drive slow and watch out for young kids driving ATVs and motorcycles on forest roads this year.