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By Don Amador

Aug. 15, 2006

It’s often said that dirt-bike riders and all-terrain vehicle operators have a ‘right to ride’.

However, I believe that along with that right comes the responsibility to support efforts to better manage off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation on public lands.

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The right to ride, comes with responsibilities...
Investigators conducting research on sound issues related to the Spotted Owl.

As a national OHV leader, I believe we need to be actively involved in scientific research projects that will help land managers better plan for trail-related construction, reroutes, and staging areas.  Also, permitted events such as enduros, dual-sport rides, and poker-runs will benefit from science-based management prescriptions.

Several years ago, the BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) teamed with the University of Washington , USDA Forest Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on an OHV-related research project.

According to the University of Washington this three-year study will determine whether OHV use adversely impacts the Northern Spotted Owl (NSO). This will be accomplished by simulating enduro events on owl territories and looking at the owl's behavioral and physiological responses. Simulated enduro events will involve experienced riders passing back and forth on a route within one quarter mile of the owl's nest or roost site.


Testing occurs once in May while the owls have young in the nest, and again in July when the owls have fledglings. During the simulated enduro events, owl behavior will be observed and recorded by a team of researchers. Physiological response will be gauged by measuring levels of stress steroids in the feces of the owls and comparing them to levels before the simulated enduro and to levels in control owls that are not exposed to riders. The number of young produced at each site will also be recorded and compared between sites near roads with heavy OHV use and more remote sites.


Because of Endangered Species Act related concerns about the NSO in the Pacific Northwest , trail and event restrictions are in place. The agencies do not have any OHV/NSO specific scientific data at this time so their de facto position is to limit motorized access.


I believe OHV recreation suffers from a lack of good scientific research upon which management decisions should be made. This study will replace that void with data that can be used to better manage OHV recreation on federal forest lands.


Many BRC members and others are already involved in club activities that include volunteer trail projects and educational outreach.  Looking for ways to partner with the scientific community is just another way that riders may promote a responsible land-use ethic. 


*To learn more about this research project go to:

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 Don Amador writes on environmental and recreation issues from his office in Oakley, CA.  He is a consultant to the BlueRibbon Coalition.  He may be reached by  email: 


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Don Amador OpEd (Aug. 2006) -- Rights and Responsibility

Don Amador
Western Representative
BlueRibbon Coalition, Inc.
555 Honey Lane
Oakley , CA 94561

925.625.6287 Office
925.625.5309 FAX
925.783.1834 Cell

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