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Recreation on Public Land


Who is a Motorized User?

Collectively, motorized users are recreationalists who use Off-Highway Vehicles (OHV’s).

Motorized recreation can be an exciting and enjoyable means to experience the recreational opportunities on public lands.

However, because these vehicles tend to be louder, faster, larger and more powerful than most other means of outdoor travel, they can cause significant lasting damage to the landscape, including:

  • soil compaction, contamination and erosion
  • loss of vegetation
  • transfer of weeds
  • water contamination
  • wildfire
  • wildlife disruption

Remember that by acting responsibly, we collectively maintain our access privileges and preserve the area for future generations. Take the lead and reduce YOUR impact.

Tips to reduce the environmental impact of motorized recreation

You can minimize your impact on the land by adhering to the following guidelines:

  • Plan ahead and be prepared

    • Know the following:

      • applicable regulations
      • ground and weather conditions
      • terrain
      • your route
    • Travel only on trails open for your activity.
    • Do not create new trails and remember that cutlines are rarely sustainable trails.
  • Remember that your machine must be registered and insured
  • Know whether you are going to be using private or public land, and act accordingly

    • Ensure you have permission to access private land, and be aware of the regulations for the land you are travelling on.
    • Leave all gates and fences as you find them.
  • How should I cross a wetland, creek or river?

    First, ask yourself if it is really necessary to cross. "Just getting to the other side" or "seeing what the machine will do" are not legitimate reasons for damaging stream-banks or wetlands. If crossing is necessary, seek out established bridges or high-ground detours first.

    If no bridge or detour exists, and you must cross, seek out gentle banks and hard bottoms. If you don't, your path may be visible for months or years to come.

    Avoid rivers, shorelands, streams, lakes and wetlands

    • Driving in these areas produces harmful ruts and erosion problems. Additionally, fine sediments stirred up by tires is harmful to fish.
  • Avoid exposed alpine terrain and wet, sensitive or steep areas

    • Repeated travel in these areas creates damage that is very difficult to repair.
  • Stay on established and well-defined trails even if in snow

    • Off-trail driving leads to multiple braided or "bowled-out" trails.
    • Off-trail tracks in snow drives cold and frost deeper into the ground, contributing to vegetation damage.
  • Choose routes with the hardest, most durable surface

    • Hard surfaces can tolerate more use with less damage.
  • Reduce impact by riding when the trails are dry

    • Most trail damage occurs after rainfall and snowmelt when trails are wet and soft.
  • Don't spin or skid

    • Rethink your actions if your vehicle is having difficulty maintaining adequate traction.
  • Travel in small groups to minimize soil compaction and vegetation damage
  • Prevent further damage to off-trail tracks

    • Block the area with dead, woody vegetation.
  • Reduce erosion

    • Use low pressure, non-aggressive tires.
  • Minimize sharp, low-radius turns

    • Such manoeuvres tend to remove vegetation and plough topsoil.
  • Respect reclamation and reforestation efforts.

    • Traffic in these areas kills vulnerable grass or tree seedlings.
  • Never litter.

    • Pack out what you pack in.
    • Dispose of waste - including human waste - properly.
  • Be courteous and share the trail with other users.

    • Travel slowly and yield the trail to non-motorized traffic.
  • Prevent wildfire and reduce noise.

    • Engines must have working mufflers and spark arrestors.
    • Further reduce threat of fire by keeping engine and exhaust systems free of mud, vegetation and debris.
  • Be respectful.

    • Don't disturb wildlife, livestock, property, fossils or artifacts. Remember: chasing wildlife is illegal.
  • Don't cut or mark live trees.

    • If winching is necessary, use only well-placed nylon (rather than steel) winch straps to avoid damage to bark.
  • Wash your vehicle between uses to prevent transferring weed seeds between areas.

    • Never wash a vehicle in a creek, river or lake.
  • Prevent fuel spillage

    • Use careful fuel storage and filling procedures.
  • Report illegitimate and illegal activity

    • Contact local SRD office authorities.
  • Take the lead

    • Encourage other OHV users to act responsibly.

For a summary of appropriate motorized recreation guidelines that should be used while on public lands, see: