Forest Service urges responsible OHV riding

DILLON — The forested beauty of southwest Montana appeals to everyone, and taking a trip into the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest is one of summer’s great delights.

One way to travel is on all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), motorcycles, and other “off-highway vehicles” or OHV’s.

“But like anything, you have to use your machine responsibly,” said Patty Bates Beaverhead-Deerlodge NF Staff Officer.

“Used properly, an OHV can get you into some great country, but misused an OHV can damage soil, trails, and create problems for others.  Soil gouged by tires isn’t easy or cheap to fix,” Bates said.

“If we find resource damage from wheel tracks, we have the responsibility to fix the problem, which may require closing the road or trail,” she said.  “Fixing damaged areas can take time and cost thousands of taxpayer dollars, too.”

The rule for traveling on an OHV in National Forests in Montana is to stay on designated or legally designated routes.  Cross-country driving is prohibited.

“If you’re on a route that’s narrower than your wheels, you’re in the wrong place,” Bates said.

ATV’s don’t belong on a single-track route, for example.

Montana law says vehicles on public roads, like county roads or numbered Forest Service roads, must be “street legal” and driven by licensed drivers.  State law also requires riders under 18 to wear helmets.

“Street legal” means ATV’s or motorcycles on public roads have working headlights, tail and brake lights, rearview mirrors, horns, and license plates.

OHV’s that operate only on national forest trails don’t have to be “street legal,” but they must have a license plate and a state OHV sticker, available from most county treasure offices, ATV dealers or from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

“ATV’s aren’t toys–they’re motor vehicles that often share the road with larger, faster machinery.  Parents should always supervise children riding ATV’s.  You could save your child’s life,” Bates added.

“Remember, too, that campgrounds aren’t places to joy ride with an ATV.  Keep the dust and the noise down and be considerate of other campers,” she said.

For maps, information and suggestions for enjoying OHV’s in the National Forest, call or visit your local Forest Service office.

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