Forest officials encourage responsible OHV use during holidays

National Forests officials are reminding off-highway vehicle operators to continue practicing responsible OHV use when enjoying the outdoors during the upcoming holidays.

The forests in Arkansas and Oklahoma have seen a dramatic increase in use of OHVs, as well as a greater variety in types. In keeping with the Forest Service’s multiple-use mandate, these vehicles are welcome on federally designated routes designed for their activity. Roads and trails are designated by each National Forest and shown on a 2019 Motor Vehicle Use Map. The maps are available online and in Forest Service offices. They are also on Avenza, a mobile app that allows you to download maps for offline use using iOS or Android smartphones or tablets.

“Although OHV riders may see a path that looks suitable for an OHV, it is important that they check their motor vehicle use maps to make certain it is designated for OHV use,” said Robert Duggan, Ozark-St. Francis National Forest natural resources specialist. “Riding on designated routes helps protect wildlife habitat and forest resources, and prevents soil erosion and impaired waters.”

Things to remember for OHV use on the Ouachita and Ozark National Forests:

  • Operating an OHV at speeds greater than reasonable is prohibited.
  • Headlights and taillights must be utilized when operating an OHV between one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise.
  • When two or more OHVs are operating together on a road, they should be operated in a single file.
  • Operators are prohibited from operating any vehicle while under the influence of alcoholic beverages or narcotics.
  • Tracked vehicles are not allowed.
  • Be alert and courteous to mountain bikers, horseback riders, hikers and other OHV riders as you share trails.
  • Expect other vehicles on roads, even logging trucks and large machinery.
  • Be weather aware and watch for changing weather conditions during your ride.
  • Wear proper safety gear: helmet, gloves, boots, long sleeves, and long pants.
  • Parts of the forest are very remote, and cell phones may not work in many areas. Take along adequate food, water and first aid supplies. Medical assistance may not be readily available during emergencies.
  • Tools like a tire pump, patch kit and tow strap can prevent a long walk.
  • Stay on routes designated by the Ouachita and Ozark National Forests to avoid a ticket.

“Before heading out to the forest, visitors should do some research on the areas they plan to ride,” said Bill Jackson, Ouachita National Forest recreation manager. “This includes looking at the weather forecast, taking necessary supplies, and visiting National Forest websites or offices for information on which routes are legal for OHV use.”

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