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Six Strategies for Success: Effective Enforcement of Off-Road Vehicles on Public Lands
Over the past two decades, advances in off-road vehicle technology have enabled riders to drive on nearly any type of terrain, up steep slopes, and onto lands that once were accessible only on foot. At the same time, the popularity of off-road vehicle recreation has soared.
Together, these forces have overwhelmed the regulatory and enforcement efforts of public lands agencies. The results: An extensive network of unauthorized, usercreated routes that criss-cross the landscape and a legacy of damage to environmental and cultural resources. Safety concerns for humans and wildlife and conflicts among motorized and non-motorized recreationists have escalated.
Public land management agencies are facing these challenges with inadequate enforcement funding and staff. This leaves them unable to protect the lands under their stewardship, and at a loss to turn around the attitude of lawlessness that is alarmingly common among off-road riders. The common perception among off-road riders is that breaking the rules some of the time is all right, especially if someone else has ridden off-route before and cut a visible trail. This has become a significant public problem because of the destructive capabilities of off-road vehicles.
A strong commitment and effective approaches to enforcement are critically important for land managers to take control of this situation.
This report recommends six strategies for enforcement success. It is based on interviews with more than 50 public land managers, private landowners, citizen group leaders and volunteers, and law enforcement officers.
Five case studies illustrate how these strategies have been combined to create on-the-ground successes in enforcing off-road vehicle rules; protecting wildlife habitat, water quality, and terrain; enhancing recreational enjoyment and safety; and minimizing impacts on adjacent public and private lands.
Six Strategies for Effective Enforcement
1) Make a commitment - Engage in serious enforcement efforts
- Expand enforcement capacity;
- Target and intensify patrol efforts;
- Look for new funding sources; and
- Do not tolerate damage from off-road vehicles.
2) Lay the groundwork - Create enforceable routes and regulations.
- Create off-road vehicle route systems with an eye toward enforceability;
- Make the route systems clear on maps and on the ground; and
- Implement a system that identifies off-road vehicles or limits their numbers.
3) See and be seen - Engage in visible action and meaningful collaboration.
- Organize and publicize volunteer labor;
- Form broad coalitions for public support;
- Formalize law enforcement collaborations;
- Create opportunities for citizen reporting;
- Use nonprofit status to gather money; and
- Publicize progress.
4) Make riders responsible - Promote a culture shift among peers.
- Use mass media campaigns to educate riders and cultivate support;
- Work with off-road community leadership;
- Focus on common values; and
- Promote rider responsibility.
5) Use the force - Incorporate technologies that work.
- Use remote electronic monitoring;
- Track noise violations; and
- Track recurring problems and repeat offenders.
6) Fit the punishment to the crime - Make penalties meaningful.
- Toughen penalties;
- Consider natural resource damage in determining fines;
- Add community service as a penalty; and
- Link off-road violations with other recreational privileges; and
- Impound vehicles.