Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Op Ed - Time for OSV Sound Standards

By Don Amador
April 15, 2014

*Permission is hereby granted for reprint


As many motorized recreationists know, I have long championed the use of sound compliant exhaust for motorized vehicles that use public lands.  Most of those efforts over the last 17 years were focused on summer motorized uses including dirt-bikes, dual-sports, and ATVs.

Many states have implemented reasonable sound laws and those rules have contributed to the long-term viability of OHV use on public lands for future generations.  Having common sense regulations in place makes it easier to defend managed OHV use in court against anti-access litigants who had historically cited “loud bikes” as a major complaint in their lawsuits. 

The Forest Service recently submitted its proposed Over Snow Vehicle (OSV)-specific travel planning rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget.  That agency proposal was driven by a court decision last year that stemmed from a lawsuit filed by the Winter Wildlands Alliance.  I believe the OSV community will continue to face a growing avalanche of anti-access lawsuits as more National Forests (including the Inyo NF in California) undertake OSV planning efforts.

Being proactive in the development of new recreation “tools” (such as reasonable sound laws) is a smart practice and recreationists should embrace these management implements for use in their land-use tool box.

In 2013, the New York State Snowmobile Association supported a new state OSV sound law based on SAE J2567.  That measure was enacted because some private property owners were closing trails due to excessively loud snowmobiles.  The New York law mirrors similar legislation in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Colorado.

I believe it is time for states that do not have current OSV sound regulations to work with various stakeholders in crafting sound-related legislation that helps protect the sport and shows respect for other trail users.

Don Amador writes on recreation and resource issues from his office in Oakley, CA.  Don is president of Quiet Warrior Racing/Consulting and is also a contractor who serves as the Western Representative for the BlueRibbon Coalition.  He may be contacted by email at: damador@cwo.com


  1. From a rider in OR, Thanks Don, your comments are right on. It is a one to one relationship with noise and access and we all need to get involved. If you are quiet then you need to ask folks that are too loud to ask them to consider the consequences of their actions. Get on line with the manufactures of mufflers and ask them to spend more on research to make a muffler quiet and still increase power. The technology is out there. If we do not self-police ourselves we will continue to see closures. Please get involved!

  2. Couldn't agree more. Sound pollution is a very real argument against OHV access on public land. Not only do I ride ATV's, stock exhaust I might add, but I also hike, mountain bike, and enjoy getting out into the back country for some camping. I get the "sound pollution" argument.

    But this doesn't only apply to OHV. Sometimes I'll be hiking not too far off the road. It'll be nice a quiet, and then you hear some really loud street bike flying by on a nearby road. Yes OHV users should recognize the sound pollution argument and proactively take action. I just hope they also consider street vehicle noise pollution as well. Thanks for all you do!