Thursday, April 30, 2020

COVID-19 - Trail Ride Decision Tree

OHV Trail - Mace Mill (circa 2019)
Eldorado National Forest


As many Forest Service OHV trail networks reopen this weekend in the Sierra Nevada after the winter wet weather closure period ends, it is important for riders to answer the following questions in the Covid-19  “Trail Ride Decision Tree”  before loading up the trailer or truck with dirt-bikes, ATVs, or UTVs and leaving your house for an OHV adventure.

QUESTION ONE – Does my county have a Shelter-in-Place (SIP) order?  If the answer is yes, then you don’t have to continue reading this decision tree.  Spend the weekend working on your OHV, doing chores, firing up BBQ, or walking with your family.

QUESTION TWO – Does the county I am traveling to have a SIP order?  If the answer is yes, then see activities in question one.

QUESTION THREE – Have I called the Forest Service to see if OHV trails on the unit are open for me to use?  If the answer is yes, then go ride with respect and have fun.  If the answer is no, then don’t go ride at that area.

QUESTION FOUR – If I end up riding, do I have the proper tools to dispose of human waste in the appropriate manner as highlighted by Tread Lightly! : In areas without toilets, use a portable latrine if possible, and pack out your waste. If you don’t have a portable latrine, you may need to bury your waste. Human waste should be disposed of in a shallow hole six to eight inches deep at least 200 feet from water sources, campsites or trails. Cover and disguise the hole with natural materials. It is recommended to pack out your toilet paper. High use areas may have other restrictions, so check with a land manager.

Nobody likes being told to stay home by government officials including me.  But as supporters of sustainable OHV management prescriptions, we do have a responsibility to respect (even if we don’t agree or understand) efforts by land agencies and counties to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 in rural communities.  Compliance now means that riding areas will be reopened sooner vs. later.

Monday, April 20, 2020

COVID-19 UPDATE - Embrace Land-Use Ethos as Parks Reopen

New Tread Lightly! Covid-19 Poster

QWR appreciates the efforts by our friends and fellow trail enthusiasts at Tread Lightly! to encourage a common sense land-use ethos for use by recreationists in areas that are under county, state, or federal COVID-19 shutdown directives or orders.


The Governor of Utah has a very simple “Stay Home and Stay Safe” message for those of us who like to enjoy the great outdoors.  His directive encourages residents and visitors to refrain from long distance recreational travel at this time.  That same message is also being echoed by many other government agencies and non-profit organizations.


The Forest Service has a similar message on their national website that they are taking the risks presented by COVID-19 seriously and are following USDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) public health guidance as they continue to offer services to the public. Visitors to National Forests and Grasslands are urged to take the precautions recommended by the CDC.

The Forest Service also has an easy to use icon on their website where you can go to get the latest COVID-19  information on any National Forest in the country. 


As many of you know, our land agencies are working hard to keep recreational opportunities for local residents available during the COVID-19 crisis.  There are both HARD and SOFT restrictions of varying degrees based on state/federal guidance county health officer orders.

As local/state/federal recreation sites start to reopen after winter seasonal closures or as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, it is important for trail enthusiasts to embrace a strong land-use ethic out of respect for our partners and friends.

Complying with existing trail management rules and regulations during casual use now can help ensure that county, state, and federal agencies will authorize permits – when the time comes - for competition and club events that occur on either public or private lands.

Rules, restrictions, and reopening efforts are changing on a daily basis.  As the Tread Lightly! poster suggests, it remains important to always check with the land agency before you travel to an area.   

Stay well!  

Wednesday, April 15, 2020


As you know, there is frustration in a small but growing number of both motorized and non-motorized trail enthusiasts about the ongoing shutdown.

At the start of the Covid-19 shutdown process, many local, state, and federal recreation sites tried to stay open to allow for citizens to get exercise and experience a quality recreation experience in a safe manner in compliance with related CDC and other health guidelines or Stay at Home orders.

Unfortunately, on-the-ground observations by unit staff and the news media at various recreation sites showed the general public was not complying with social distancing and other health protection measures.

Those observations by elected officials, state/county health officers, and land managers resulted in more park units enacting HARD closures such as the OR Dunes National Recreation Area and in many CA State Park units.

Nobody, including me, wants to see developed and dispersed trail recreational opportunities restricted. 

However, the temporary restrictions on recreational use at the OR Dunes and certain CA State Park units highlight the importance of local, state, and federal park units enacting proactive temporary restrictions as needed to protect public health, comply with county/state stay-at-home orders, and avoid damage to natural/cultural resources and developed/dispersed recreation facilities including campgrounds, staging areas, and trails.

Achieving victory over the pandemic requires a team effort by the recreation community so we can get back to work and also get back out on public lands to enjoy both motorized and non-motorized recreational activities with family and friends.

Monday, April 13, 2020

COVID-19 UPDATE – Keep Mitigation “Throttle” Twisted

Crush the Curve

COVID-19 UPDATE – Keep Mitigation “Throttle” Twisted
The announcement today by California Governor, Gavin Newsom, about a reopening pact with other Western states is good news.  It reinforces what I have been hearing over the last few days from other government officials about a growing sense of cautious optimism that our shelter-at-home, social distancing, park closures, and other mitigation measures have been helpful in Flattening the Curve.

Regardless of that good news, the recreation community (motorized and non-motorized) cannot relax but must continue to keep their mitigation throttle twisted over the next few weeks as part of our pro-active collaboration with local, state, and federal partners.

Part of that collaboration means that we should honor the spirit and intent of county stay-at-home orders/directives, soft or hard closures of recreation areas, and resisting the temptation to post inappropriate pictures of trail enthusiasts riding in groups or engaging in illegal and/or unethical travel activities.

As advocates for responsible recreation we have an obligation to set an example for the general public.  Many trail users are new to the sport and may not understand they are part of a much larger recreation community that consists of stakeholders from both the private and public sectors. 

Managed recreation in the 21st Century exists because of efforts by trail leaders over the last 30 years to work in a substantive collaborative manner with land agencies, law enforcement, and elected officials in support of sustainable trail activities.

Based on the aforementioned information and my experience, I believe the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter.  However, the length of that tunnel depends on our commitment to continue mitigation efforts out of respect for frontline workers, 1st responders, and our trail community.

Our actions over the next several weeks remain critical as we move into the next phase of the battle to finally “Crush the Curve” so we can get back out on the trail and enjoy it with our family and friends.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020


Plumas County Sheriff OHV Patrol


Fellow inductee in the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame, James Garner, starred in Support Your Local Sheriff, a late 1960s-era comedy.  Garner became the hero as he fights off outlaws who create chaos when they tried to tear up the town.

Today, many of our OHV land management and law enforcement partners are issuing orders  (enforceable with steep fines) that prohibit both motorized and non-motorized recreationists from traveling long distances to their jurisdiction to enjoy to OHVs, MTBs, ride horses, camp, fish, hunt, rock climb, or hike.

Closure Sign at OR Dunes
Picture Courtesy of Save the Riders Dunes

Over the last week, I have talked with numerous county sheriffs, federal land managers, state parks officials, and healthcare workers (most of them also enjoy and support responsible OHV recreation) who are pleading with the recreation community to honor STAY-AT-HOME orders. 

I also talked with a well-known OHV industry representative today who has several friends who are fighting the virus.  Some of us know people who have died.

Here are a few strong suggestions for OHVs to consider during Stay-at-Home orders:


  • Obey Stay-at-Home orders and follow related health guidelines 
  • Recreate on local trails or areas that are open for public use 
  • Encourage your trail network to comply with land use or travel restrictions
  • Check on friends and family who may need help 
  • Call an old riding buddy
  • Participate in “essential activities” such as getting food and medical supplies or to perform work for an essential business

  • Ignore government Stay-at-Home orders 
  • Invite friends to go on group rides or outings 
  • Travel to rural areas to recreate since many have limited or no food/ emergency/hospital services
  • Post pictures on social media of you recreating on closed facilities

A seasonal closure of recreation facilities is a common land management tool.   Those temporary closures are often related to wet weather conditions, floods, wildlife management, or wildfires.

Seasonal Closure Sign
Mendocino National Forest

Historically, recreation facilities have been closed periodically due to the Bubonic plague, a bacterial infection. Covid-19 is also a serious and deadly infection that is not just located to a small area on a National Forest or BLM unit, but is a worldwide pandemic.

Trail enthusiasts can show they are a responsible member of the recreation community by supporting current and temporary Covid-19 “seasonal closures” enacted by our county, federal, and state agency  partners.

We have respected seasonal closures before and we can do it again.

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Sunday, April 5, 2020


Photo Courtesy of Paul Turcke

*As some of you know, Paul Turcke is ending his private law practice.  It has been my privilege to work with Paul over the last 25 years on many legal efforts throughout the country to defend good travel management decisions or challenge bad travel management decisions.  Turcke’s prowess on federal recreation access issues is unmatched. There will be plenty of time for me to write on many of those court battles, but I wanted to make sure that folks knew about Turcke’s passion for hunting and fishing on public lands.   His commitment to conservation and resource management is captured below in an article that he wrote about his outdoor experience on Wilderness hunts.  QWR wishes Turcke all the best at his new post and thanks him for his service in support of sustainable OHV recreation on designated roads, trails, and areas.
--  Don Amador  

By Paul A. Turcke

A colleague emailed me, saying only that he wanted to talk. We worked for a long time in the same building for organizations usually at odds over public lands issues, but I always enjoyed bumping into him, pretty much in the way of Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog in the Looney Tunes. So I accepted his invitation over a cup of coffee.  He asked if I wanted to write a piece on hunting in Wilderness, which evoked a reaction of equal parts flattery and fear.  I accepted, mindful of our backgrounds and differing professional roles. This piece will not emphasize Wilderness as religion, but more a practical perspective on what Wilderness is, and what it is not.

Photo Courtesy of Paul Turcke

I’ve sought opportunities in Wilderness, including a DIY Grand Canyon float trip in 1986 and other similar “whitewater Wilderness” experiences. My assignment here is to talk about hunting in Wilderness, and I have done a share of that. It’s often not exactly “fun” to be in Wilderness. It’s a lot of work. Apparently there are people who backpack camp for “fun” and I don’t get it. But any aversion I have to sleeping in a 24 ounce tent gets overshadowed by the force of an unpunched tag for some elusive ungulate and the prospect of an unparalleled peak experience.

Each Wilderness can offer a unique, dynamic experience. One should be careful to recognize differences across the broad diversity of areas, or different times in the same area. As the Act states, we are ”visitors” who do not remain, catching a momentary and individualized glimpse into any Wilderness. Even within this diversity, Wilderness is rarely an idyllic place where everything is perfect. Classic “rock and ice” Wilderness can be pretty stark, where wildlife is often far less abundant than in successional habitats. So what is the attraction of hunting in an area where one will almost certainly work harder while likely seeing less game?

Photo Courtesy of Paul Turcke

The ultimate goal offers one explanation. Certain species exist primarily in Wilderness, like sheep or goat. For more common species like deer or elk, Wilderness can offer opportunities that may not exist in more accessible areas. The preoccupation with trophy score can sometimes raise concerns, but experienced hunters seek the challenge of locating, studying and taking mature animals. Escapement is a key contributor, facilitated by the vastness and challenges of Wilderness.

There is also something to be said for the constancy and ethos of Wilderness hunting. There are rules, stated and thus locked in by the Act itself. It feels good to understand and devise methods of complying with these standards. One must recognize and solve numerous logistical challenges to thrive during, or even survive, an overnight trip in Wilderness. Quality hunting can be a matter of avoiding competition, and the challenges of Wilderness help limit hunting pressure. The remoteness, distance and difficulty of the terrain demand good fitness, gear and decision making. Those who appreciate and invest in this culture gain deep satisfaction and will help share it and instill a similar appreciation in others.

Hunting connects us with reality. You can’t talk your way out of being upwind of a mature buck. Wilderness intensifies this reality. Planning a stalk and pulling the trigger can have significant consequences, causing one to spend, or squander, many hours or even days reckoning the outcome of the choices made.

These factors all point to a core attribute of Wilderness: Solitude.  Some prefer more of a social or group experience, which is possible in Wilderness, such as the “classic” hunt facilitated by a string of packhorses. But many seek a solitary experience on foot. There is little denying this is in some form escapism. Such escapism is a justifiable if not healthy response to our society’s present trajectory. Connecting with primitive and sometimes harsh simplicity of Wilderness provides insight and perspective on the developed world.

After about 20 years of resident applications, the word “selected” appeared on my 2018 Idaho California bighorn sheep draw result. The sheep in that unit live primarily within Owyhee Canyonlands Wilderness designated in 2009. This is not impenetrable “rock and ice” Wilderness, but sagebrush-steppe punctuated by 300 meter deep canyons. Out here one will find cherrystemmed access, fences, livestock and F-15s overhead, reflecting the version of Wilderness that can even hope to gain traction in today’s Congress. I have been drawn to this area for over 25 years by hunting, botany, archeology, photography and management issues involving water, livestock grazing and recreation. My knowledge and appreciation grew exponentially through this hunt.

Unlike the hours long treks from a trailhead and backpack camping suggested above, this area offers huntable access about 90 minutes from Boise. I made six scouting trips and hunted a total of seven days throughout the season. I did encounter other hunters along the roads, who were on different hunts and throughout the season. I did encounter other hunters along the roads, who were on different hunts and excited to hear that bighorns roamed this country and to live vicariously through the quest of us lucky enough to hunt them. I never saw another human while afield.

Photo Courtesy of Paul Turcke

Hunting provides an impetus for visiting Wilderness but much of what we experience while there comes simply from being. Equal to the memories of shots successfully taken are those of relict rangelands, fledgling burrowing owls, pediocactus sites and scurrying short-horned lizards.

Beyond one’s own experiental benefits, being in Wilderness allows us to recognize and contribute to the broader custodial effort. In places like the Owyhees agency staff face daunting responsibilities and can be aided by good behavior and feedback from users. Sometimes we see evidence of even light touch management, like boundary signage or efforts to restore the Parker Road to single track after decades of being a vehicle-traveled way. It’s satisfying to recognize or be part of a collective effort. We should all be building karma through respect and better care for our public lands.

Wilderness is one position in our portfolio of public land ownership. There is nothing inherently “good” or “bad” about Wilderness and there is a limit to the lands that qualify, making it ever more important that we know and appreciate these places. Hunting is a recognized and historical use in Wilderness that can provide top quality visitor experiences while enhancing Wilderness ethos and management. For many, including hunters, Wilderness can provide unique challenges and commensurate rewards.

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