Open forest roads to ATV use, too

It feels like the U.S. Forest Service is trying to do everything in its power to limit the use of public lands.

In recent years, the Forest Service has moved from an open unless otherwise closed position to closed unless otherwise open.

That wasn’t the intent of laws that allowed federal and state governments to own land.

Most recently, the U.S. Forest Service announced that it does not necessarily have to honor state House Bill 1632, which was signed into law earlier this year by Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat.

The new law generally allows counties and other municipalities to open roads with speed limits of less than 35 mph to licensed all-terrain vehicles.

But rather than say it will honor what the residents of Washington state want, the national Forest Service has said it will not “automatically” allow licensed all-terrain vehicles on national forest roads.

Is somebody not home at the national forests’ offices?

ATVs were designed for forest-type roads. They were designed specifically for operation in dirt and gravel.

Besides, by and large, it is the residents of Washington state who use national forest roads in our state. We use the roads to access hiking, fishing, jobs, communities and for other reasons.

We are the ones who pay the bills for the forests, and we are the ones who pay for the inconveniences created by bureaucrats pushing agendas that are contrary to public opinion.

I’m not saying we should allow ATV-users to run willy-nilly in the meadows. But using the excuse some riders will abuse the law isn’t a reason to disregard state law and the will of the people who “own” the forests and their roads.

U.S. Forest Service officials say they have the authority to “allow” ATVs on forest roads after a road engineer certifies them for mixed, motorized use.

That sounds like a waste of a lot of taxpayer dollars that could be put to better use.

Forest Service officials say they will release an environmental study this fall on forest roads and that the public will have a chance to review and comment on it.

But with Forest Service officials already pushing their own agenda over the will of the people, I wonder if it will make any difference. Still, residents need to remind the Forest Service that the roads are ours — many even predate federal ownership.

If the Forest Service wants to have the confidence of the people who pay for it, officials need to get back to an open unless otherwise closed policy, beginning with roads.

Roger Harnack is the editor and publisher of The Chronicle. He can be reached at 509-826-1110 or via e-mail at


peaceandquiet 3 years, 11 months ago

Not quite sure what the sudden uprising against federal agencies in charge of public lands is all about. The natl Forests are already setup for certain routes for off roading. Most frequest Nat'l Forests to get away from all of the nuisance ATVers and such. Its not like there is not ample areas to go ride ATVs. The county's decision to trump the feds is a flippant disregard of structure. Leave the NF alone. FS officials know that you would be letting a genie out of the bottle allowing ATV use on NF land beyond the scope of what is allowed. Keep your ATVs out of my NF. Thank You!


TheMiddle 3 years, 10 months ago

Here's the rub, I do get the Roger's points, but I also get the NSF's reasoning as well. As usual, it's not so cut and dry.

As a long time hiker/mountain biker/Motorcycle rider and forest user, I agree, things are getting shut down more and more thanks to groups like the Sierra club, they had a great charter, and on the surface, it makes sense, but they have gone way too far. It starts with closing down for "motorized vehicles" then they push farther, no bikes, then no horses, then "close it to everyone".

Now, let's talk about ATV use in general. Being a long time trail rider, I can say that in the recent 10-15 years, the popularity of 4 wheel ATV/Quads has created a mess, there are a few bad apples that absolutely mess things up, it used to be that we (Motorcycle riders) would police our own, if someone messes up, we fixed it. Not so with the ATV crowd, so, I have to side with the notion that we need to keep a lot of areas closed until something changes. Trust me when I say that the dumbass on quads have really messed up my riding areas as well.

Single track trails are disappearing and becoming 2 track quad trails. Not cool for erosion etc.

Also, before all you hikers go off and state that all single track motorcycles need to be banned as well, think about what you're hiking on, we probably created that trail for you 20-30 years ago. ;)


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