(from the Bureau of Land Management Travel Management Program web site)
The BLM public lands host over 55 million recreation visitors annually – an increase of over 80% since 1990. BLM estimates that 22 million of these visitors participate in motorized recreation.
- 9 million who participate in driving for pleasure;
- 12 million who participate in off-highway vehicle travel;
- 500,000 who participate in snowmobiling; and
- 500,000 who participate in other specialized motorized sports, events, and activities.
In compliance with Executive Orders, the BLM OHV regulations form a framework for the agency to establish management areas as either “open”, “limited”, or “closed” to off-road vehicle use. Certain BLM-managed lands also are categorized as “undesignated.”
- "Open" areas are areas where all types of vehicle use is permitted at all times, anywhere in the area.
- "Limited" areas are areas restricted at certain times, in certain areas, and/or to certain vehicular use.
- “Closed” areas are those which are closed to all types of vehicle use and include units of the National Wilderness Preservation System.
BLM management plans do not currently address motorized access in "undesignated" areas. Thus, these "undesignated" lands have no restrictions on motorized access. The vast majority of "undesignated" areas managed by the BLM are in Alaska.
For the 258 million acres of BLM administered lands, the BLM’s current OHV designation status is approximately 32% “open”, 4% “closed”, 48% “limited”, and 16% “undesignated”. Included among the “open” areas, BLM manages approximately 100 specifically designated OHV riding areas.
Travel Management Guidance & Technical Reference
The BLM manages travel and transportation on public lands in accordance with existing laws, regulations and policies. Program policy guidance provides direction to the field for management and administration of all aspects of the travel management program. This guidance is developed at the National, State and District Office level, and includes regulations, manuals, handbooks, Strategic Action Plans, Instruction Memorandums and Information Bulletins. Following is a list of various laws, regulations and policies governing BLM’s travel management program.
The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA)
– FLPMA is the organic act that provides overall legislative direction to the BLM for all its management activities and responsibilities. Specific sections that pertain to BLM’s travel and transportation responsibilities include:
- 43 U.S.C. §§1701 (a)(8) (§102(a)(8)): “the public lands be managed in a manner that will protect the quality of scientific, scenic, historical ecological, environmental, air and atmospheric, water resource, and archeological values; that, where appropriate will preserve and protect certain public lands in their natural condition; that will provide food and habitat for fish and wildlife and domestic animals; and that will provide for outdoor recreation and human occupancy and use.”
- 43 U.S.C. §§1701 (a) (h): “The term ‘sustained yield’ means the achievement and maintenance in perpetuity of a high-level annual or regular periodic output of the various renewable resources of the public lands consistent with multiple use.”
- 43 U.S.C. §§1732 (a): “The Secretary shall manage the public lands under the principles of multiple use and sustained yield, in accordance with the land use plans developed by him under §1712 of this title when they are available, except that where a tract of such public land has been dedicated to specific uses according to any other provisions of law it shall be managed in accordance with such law.”
The National Trails System Act
– Institutes a national system of recreation, scenic and historic trails. It also prescribes the methods and standards through which additional components may be added to the system.
The Wilderness Act of 1964
– Among other things, the Wilderness Act (Public Law 88-577) generally prohibits the use of motor vehicles in wilderness. The law contains special provisions for motor vehicle use when required in emergencies or as necessary for the administration of the area. Motor vehicles may also be permitted for special uses such as access to a private inholding, to support grazing, or to exercise valid existing rights.
Executive Orders 11644 and 11989 were issued in the 1970s to established policies and procedures for regulating the use of off-highway (aka: off-road) vehicles of federal lands.
Executive Order 11644
– Issued in February 1972 to establish policies and provide for procedures to control and direct the use of OHVs on Federal lands to: 1) protect the resources of those lands; 2) promote the safety of all users of those lands; and 3) minimize conflict between the use of OHVs and other types of recreation. The order closes wilderness and primitive areas to OHV use. It also requires the federal agencies to issue OHV use regulations, inform the public of the lands’ designation for OHV use through signs and maps, enforce OHV use regulations, and monitor the effects of OHV use of the land.
Executive Order 11989
– Issued in May 1977 and contains three amendments to Executive Order 11644. While these amendments lifted restrictions on the use of military and emergency vehicles on public lands during emergencies, they otherwise strengthened protection of the lands by authorizing agency heads to: 1) close areas or trails to OHVs causing considerable adverse effects; and 2) designate lands as closed to OHVs unless the lands are specifically designated as open to them.
The BLM developed regulations in response to applicable Federal laws and Executive Orders. These regulations require the BLM to designate areas where OHVs may be used and to manage the use of OHVs; to identify any adverse effects of OHV use; and to take appropriate steps to counteract such effects. Specific BLM travel management-related regulations include the following:
BLM Strategic Action Plans
The following BLM Strategic Action Plans provide additional travel and transportation guidance.
National Mountain Bicycling Strategic Action Plan
–This Action Plan aims to facilitate providing high-quality mountain bicycling experiences on BLM-managed public lands. The Plan provides guidance for implementing resource protection measures for mountain bicycling use and other human-powered mechanical transport. November 2002.
National Scenic & Historic Trails Strategy & Work Plan
– The National Trails System Act of 1968 directed the BLM and other Federal agencies to achieve certain objectives and purposes for the development of the National Trail System. BLM’s National Scenic & Historic Trails Strategy provides a 10-year framework for the development of program guidance and direction for improved management of BLM’s National Scenic and Historic Trails program.
Additional BLM Travel Management Policy Documents & Technical References
BLM Roads and Trails Terminology Report
– Provides BLM recommendations concerning the management of transportation-related linear features on public lands, including using a standard terminology, data management, data dictionary, and alignment of programs responsible for travel management functions.
Interim Management Policy for Lands Under Wilderness Review, H-8559-1 – Contains specific direction on how BLM manages travel and transportation in areas found suitable for wilderness designation pending a final decision by Congress as to whether or not they should be included in the National Wilderness Preservation System.
Other BLM Travel Management Manuals & Handbook Guidance – BLM’s directives system is comprised of individual Manuals and Handbooks for transmitting policy and instructions for travel management and related visitor services. (Most of this guidance is not available via the Internet; however, as new manuals and handbooks are developed they will be available electronically.)
For additional information about BLM Travel Management: