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Old February 18th, 2008, 07:21 PM   #2
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January 11, 2008
Statutory regulation of Off-Road Vehicles (ORVs) began in Michigan with 1975 Public Act
(PA) 319 (Act). The Act required the Department of Natural Resources (Department) to develop
a comprehensive plan for the management of ORV use of areas, forest roads and forest trails,
under the jurisdiction of the Department.
The Department published the first ORV plan in 1979 and recommended:
· Minimizing social conflict
· Meet outdoor recreation needs
· Protect environmental integrity by confining ORV use on state public lands to the state
forest roads and a system of designated ORV trails, routes and areas.
1991 PA 17 further restricted the use of ORVs on public lands in the Lower Peninsula to only
designated tails, routes and areas. This Act closed undesignated forest roads on state forest lands
to ORV use throughout the Lower Peninsula. In the Upper Peninsula, state forest roads and
designated trails remained opened to ORVs unless posted closed.
ORV Plan Process
In spring 2004, the Department initiated a public planning process to update the 1979 ORV plan
and assess program needs from a variety of perspectives, from land managers to trail riders.
In May 2004, Michigan State University (MSU) was hired to facilitate this plan update and
began the public input process with the ORV Advisory Board presentation.
· There were meetings held for public input at Lansing, Gaylord and Marquette;
· Workshops were held with ORV trail maintenance and site restoration grant recipients;
· Meetings were conducted with Department field personnel and the Forest, Mineral and
Fire Management (FMFM) Management Team;
· Opportunities were provided for written comments; and
· Surveys were mailed to Michigan county sheriffs, northern Michigan Road Commission
managers and ORV program coordinators from 49 states.
In August 2005, MSU submitted the draft plan based on the public input process to the
Department. The Department initiated a review process of the recommendations involving
Recreation and Trails Program staff, the FMFM Management Team and the Department
Management Team. The MSU plan includes forty-four specific recommendations grouped into
eight topic areas:
Draft #1 – January 17, 2008
1. The designated ORV trail system
2. System maintenance
3. Enduro Motorcycle Events
4. Program Administration
5. Damage Restoration
6. Law Enforcement
7. Safety Education
8. Licensing
There are several good ideas and recommendations in the plan that would require changing
existing law in order for them to be accomplished. Modifications to the current grant funding
allocations would also be required in order to accomplish trail expansion and other
recommended program enhancements.
The Department’s number one priority is to bring the existing trail, route and use area
infrastructure up to standard before adding new trails on state-owned lands. The Department
does recognize the legislative requests for trail expansion to meet existing constituent demand;
however, it is imperative to manage the current designated system to meet the Department’s
mission of resource conservation and protection, meet outdoor recreation needs and safeguard
The Department needs land manager partners, including local units of government, major
corporate land owners, utilities and private land owners, as well as partnerships with
manufacturers and dealers, to address the plan objective of trail expansion. This is especially
true of increased demand for riding opportunities in Southern Michigan.
Public comment on the plan has been supportive of recommendations to increase opportunities to
ride. This need is related to the type of machine the rider has, ranging from motorcycles to street
legal four-wheel drive vehicles, and it is related to having riding opportunities near where they
live so they can ride during weekdays. This is particularly true of comments we have heard from
riders in Southern Michigan, where most riders live. This same comment was heard again
during the public input meetings held for the State Forest Plan.
Forest Certification and Other Plan Influences
In December 2004, Governor Jennifer M. Granholm signed 2004 PA 124, a bill that required
Michigan’s state forest lands be certified under at least one forest certification program by
January 2006 to demonstrate sustainable forestry management and keep Mic higan’s timber a
marketable commodity. The certification process overlapped the ORV plan review process and
public comment period. In December 2005 a corrective action request (CAR) was issued by the
Forest Stewardship Council and Sustainable Forestry Initiative forest certification auditors to
address illegal ORV use on state forest lands. Chief Lynne Boyd, FMFM, appointed an ORV
Task Force and charged the group to propose a strategy to address this CAR and illegal ORV use
in three topic areas: User Education, Law Enforcement, and Restoration / Maintenance of
damaged lands. The task force completed its charge in June 2006 and submitted several
Draft #1 – January 17, 2008
These recommendations were supported by the FMFM Management Team and submitted to the
forest certification auditors at the 2007 annual surveillance audit. The auditors found these
recommendations adequately addressed their request to develop a strategy to reduce or eliminate
illegal ORV use and considered this CAR completed. The auditors then established a new CAR
(CAR 2007.4) which requires the Department to incorporate and implement the
recommendations into the ORV Management Plan.
In addition, Section 807 of 2005 PA 154, was signed and required the Department to submit a
comprehensive plan to expand the current ORV trail mileage by at least 25%, or 796 miles, over
the next four years. The Section 807 report was issued June 2006 and focused on upgrades of
the existing designated ORV system to meet maintenance standards, and it also cited several
opportunities for growth beyond the traditional boundaries of the state forest lands and onto
lands managed by local units of government or private lands. Trail advocates were identified as
a crucial element in the success of this initiate for trail expansion.
In 2006, the topic of counties designating their roads open to ORVs in the Upper Peninsula and
Northern Lower Peninsula created considerable discussion and resulted in a letter of guidance
from the Office of the Attorney General, and a response from the legislature with a bill that
would address the issues raised in the letter and provide the counties with broader authority to
designating roads open to ORVs. The bill passed the House unanimously but was not taken up
by the Senate. The Department responded with a letter to all county road commissions
encouraging them to work together with the Department in formally designating ORV routes and
trails that would connect the state designated ORV motorized trail system with local
communities and services.
This introduction to the public planning process and the political influences provide the
background to the following ORV Trails Program Strategic Plan of Action.
Maintenance of Existing Designated Trails/Routes/Scramble Areas:
1. The Department’s number one priority is to bring the existing trail, route and use area
infrastructure up to standard before adding new trails, routes or scramble areas. While
the Department recognizes legislative mandates for trail expansion to meet increasing
demand, it is imperative to manage the existing designated system to meet the
Department’s mission of resource conservation and protection, meet outdoor recreation
needs and safeguard riders.
2. Maintain existing trail system at a “good” or higher level based on the 2005 Nelson
report. The initial evaluation completed by Nelson indicated some trails were being
maintained at a level less than good. The Department took action and brought the
maintenance level up to good or higher on all trails. It is the Department’s intent to
continue to maintain the trail system at a good or higher level. This can be accomplished
through the increased use of annual maintenance grants to complete trail brushing,
signing and grading, or through contracts.
Draft #1 – January 17, 2008
3. The Department will use established criteria for prioritizing maintenance projects on an
annual basis and securing grant funding.
4. Currently, ORV clubs complete trail maintenance through a grant program with the
Department. Where deficiencies in trail maintenance are discovered, the Department will
work with trail sponsors in an effort to correct the problem prior to accessing penalties.
The Department will continue to strictly enforce penalties for unacceptable trail
maintenance as defined in the program handbooks.
5. The Department recognizes the need to recalculate and update trail maintenance
reimbursement rates paid to non-profit organizations in an attempt to improve trail
maintenance. A consumer price index inflation rate adjustment was made for the 2008
season. Further evaluation is needed to determine appropriate rates for the future. If
increased reimbursement does not result in improved trail maintenance, the Department
will consider contracting trail maintenance work as opposed to the current method of
working with non-profit organizations. A pilot project of maintaining one or two trails
through a multiple- year contract may be a good way of evaluating this method.
6. The Department will conduct annual trail inspections; however, due to practical
constraints such as current staffing levels, these inspections will be conducted on a
random audit basis.
7. The Department supports the idea of no net loss of trail quality and quantity where the
trail is impacted by timber harvesting or other land management activities. However, it
may not be possible in every instance because of the stand type and prescribed forest
treatment. User preference to keep trails in forested areas is recognized and this
preference will be accommodated where conditions support it. Trail users are
encouraged to attend pre-harvest forest management unit open houses to share their
concerns and suggestions so they can be considered.
Trail Signage:
1. Maintain obvious trail corridors through proper brushing, signing and grading. The better
a trail is maintained, the less chance trail users will mistakenly leave the designated trail
and venture into an area that is not designated for use. Illegal spur trails should be
blocked as soon as they are found.
2. The Department will initiate the use of higher visibility sign styles such as installing
yellow backers behind conventional trail signs based on the results of a recent pilot sign
project. This pilot project, known as the AuSable Pilot Project, utilized yellow backers
behind signs to make ORV signs more visible. The results of the AuSable Pilot Project
indicated that utilizing the yellow backers was very helpful to both users and law
enforcement officials. The Department will implement these signage improvements on a
statewide basis.
Draft #1 – January 17, 2008
3. The Department supports the development of regulatory sign plans for each trail. This
process has been initiated by the Department through a limited amount of data collection
of existing signage locations through GPS mapping activities. This initiative could be
accomplished in cooperation with grant sponsors, and/or private contractors.
4. The Department supports combining signage between motorized recreational programs
(ORV and Snowmobile) where possible. This will result in less duplication of signage
between programs and reduce overall costs and signage on the trails.
Trail Mapping:
1. The Department will provide improved ORV trail maps by making accurate Global
Position System (GPS) maps available to the public through the Department’s website on
the internet. This mapping system will be updated as new trails are developed and
existing trails are rerouted or closed.
ORV Operation on State-owned Lands:
1. The Department will maintain “the closed unless posted open” management approach in
the Lower Peninsula, with consideration for additional area, trail and route designations,
to link trails and communities together.
2. The Department will maintain the current management approach in the Upper Peninsula,
(i.e. ORV operation permitted on designated trails, routes and areas, and state forest roads
unless posted closed). The Department will monitor resource damage related to illegal
ORV use, and impacts of having state forest system roads open to ORV use. The
Department will reevaluate this policy as the United State Department of Agriculture
(USDA) Forest Service moves forward with implementing its new travel management
initiative to consider consistency on the management of ORVs on federal and state lands.
Safety Education:
1. The Department supports the recommendation of providing safety training access in
every county through classroom education conducted by county Sheriffs, with optional
“hands-on” training by willing certified instructors to complement the mandatory
classroom training and written certification exam.
2. The Department supports mandatory certification for all persons born on or after
December 31, 1988. Providing for mandatory ORV safety certification for anyone born
on or after December 31, 1988, and increasing grant eligibility to non-profit organizations
will require a change in the law.
Draft #1 – January 17, 2008
Expansion of Designated Trails/Routes/Scramble Areas:
1. The Department recognizes the need to expand riding opportunities to meet increasing
demand. Expansion will be accomplished through partnerships with trail advocates,
other public agencies and the private sector.
2. Trail expansion on non-state land will be considered through partnerships with other land
managers. This includes the United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service,
local government and major corporate land owners, such as forest products companies
and utilities, and private land owners. It is unreasonable to expect all trail riding
expansion to occur on state forest lands. This is especially true of a potential scramble
area in southern Michigan.
3. The Department supports partnerships with local government, and encourages
designation of local access routes to link designated trails and riding areas, and provide
access to local services.
4. The Department will pursue development of “Destination” trails, which will require
partnerships with other land managers, and private land owners. Opportunities will be
considered on a case-by-case basis, and should be accomplished off public roadways and
road shoulders, wherever possible.
5. The Department will use established criteria for evaluating trail, route and scramble area
expansion proposals, on a continuous basis as proposals are developed and received.
6. The Department will consider development of parallel trails on a case-by-case basis. The
location of these parallel trails must be considered in light of other state land management
objectives and resource protection.
7. The Department will continue to support improvements at St. Helen Motorsport Area.
This will be accomplished in cooperation with user groups and/or local government who
should take the lead in implementing projects through grants from the Off-Road Vehicle
Trail Improvement Fund Program.
8. The Department recognizes the desire of user groups for additional scramble areas.
Existing compromised sites, such as borrow pits, mines, quarries and pre-existing ORV
damage sites located on state forest lands, will be evaluated to determine potential for use
area designation or restoration. The location of these areas must be considered in light of
other state land management objectives and resource protection.
9. The Department has long recognized the need for an ORV riding area in southern
Michigan. The Department’s Southeast Michigan Off-Road Vehicle Report (1991)
reiterated and explored this need in depth. Other than at Genesee County's “Mounds”
Off-Road Vehicle Park, southeast Michigan residents in search of legal riding
opportunities on public lands must travel at least as far as Gladwin County. The
development of an ORV park in southeast Michigan remains a high priority today.
Draft #1 – January 17, 2008
In the Department’s experience with The Mounds ORV Park, and in other instances when
the idea of an ORV park has been discussed, we believe the best chances for advancing
the idea would involve a partnership made up of state, county, and local governmental
units, or the private sector. Substantial local advocacy and support will be critical to the
success of this endeavor, so involvement of constituent groups and other private local
interests would also be beneficial.
Throughout the Southeast Michigan report mentioned earlier, the need for early local
community involvement was recognized as a basic principle for successfully planning
and establishing an ORV park. To provide a greater degree of confidence in the ability to
address local concerns, needs and benefits, we suggest that a county or local unit of
government be the lead partner. Further, we believe that ownership and operation by a
county or local unit of government will be more acceptable to local residents than state
ownership and operation. The Department would provide technical, planning and
financial assistance to the private or local unit through various state and federal funding
sources, and would be interested in being involved in any other way, and to the extent
desired, by all partners.
10. As the ORV trail system is expanded, connecting existing trails and routes to each other
to provide for more connectivity will be a priority. This would fulfill the public’s desire
for longer riding/touring opportunities. This could be accomplished by trail sponsor
advocates taking the lead role working with the local land manager to designate the
connections, or with the county road commission for specific designated routes on the
county road shoulders. This will be accomplished through the trail proposal process and
will be dependent on the feasibility of making the connections. Creating additional riding
opportunities in the Southern Lower Peninsula remain a priority.
11. Riding advocates are encouraged to work with local units of government and private land
owners to secure lands or trail easements nearer the population centers in Southern Lower
Michigan. This would address the continuous requests to the Department for riding
opportunities near the riding public. In most cases, Department owned Park, Recreation
or Wildlife lands near these population centers have legal land management requirements
that do not permit ORV riding. Therefore, the best chance for additional riding
opportunities in southern lower Michigan will be on non-state-owned lands.
12. The Department will encourage manufacturers and dealers of ORV/ATVs to work with
local units of government to secure lands or trail easements, for the purposes of having
riding opportunities closer to the known populations centers of most state riders in
Southern Lower Michigan.
13. The Department will pursue acquisition of an available abandoned rail corridor in the
West Upper Peninsula that directly connects Michigan’s Iron River to Marinesco Route
to the designated Wisconsin ORV trail system. This would open hundreds of miles of
new riding opportunities for residents of both states.
Draft #1 – January 17, 2008
ORV Events on State-owned Land:
1. The Department will evaluate Event Permit Applications for motorized trail events on the
designated ORV trail system and forest roads. In general, the Department supports these
events and will evaluate them on a case-by-case basis.
2. Enduro Motorcycle Events – While the Department recognizes the desire to have Enduro
motorcycle events (riding events not on a designated trail), it must balance these desires
with other resource uses and impacts. The Department prefers Enduro motorcycle events
to be located on designated trails and/or at sites of proposed timber harvests (1-2 years
prior to harvest). In general, the Department does not support proposed events located
off designated trails and will review requests for Enduro events on a case-by-case basis.
Approval of these events will be at the discretion of the District Supervisor.
3. Increase the presence of Conservation Officers (CO) and County Sheriffs at trail riding
events for public relations, and to enforce resource protection and trail riding compliance.
Licensing of ORVs:
1. The Department supports the concept of providing licensing solely through point of sales
terminals to provide accurate and timely information about ORV licensees.
2. The distribution of ORV rules and safety information at the point of license purchase will
be a fundamental component of the Department’s comprehensive public information
3. The Department will establish a Workgroup to develop a long-range financial plan for the
future management and long-term sustainability of the ORV program.
4. The Department will annually review ORV license fee revenue, expenditures, and access
program needs.
5. The Department will work with constituent groups and the legislature to maintain a
license fee structure that will sustain long-term program viability to meet public demand.
1. The Department will integrate the ORV program into each Forest Management Unit to
assist in the administration of the grant program with trail sponsors so it parallels
snowmobile trail program administration, and assure uninterrupted service to the grant
2. The Department will continue to clarify responsibilities and strengthen working
relationships among Department personnel/divisions involved in ORV program delivery.
Draft #1 – January 17, 2008
3. The Department is continually seeking program improvements to clarify program
responsibilities, and strengthen working relationships among Department personnel
through staff training and operational meetings. Program manuals will be maintained and
updated annually to clarify program procedures, as needed. Additionally, in response to
Forest Certification audit findings, corrective action responses (CARs) and work
instructions have been developed to help clarify staff responsibilities.
4. The Department will investigate streamlining grant processes to gain efficiency and
increase the number of cooperators.
5. The Department is continually looking at ways to conduct business more efficiently and
will continue to investigate ways to streamline the grant process within the legal
requirements established by law.
8. The Department will periodically survey ORV users to assess needs, shifts in use,
economic and environmental impacts, and gauge rider reaction to trail management. The
Department will encourage including questions regarding ORV use in other surveys
related to forest land use.
Addressing Illegal ORV Use:
A. Education:
1. In an attempt to reduce or eliminate illegal ORV use, the Department will adopt a catch
phrase campaign or theme that would last 12 to 24 months. This theme should be
developed either in- house, through an advertising company, a university, or the
Department could utilize an existing theme such as “Tread Lightly”.
2. The Department will utilize various magazines such as those associated with the
Michigan United Conservation Club s (MUCC), Hunting, 4-wheel drive, etc., to promote
the theme. This is one opportunity to reach various user groups to get the message out.
3. The Department will partner with surrounding states, such as Wisconsin and Minnesota,
to learn how they are managing illegal ORV use. The Department hosted officials from
the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in the summer of 2006 to share
experiences related to ORV management and enforcement, as a part of this effort. This
effort will continue with additional communication between these great lakes states.
4. Networking with the trail riding community including clubs, grant sponsors and the ORV
Advisory Board for support of the campaign, will be a priority of the Department. The
Department cannot achieve success in reducing or eliminating illegal ORV use without
the support of the riding community.
Draft #1 – January 17, 2008
5. The Department will review and update the existing ORV Education video tape and
provide it to any interested partners and user groups including Hunter Education courses,
to promote legal ORV riding.
6. The Department will work with ORV manufacturers and dealers as a partner in an effort
to utilize posters and billboards to promote the theme. The use of billboards in strategic
locations is another important opportunity to get the message out to the public that illegal
ORV use is unacceptable.
7. The Department will update and maximize the use of the Department’s web page to
promote the theme and to provide information on the damage caused by illegal ORV use.
8. Where possible, the Department will utilize Public Service Announcements (PSAs) as an
opportunity to promote the theme. These announcements can be created in-house,
through an advertising company, university or utilize existing PSAs such as those that
exist through Tread Lightly.
9. The Department will display the theme at all Operation Service Centers and field offices,
and request that the Michigan Department of Transportation display the theme at all
Welcome Centers and Rest Areas. Outdoor banners, placed in highly visible areas, could
be utilized at these locations. Posters should also be placed indoors in high traffic areas.
10. The Department will revise all Department guidebooks such as the Hunting Guidebook,
Fishing Guidebook, Firewood Guidelines, Recreation and Camping Guidebook, etc. The
revision should include the theme and emphasize the legal use of ORVs, the
environmental damage caused by illegal ORV use, the consequence of being ticketed for
illegal use and the potential loss of ORV riding opportunities if illegal use continues.
B. Law Enforcement:
1. The Department will continue to use the Handbook of Michigan Off-Road Vehicle Laws
to promote legal use of ORVs and to explain the negative impacts of illegal use. An
example of this initiative is the letter that has been placed in the 2006 ORV Handbook
from the Chiefs of Law Enforcement Division (LED) and Forest Mineral and Fire
Management (FMFM), regarding Forest Certification and the negative impacts that result
from illegal ORV use.
2. The Department supports requiring the ORV Youth Education/Certification Program to
be mandatory and emphasize the importance of legally operating ORVs. The program
would also emphasize the environmental damage that results from illegal ORV use. This
is an opportunity to teach our youth about riding only on designated trails/areas.
3. The Department will increase enforcement through priority violations such as
emphasizing law enforcement initiatives for violations that occur off-trail, in wetlands, in
streams, and along lakeshores.
Draft #1 – January 17, 2008
4. The Department will increase the use of Conservation Officer (CO) group patrols to deal
with illegal high environmental damage/high use sites.
5. The Department will consider increasing the number of COs in order to have adequate
staffing levels to effectively enforce this initiative.
6. The Department will explore the potential of increased ORV law enforcement funding in
order to fund additional law enforcement activities.
7. The Department will utilize a 1-800 (toll- free) number for reporting illegal ORV use,
similar to the Report All Poaching (RAP) line; possibly using the same 1-800 number and
same operators as the current RAP line. The new reporting number could be called the
RED line (Report Environmental Damage), as an example. The 1-800 number should be
incorporated into the theme and be prominent in all publications, the Department web
site, video, billboards, etc.
8. The Department will consider the feasibility of reformatting the ORV license to include a
readily identifiable number for law enforcement use.
9. The Department will continue to improve its partnership with local law enforcement
officials through improved coordination in the field. The Department must also
communicate its enforcement priorities to local law enforcement agencies. The
Department should consider increased funding for local law enforcement officials for
ORV enforcement and also develop an improved evaluation process of how these funds
are utilized. Finally, the Department should develop an ORV Enforcement Program for
local enforcement officials to allow enforcement by part-time officers similar to the
snowmobile program.
10. The Department will seek an increase in penalties for illegal ORV use. Currently, when a
user is fined for illegal ORV use, the penalty may be so insignificant as to not be a
deterrent to a user to stop that illegal use. This would likely involve educating local
prosecuting attorneys and judges as well as legislative action. The Department (possibly
the Conservation Officers should make presentations to the Prosecutor’s Association and
Magistrate meetings conveying these recommendations.
C. Restoration of Environmentally Damaged Sites:
1. The Department will improve documentation of existing environmental damage areas
caused by illegal ORV use. The Department has recently completed the development of
a database known as the Resource Damage Report (RDR). This database is being used to
document environmental damage sites, including those caused by illegal ORV use. The
database can also be used for determining the overall scope of this problem on a
statewide basis.
2. The Department will use established criteria for prioritizing restoration projects on an
annual basis and securing grant funding.
Draft #1 – January 17, 2008
3. The Department will increase the use of non-profit groups (such as ORV clubs,
environmental groups, soil conservation agencies, etc.), to complete restoration projects.
The Department does not have enough staff to complete all restoration projects with
existing staff. In order to make significant progress in restoring damaged sites, the
Department must rely on, and work with outside interests.
4. The Department will improve accountability regarding who is responsible for project
management. There have been some communication breakdowns between the restoration
grant requestor, grant management and the project manager. It must be made clear on
every project who the responsible party is for assuring the project is completed.
5. The Department will consider hiring additional staff, or receive assistance in completing
projects the Department identifies by contracting the project oversight, including project
development and completion.
6. The Department will consider contracting a significant number of outstanding restoration
projects to a single contractor. The contract should include project oversight.
7. Include a management plan to correct initial cause of problem at environmentally
damaged sites. There have been examples of restoration projects that have been
completed successfully, only to be damaged again by illegal ORV use. A management
plan must be developed to evaluate and resolve the initial cause of the damage. A Land
Use Order by the Director may be necessary to prevent a reoccurrence of the problem
during and after restoration work. A Land Use Order by the Director is necessary to
close forest roads.
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