Off-highway vehicle riders have more routes for legally riding their ATVs and motorcycles on the Colville National Forest, according to a plan approved this month.
Forest Supervisor Laura Jo West signed the South End Motor Vehicle Management Plan, which designates roads and trails that create quality loops, connect communities and provide access, camping and parking.
The plan, two years in the making, designates motorized routes between U.S. Highway 395 and State Highway 20, including the Tacoma, Chewelah and Calispell drainages.
The decision allows riders in existing OHV areas to travel from Calispell Creek all the way to Ruby Creek, West said. From there, existing routes lead to the Heritage Lake area.
About 160 miles of multiuse routes have been designated, allowing OHVers to ride county and national forest roads from near Cusick to Chewelah. That trip will be facilitated by a new OHV trailhead to be developed in the North Fork Chewelah Creek, she said.
However, the forest plans to monitor OHV use on roads they share with standard motor vehicles. The plan allows routes to be reconsidered if major safety issues arise.
National Forest rules prohibit motorized travel except on designated routes or areas.
The Colville Forest decision adopts some trails that were illegally developed in the past by OHV riders.
“Concerns were expressed that this action rewards the irresponsible and illegal behavior of creating unauthorized motorized routes by designating and adopting them,” West said. However, the routes were selected “because they provide critical pieces that either connect or create loop roads,” she said.
“Not all unauthorized routes were adopted. No play areas were adopted. Roads that currently have issues with illegal travel were not included.”
The plan retains about 130 of the 175 dispersed campsites along 47 miles of Forest Service and county roads.
The plan closes 40 campsites and allows the development of 20 new campsites.
Volunteers are being sought for an OHV Ambassador Program with the help of the Eastern Washington ATV Association and the Tri-County Motorized Recreation Association. Emphasis will be on helping educate riders of the new rules and how reduce environmental impacts.