Forest Service unveils new off-road vehicle rules

The U.S. Forest Service says its new off-road vehicle (ORV) policy, announced yesterday, will set limits on where the noisy, pollution-spewing machines can be used in national forests — but conservationists say that’s not good enough. The new rule sets no overarching standard for ORV use in the nation’s 155 national forests and 20 grasslands; instead, it requires each area to designate approved roads and trails. Many miles of illegally established “renegade routes” could be made legal under the new plan. “It’s almost an oxymoron that there is a good illegal route,” said Jim Furnish, a former Forest Service deputy chief. Public-lands advocates say ORV use in national forests can erode the land and disturb wild critters — as well as humans seeking a quiet, exhaust-free wilderness experience. On the other side, Don Amador of the ORV-advocacy group Blue Ribbon Coalition said the new policy was a good start.