National Forests across Idaho are undertaking a review of their road systems and identifying sections of road that may require additional safety measures and are seeking public comments. The review was prompted by changes to Idaho State law.
In 2009, the Idaho Legislature exempted underage drivers (less than 16 years old) from needing a driver’s license when operating an OHV on National Forest System roads. “Previously, Idaho law prohibited use of OHVs by unlicensed riders on roads open to passenger vehicle traffic,” said Forsgren. “While responsible OHV recreation is welcome on National Forest System roads, safe operation of motor vehicles on National Forest roads is compromised because unlicensed and untrained drivers are now sharing roads designed and maintained for passenger cars and commercial truck traffic.” The licensing exemption does not apply to similar state and county roads.
With thousands of miles of National Forest roads and trails open to Off-Highway Vehicles (OHVs) in Idaho there is a risk to OHV operators on roads that also receive heavy travel from highway vehicles and commercial trucks. Road segments with such “mixed use” are referred to as “Roads of Concern.” “The National Forests are accepting comments related to these Roads of Concern,” said Intermountain Regional Forester Harv Forsgren. “Specifically we would like to know what safety concerns you might have on any of the identified roads, and your suggestions for making these roads safer.”
Maps have been published on each National Forest website for downloading and viewing. The eight National Forests across Idaho contain more than 7,700 miles of roads open to OHVs and highway vehicles and 2,500 miles of road are being evaluated. “We would like to know from forest users if we identified the correct roads,” said Forsgren. “Are there other road segments we should be looking at for implementing safety measures?”
Potential safety mitigations for these roads range from reduced speed limits, brush removal for improved visibility, warning signs, speed bumps or other minor engineering changes. “In cases where risks are unacceptable, OHV use may be restricted. However, for each Road of Concern, restricting OHV use will be considered as a last resort when no other reasonable and effective safety measures can be implemented,” said Forsgren.
Throughout the winter and spring of 2011 each National Forest in Idaho will work closely with agency partners and members of the public to improve public safety plans for National Forest System roads. Public input will be used to help identify where, and what types of safety improvements will be made for each of the Roads of Concern. By summer 2011 the first safety mitigation measures will be in place.
The forests listed below are being reviewed and can be searched for at http://www.fs.fed.us/
Boise National Forest, Caribou-Targhee National Forest, Clearwater National Forest, Idaho Panhandle National Forests, Nez Perce National Forest, Payette National Forest , Salmon-Challis National Forest and Sawtooth National Forest.
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Comments will be accepted from now until February 22, 2011. Comments can be emailed to or mailed to each National Forest through its website or United States postal mail service.