5/4/05 Draft VI
(c) DNR Forest Management Division policies for ORV facilities located on state forest land The 1979 plan executive summary concludes: “This plan does not, and cannot, meet the full desires of either motorized or non-motorized forest users. It is recognized that user demand for trail, routes and areas of unrestricted use will not be completely met by this plan. Neither will the plan fully meet the desires of others for areas of quiet and tranquility in the forests. But better separation of conflicting uses provided by this plan is a step toward greater achievement of goals of both of these user groups, and the DNR stands ready to assist such groups. In the specific area of ORV facilities, citizen cooperation in carrying out surveys, in submitting areas for consideration and in working with local units of government in developing facilities is encouraged and requested.” (DNR 1979:ii).
Creation of the Designated ORV System The Michigan Natural Resource Commission (NRC) approved the plan in 1978, closing all state forest lands to ORV use except for forest roads and designated trails, routes and areas. However, administrative rules were promulgated in 1980 that mandated that 1,500 miles or more of designated ORV trails and routes be in place on state forests prior to the recommended ORV use restrictions going into effect. Completion of this designated system took slightly more than a decade. In 1991, the NRC approved a system of 2,721 miles of ORV trails and routes and over 1,800 acres of designated ORV area in the northern Lower Peninsula.
Public Act 17 of 1991 In 1991 the Michigan legislature passed and the governor signed Public Act 17 of 1991, which further restricted ORV use in Lower Peninsula state forests to designated trails, routes and areas, closing undesignated forest roads to ORV use. A key rationale for this approach was to limit further creation of user created trails and associated resource damage. One example was from a new class of four-wheel vehicle, the ATV. There was concern that ways through the forest were created through initial illegal cross-country use. Then, prior to Public Act 17, the definition of a forest road from PA 319 of 1975 had been “a hard surfaced road, gravel or dirt road, fire lane, abandoned railroad right of way, logging road, or way capable of travel by a four-wheel vehicle, except an interstate, state or county highway”. So while the first few ATVs traveling cross-country were illegal, subsequent ATV users were indeed on a “way capable of travel by a four-wheel vehicle”. PA 17 also redefined a forest road as “a hard surface road, gravel or dirt road or other route capable of travel by a 2-wheel drive, 4-wheel conventional vehicle designed for highway use, except and interstate state or county highway”. Other factors involved included the difficulty for riders in determining who had jurisdiction of roads in forested areas, increasing population densities in the northern Lower Peninsula and associated safety concerns of mixing ORV and highway traffic and the non-contiguous checkboard nature of state forest ownership and concerns associated with trespass on private lands adjacent to public forests.
Public Act 17 also shifted vehicle registration requirements from registration with the Secretary of State to annual licensing by the DNR, with the Secretary of State only