Commonwealth Finalizes ATV Trail Policy

Finalizes ATV Trail Policy

HARRISBURG, PA — The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) has outlined final changes to its internal policy on ATV trails on state forest lands to respond to increasing demands for riding opportunities, local and county government interest in expanding recreational tourism, and legislative action.

The announcement was made at the meeting of the Conservation and Natural Resources Advisory Council this week, where the proposed changes were first introduced for public comment.

“This policy provides guidance to DCNR when acquiring, developing and managing lands for ATV use,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said. “The major change will allow the careful consideration of strategic new riding opportunities on state forest lands to connect regional trail systems.”

Where there was a moratorium on new trail development in the previous policy, the revisions now authorize DCNR to explore the potential for new ATV trails and connectors on state forest lands. Other changes include:

  • Allowing the Secretary to designate portions of the state forest road system as temporary, seasonal or permanent ATV trails.
  • Allowing the department to request public comment for projects that have broader impacts on the community/region.
  • Supporting acquisition of lands specifically for motorized recreation use.
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DCNR received 857 comments on the proposed changes. Responses to those comments can be found on the DCNR website.

The policy is effective immediately. Implementation will be guided by a set of overarching ATV Management Principles developed by the DCNR Bureau of Forestry.

“With the principles guiding the work, the department will be doing an assessment of potential new riding opportunities that could benefit communities and businesses, and provide continuity to regional trail systems while balancing protection of the natural resource and other values and recreational uses of the public lands,” Dunn said.

A focus of the assessment will be the northcentral part of the state due to the prevalence of state forest lands, a relatively high number of township roads open to ATV use, and proximity to other DCNR ATV trail systems.

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Pennsylvania currently has more than 260 miles of ATV trails in state forests.

DCNR plays a multi-faceted role with ATVs: registering their use statewide through a cooperative agreement with PennDOT; managing registration-generated fees for maintenance, enhancement, and enforcement of trail opportunities on state forest lands; and distributing grants to provide new recreational ATV trails and facilities.

Pennsylvania has around 285,000 registered ATVs. On state forest lands, ATV riding is allowed only on designated trails.

The Conservation and Natural Resources Advisory Council released a report in January 2019 to provide recommendations on how DCNR and others could enhance motorized recreation in Pennsylvania.

The ATV Trail Development and Management Policy is on the DCNR website, as is more information about ATV riding in state forests.

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