MVUMs – Coming Soon to a Forest Near You!
"If you drive on forest roads and you don’t yet know about Motor Vehicle Use Maps, here’s some very helpful information.
Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs) are in the process of being developed by the U.S. Forest Service as part of their nationwide travel management plan. When all MVUMs are finally issued, they will definitively identify every legal OHV route on U.S. Forest land. Although the program has taken longer than planned, maps are now starting to be issued, and many more are on the way.
We’ve been attempting to collect every MVUM as it is issued in order to verify the legality of trails in our books. Obtaining finished maps has been somewhat frustrating because the program is still in its early stages. Sometimes people answering the phone at ranger stations are not aware of the program. You may have to ask for the OHV coordinator.
Information is usually available on the forest’s Web site, but sometimes it takes a while to find it. The link below really saves a lot of time. It’s kind of a general clearinghouse for MVUMs for every forest in the U.S.
The site lists only forests and states that have issued completed MVUMs. If your forest or state is not listed, it means there are not yet any completed MVUMs in your area. If your forest is listed, click on the link to see the available maps. Not all maps are printed; some have to be downloaded as a PDF file.
Of the four states my books cover, Arizona, California, Colorado and Utah, California and Colorado seem to have the most MVUMs done. Utah has a few and Arizona is not listed at all, yet.
If the maps are printed, call the closest ranger district and ask how to get one. In some cases, the maps must be picked up in person at the specific ranger district that issues them. In other cases, they will mail them to you. Each situation is different. You can also try the F.S. Supervisor’s office.
If the maps aren’t printed yet, you may be able to download them and review them on your computer. They are not easy to print because they are quite large. The largest we’ve found so far is 36 x 56 inches. We found a local print shop with a big printer that was able to print them for us at a reasonable cost.
Some districts have maps that are not yet final. They may show different alternatives or the map may say “DRAFT.” These maps are interesting to look at, but until everything is final, you can’t tell much.
Using MVUMs- the Pros and Cons
We’ve had a chance to use several MVUMs. Here’s our take so far:
Pro: If a trail appears on the map, we know it’s legal and we know what kind of vehicle is allowed on it. It is a great tool for us.
Con: If a trail does not appear on the map, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s illegal. For example, I noticed that the popular “Iron Chest Trail” (in Colorado) does not appear on its designated MVUM. I asked the Forest Service “why” and they said this trail is on private land and not under their jurisdiction; therefore, they ignore it. I also noticed that “Pearl Pass” was not shown as an open OHV road. In this case, it’s a county road, over which the Forest Service has no jurisdiction. In both of these examples, the roads are still open and being used by the public.
Con: MVUMs are not necessarily designed to be user-friendly. Their primary purpose is as a legal document to clearly identify what’s open. No longer does legal status of a trail depend on signage or gates. The maps are supposed to remove all ambiguity in a court of law, thereby making law enforcement easier.
Con: In most cases, each ranger district does a separate map. Roads shown on the map stop at the district boundaries. Another map is needed for an adjacent district. Sometimes you need several maps to follow the complete length of a trail. In a few cases, the forest combines all districts into one big map.
Con: The large size of the maps makes them awkward to use and because they are paper, they tear easily.
Con: Not all roads are shown on the maps—just what’s necessary to get to the trail. County roads, which are typically wider than forest roads, appear as lesser faint gray lines. Orienting yourself can sometimes be confusing.
Pro: The maps are updated every year. If you have a favorite trail that has been closed, make your case to the Forest Service and fight to get it opened. If enough people feel the same way, there’s always a chance.
Pro: The maps are FREE!
We’ve looked over about a half dozen MVUMs in Colorado and checked them against the trails in our books. So far, we haven’t found any closed trails. However, we are a bit nervous about some forests that have not yet issued MVUMs. For example, the White River N.F. has several alternatives shown online. Some alternatives are missing a few trails that are in our books. Until everything is finalized, however, we can’t do much.
We think most MVUMs will be completed in the next two years. We’re asking our customers to keep their ears to the ground. If you can’t find a trail from our book on a printed MVUM, please let us know so we can post it on our Web site.
Thanks everyone. Hope you’re having fun out there."