PCTA Statement on OHV issues on the PCT, December 2014

The Pacific Crest Trail Association’s mission is to protect, preserve and promote the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail as a world-class experience for hikers and equestrians, and for all the values provided by wild and scenic lands. The PCT provides hiking and horseback-riding experiences of the highest caliber, showcasing the remarkably scenic, natural, historic, and cultural resources along the high ridges of the Pacific mountains. The PCT is designed and managed to provide the most primitive, non-mechanized recreational experience possible as identified through the Forest Service’s Recreation Opportunity Spectrum. The PCT route, and related development, should reflect simple facilities for hiker and pack-and-saddle use.

There are many threats to that experience. The non-profit PCTA, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management work in partnership to maintain the trail and address threats as they arise, from wildfire and weather-related damage to man-made problems such as resource extraction and development.

One persistent threat to the trail experience is the illegal use of the PCT by off-road vehicles. Off-road or off-highway vehicles are destructive when used on the PCT and are a major cause of erosion, landscape fragmentation and habitat destruction.

This is a complex problem in many ways. There are many responsible riders who embrace “tread lightly” practices and ride legally on designated off-road vehicle trails. There are however, a minority of individuals that are continually riding illegally on the PCT and have created a management problem for authorities while giving a black eye to their entire community. It is important to note that if a rider crosses the PCT but doesn’t ride down the trail, it is still illegal unless the PCT is crossed on a road (Forest Service system road, county road, private road, state road) or a designated, motorized system trail. The PCTA recognizes the importance and supports the existence of a quality network of trails and roads for the off-road community.

The problem lies with the fact that there are many user-created trails that are not part of the Forest Service or BLM systems but are being used on a regular basis to both cross and access the PCT. Those irresponsible riders are disregarding the rules that prohibit this. Not only are they violating the nationwide travel management plans, which prohibit random cross-country travel by motor vehicles on public lands, they are ignoring federal restrictions limiting the use of the PCT to foot traffic by people and stock animals.

The PCTA, Forest Service, BLM, California State Parks, Kern County Sherriff’s Office and local off-road-riding groups have worked in partnership over the years to promote responsible riding, provide better PCT signage and install barriers to discourage riding on the PCT. These groups have been critical in improving the situation and we look forward to continuing this work with them.

It is through these open and honest partnerships that we can create a positive, legal situation for PCT users and off-road riders alike so that we can all equally enjoy our public lands.

Author: Mike Dawson

As Trail Operations Director, Mike is responsible for formulating and implementing PCTA policies related to management and protection of the trail, overseeing management of PCTA trail maintenance program, and coordinating protection of the PCT experience including land protection activities. He lives on Vashon Island in Washington with his wife Tina.