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Recreation Advocate

The OutdoorWire family websites feature news and information affecting outdoor recreation opportunities and access to public lands. 

OHV riders: Protect habitat, stay on trails and avoid wet, muddy areas

PHOENIX — While it’s tempting to head out on an off-highway vehicle (OHV) following rain or a snowstorm, soggy trails quickly turn muddy, and riding on them can create long-lasting damage that negatively impacts wildlife habitat.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department advises OHV riders that come upon wet and muddy roads to resist the urge to hit the gas and instead turn around or avoid the area. Splashing or mudding straight through can tear up roads and trails, making them impassable for others and causing serious damage to meadows, streams and other areas important to wildlife and Arizona’s water supply.

Even a lighter-weight OHV with low-pressure tires can do lasting damage.

While the practice of “mudding” — purposefully driving through wet areas, whether it’s a meadow, lakeshore or water tank for wildlife or ranchers’ animals — may be touted as fun on places like social media, it can cause long-lasting damage to the habitat and forest roads.

OHV riders can be issued citations and be held liable to fix the damage caused. It can cost tens of thousands of dollars to repair an area and an untold amount of time for a habitat to recover.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, mudding has many negative impacts, including:

  • Rips up native plants — when plants are gone soil washes into nearby streams and lakes, and it creates the opportunity for noxious weeds to move in.
  • Compacts soil — tire tracks create hard soil that keeps water from moving into the ground and they make it difficult for plants to grow.
  • Harms wildlife — when vehicles tear up meadows and wetlands, it removes nesting and hiding cover, interferes with feeding, and may push animals out into areas where they may not survive.
  • Smothers fish — many species of fish and amphibians use gravel to build nests and bury their eggs. Driving through streams destroys these gravel areas.

It’s also a safety issue for riders. OHVs handle differently on wet roads than they do on dry ground, so use caution and drive at slower speeds when roads and trails are wet.

OHV riders are also reminded to wear a helmet at all times while on the trails.

If you see someone mudding, call 1-800-VANDALS. It’s helpful if you can get a license plate number and description of both the OHV and the operator as well as a location of the activity so law enforcement personnel can follow up on the information.

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