What is Habitat?
Habitat varies from species to species, but it encompasses all of the needs of that species. It is the total environment upon which a species depends. There are four basic elements: food, water, shelter and adequate space. Also included is the arrangement of the basic elements to one another.
An often overlooked need is “solitude” (or lack of disturbance). Many species of wildlife have negative (flight or fight) reactions to approaching noises, including OHVs. You can minimize impacts on wildlife by staying on designated roads and trails or in special-use areas. Never chase wildlife.
The survival of animals is often precarious and disturbances by humans can result in death. Animals survive winter by eating summer plants and building critical fat reserves. OHVs can destroy critical foraging spaces, turning meadows into mud bogs and reducing survivability, this means staying on designated roads and trails.
Streams are exceptionally fragile. Take extra precautions where trails ford streams. Traveling along banks or through stream beds causes stream sedimentation, a process where the stream fills with silt, soil and gravel. The pools that once contained fish and other aquatic species become nothing but moist sand. Go directly from an established trail to the trail on the opposite bank.
The impact of OHVs: What are the issues?
The use of OHVs during hunting season has dramatically increased. While OHVs have made access to some backcountry areas and big game retrieval easier for some hunters, the increased use has created new challenges.
Off-trail use. Operating an OHV off-trail is illegal. Illegal off-trail operation of OHVs can cause soil erosion and damage fish and wildlife habitat. Illegal OHV operation threatens the future of OHV recreation.
Proliferation of roads. Cross-country travel has led to the creation of tens of thousands of illegal roads across the state. A new road can be created with just two or three passes of a vehicle. If you see tire tracks leading somewhere, do not follow them.
What can be done to reduce the impact?
- Be mindful of your dust around homes and camps. Excessive dust is one of the top complaints from landowners, and it’s one of the reasons private roads are being closed across this state.
- Stay on open roads and trails.
- Avoid wet areas. OHVs can do serious damage to meadows, streams and other wet areas important to wildlife and Arizona’s water supply. Even a lighter-weight OHV with low-pressure tires can do lasting damage.
- Avoid using muddy roads whenever possible to prevent damaging the roadways. Also avoid driving off-road to avoid standing water. This causes the “braiding” of roads and leads to a significant amount of habitat damage. If it is too muddy, turn around.
- Respect private property. Many dirt roads and trails cross private property. Always ask for permission before operating an OHV on private roads and trails if posted. Operating without permission, or in a disrespectful manner, can lead to closures directly affecting your OHV opportunities. Do not trespass — there are criminal and civil penalties for violating trespassing laws.
- Respect other recreationists. Slow down or stop your OHV when approaching others on the trail. When meeting equestrians, approach slowly, pull over and stop. Once the equestrians have passed, continue.
- To reduce noise and emissions, keep your OHV properly tuned and muffled.
- Limit OHV use in or near campgrounds. Be respectful of other campers’ desires for quiet and minimal disruption.
- When overtaking others on the trail, pass in a safe and courteous manner.
Arizona clean air
To reduce dust pollution (PM10), communities across Maricopa and Pinal counties have specific laws for the operation of motor vehicles on unpaved roads, dry washes, riverbeds and open areas. Check with the Maricopa County Air Quality Department for laws on vehicle use in unincorporated areas of Maricopa County, and city agencies for areas within city boundaries. Always check with the appropriate land manager for road closures, fire danger, special permits and permissions, and other possible restrictions before operating your OHV.
Maricopa County Air Quality
Arizona Department of Air Quality
ADEQ Fact Sheet
Recreation in Arizona
License your off-highway vehicle for going out on trails. Check out the lakes in Arizona and what they have to offer.