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OHV Economic Impacts of Land Use Restrictions

Paul M. Jakus, John E. Keith, and Lu Liu Department of Applied Economics, Utah State University 
Using the data collected in the OHV owner survey questionnaire, a data set consisting of the county destinations of each trip from each county origin was created. Several econometric models were tested to determine the significant variables affecting choices of trip destinations by each origin. These models used travel cost, the percentage of public land open, limited (restricted to specific trails), and closed to off-highway vehicle (OHV) use, the existence of sand dunes, the existence of “red rocks” and a county-specific “dummy” variable. Results indicated that all of the variables were significant for each origin county, with the exception of the “county specific” variable, which was significant about half the time.
In order to examine the effects of proposed changes in OHV access in the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) resource management plans (RMPs) as they currently are proposed, the changes in access were used to estimate changes in trip destinations. In general, trip destinations changed from the Southeastern portion of Utah to the Western and Northwestern portions. Most changes were relatively small (less than 2 percent). However, some changes were relatively large (a reduction of 20 per cent in Carbon and Emery Counties and an increase of 40 percent in Sevier County).
Expenditure per trip data from the questionnaire were used in order to determine the economic impact of OHV use in general and the predicted changes in use. Some counties had over 100 jobs associated with current levels of OHV use, but most had much smaller numbers of jobs. Compared to the economic bases of these counties, OHV impacts were quite small (less than 1 per cent). Since changes in visitation were only a portion of the total visitation, the effects of changes on the local economies was very small. The most affected counties (Carbon and Emery) were predicted to lose about 15 jobs, compared to a total employment of over 18,000.

The study indicated, first, that trip destination appeared sensitive to the amount of open, limited and closed land available to recreators. Predicted changes in visitation ranged from very small (around 2 per cent) to significant (20 to 40 percent). Nevertheless, the economic impact of OHV visitation in general was small relative to the total economies, and the changes were insignificant. It should be noted, however, that those changes could be serious should they occur in a single town or small area.

Utah State University Logan, UT September 2008