WATVA Comments – WI DNR ATV and UTV Trail Guidelines Document

Photo by Pete Genteman. Mark Geffers at the Dyracuse Recreational Park slow speed trail area.

December 10, 2021

To: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Staff

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Re: Comments – ATV and UTV Trail Guidelines Document

The Wisconsin ATV/UTV Association (WATVA) appreciates the opportunity to submit our comment on the proposed ATV and UTV trail guideline draft.

To make our input easier to review, we have made some general comments regarding important issues.

  • WATVA applauds the Wisconsin DNR effort and active support of numerous modes of recreations as well as recognizing the importance of making motorized recreation available on Wisconsin's public lands.
  • We feel that it is important to accurately represent what it can and should take to create trails, it's not to be taken lightly. There will always be cynics who don't want any ATV or UTV use on public lands, but by using introspective guidelines, it is possible to provide opportunities to use public lands that upholds all the responsibilities that public land managers have, and our sport will be provided for in a way that minimizes impacts to resources and works with the land.
  • With the existing regulations and requirements for trails already in place, the realities of what it takes to create fun filled experiences can be daunting, but this document does accurately represent the work that goes into creating trails. WATVA appreciates the work that the DNR staff put into this document. Developing clear and consistent guidelines for motorized recreational trail systems is important to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for our trail users.
  • However, environmental reviews have become a lengthy process that needs to be shortened and simplified. These reviews protract trail projects to the point that it is frustrating to the volunteers and trail managers that have already spent numerous hours scoping and planning a corridor for travel.
  • WATVA understands the need for guidelines and that changes need to be made to guarantee sustainable ATV and UTV recreation on public properties in the state of Wisconsin, however we hope the DNR favors exploring innovative approaches to offer the most wide-ranging opportunities available to our rider's needs. It seems that we should be looking for simple solutions that will work, that can protect the resources and meet permit requirements while not overbearing the trail developers. We need common sense solutions that need to be tested and can be changed as new problems or solutions are discovered.
  • The guidelines should encourage shorter timelines to complete trail projects, especially simple projects, to better serve the trail user. We feel a goal of the guidelines should be to make the trail related process more efficient, time saving and economical, since they will provide a broad reference for agencies, trail advocates, and policy makers as they embark on various types of trail development projects.
  • From our point of view, the landscape our two registration programs operate in, ATV and UTV, has changed substantially over the period of time that this document has been developed. Some of the major changes include the growth and expansion of the UTV machine along with the changing demographic of the owner/riders. Owners and riders are very diversified as far as gender, age, and economic status. The other dramatic shift or change is the somewhat spectacular growth curve in the total number of ATV UTV route miles that have and are still being approved in cities, villages, townships, and counties across the state. Many of these ordinances have been brought forward and approved by local citizens, many are not necessarily affiliated with organized clubs. We know we have not captured all the approved routes, but our sources tell us we're at or above 42,000 miles of approved routes in Wisconsin.
  • So how does this change the operating landscape for the "Trail Guidance" document? In the past, where trail connections were once sought, often stymied with obstacles such as wetlands, rivers, lakes, and other obstructions, it has become increasingly simpler to petition a local municipality for route approval access that serves to avoid obstacles and red tape. That situation, combined with the many local owners and riders that do not want to trailer their machines to trails every weekend and or they live far from any trails, so they also seek local route access for pleasure riding on hard surface roads (paved and dirt) between their occasional trips to what we'd consider genuine trail systems.
  • One of our main concerns is that this document is heavily laden towards highly developed and possibly overbuilt gravel trails, and we feel more emphasis should be on the development of more Level 3 and 4 challenge type trails. With already having 42,000 miles or routes and 2,000 miles or more of Level 1 and 2 challenge type trails which are more like roads than trails, we need a better mix and diversification of types of trails.
  • WATVA completed a survey with its members and found that most of the results desired a diverse trail that encompasses multiple surface experiences, with scenic natural settings and access that allows the riders to link to their different choices of destination riding experiences. Our observation and suggestion are to use hardened trail surfaces only where necessary, not automatically on the entire trail. Also, to identify specific sections or segments that require more detailed analysis for spots requiring tread way stabilization in the form of added fill material. The intent of hardening is to determine which segments of the trails are capable of sustaining ATV and UTV travel either as is or with modification. This would be a cost-effective method for necessary modifications.
  • The point is, our concern is that the "trail standard" will most likely be similar to a road standard with the related costs and then have a landscape in the end that presents itself for more opportunities for speed and dust, etc.
  • In the last 3 to 5 years, we've heard the request for slower speeds, challenge trails. Examples are the Wood County Park (mostly mud riding), then the Tigerton facility that has designed and built rock and other obstacles that dramatically slow the speeds (and dust) while providing a more challenging adventure for those that seek that experience. With the new addition of a challenge trail at the Dyracuse Park, their rider counts are up significantly since adding that kind of experience.
  • We feel the most wanted and needed experience to be added at select locations where there's a chance the property would possibly allow small segments of this type of trail experience, is not being highlighted and or planned for with the same or equal focus as the other examples in the draft guidelines. Unless this type of experience is included in the guidance, we feel it would quite likely deter those seeking if or how to develop the slower speed, challenge riding experiences. As "Food for Thought" there should be a stronger reference for this type of slow challenge experience and development so land managers or trail planners are clear, that under the right conditions, that there may be a much different alternative to route type construction.
  • Slow speed challenge and technical trail sections should be considered within trail systems or as alternative to the main trail. These sections require more attention from the rider (well designed, low angle, short-radius curves are enjoyable and much more sustainable.)If the proper challenges are provided, the desire for speed becomes less pronounced. Slower speeds also produce less noise and dust. Natural, hilly areas make for the best trails, while long, straight trails can be found to be tiresome. Riders enjoy challenges with a variety of conditions – although not all the trails should be highly difficult, diversity is preferred. On page 9 there is a quote from "One User's Perspective", we feel that statement represents MANY users' perspective, thousands rather than one person.
  • Our intent with these comments is not to derail all the work, effort and tenacity that has been put forth on this guidance document, but the scenarios have changed fairly rapidly in the past few years and we want to make sure that his slower challenging trail type is accounted for accordingly and appropriately.
  • The Wisconsin ATV/UTV Association and its Chapter Clubs, its many businesses and travel partners that provide an invaluable economic stimulus to Wisconsin, thank you for this opportunity to present our viewpoint.

Please feel free to call our state headquarters office for any clarifications or questions you might have about our input or our comments.


Randy Harden - President
Rob McConnell - Vice President

File Name: WI DNR ATV / UTV Trail Guidelines Draft Document
File Size: 2.8 mb
Download File

Fish, Wildlife and Parks Public Input Opportunities | Wisconsin DNR

Check out the public comment page for the WI DNR. Click on the ATV and UTV Trail Guidelines document or submit your own input. 
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ATV/UTV Riders: Think Smart Before You Start During Gun Deer Season

Hunters Reminded To Ride Safely When Using ATVs/UTVs

Contact: DNR Office of Communications
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The DNR reminds hunters to ride safely when using ATVs and UTVs during their hunt this year. / Photo Credit: iStock/bernardbodo

MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds hunters to ride safely when using all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and utility-terrain vehicles (UTVs) during their hunt this year.

Since January 2021, 41 people have died in ATV and UTV-related crashes. Most of the incidents involved people not wearing a helmet or seat belt. There were 38 fatal crashes in 2020.

Hunters using ATVs or UTVs to retrieve harvests or travel off-road to hunting locations should take life-saving precautions such as wearing a helmet and buckling up. Most hunting incidents involving ATVs or UTVs often occur on private lands and are linked by common factors.

"ATVs and UTVs are powerful and potentially dangerous vehicles. Oftentimes, accidents happen by simply going too fast for conditions, not judging the curve correctly or not knowing the terrain," said Lt. Martin Stone, DNR Conservation Warden and Off-Highway Vehicle Administrator. "Safety is part of the fun. Please ride responsibly."

ATV riders at least 12 years old and born after Jan. 1, 1988 must complete a course before operating an ATV on public trails and areas in Wisconsin. UTV operators must be at least age 16.

Complete an ATV safety course either in classroom or online by signing up here.

ATV/UTV Tips For A Safe Ride:

  • Don't drink and ride.
  • Slow down.
  • Some terrain in Wisconsin is too steep for ATV/UTVs. Traverse hills with caution.
  • Display registration ID number on a rear plate for all ATVs and UTVs registered for public use.
  • Always wear a Department of Transportation (DOT)-approved helmet. Hunters are more likely to come across low hanging branches or uneven terrain. Serious injuries and death can occur even at low speeds.
  • Just as with other vehicles, long guns and bows/crossbows must be fully unloaded before transporting them in or on an ATV or UTV.
  • Do not operate in or around waterways or wetlands. ATVs and UTVs are only allowed to cross waterways at bridges, roads or legal fords. Machine use in these areas is illegal and causes serious habitat damage that is very costly to repair.

Hunters using ATV and UTVs can also help protect natural areas by removing mud, dirt and any vegetation from vehicles prior to traveling as they can easily transport invasive plant species or seeds that are harmful to local habitats.

For more information on ATV/UTV laws visit the DNR's ATV/UTV Riding In Wisconsin webpage. 

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Burnett County Update - Fall Riding Season


(Please read all information below)

Beginning Thursday, September 16, State-funded trails will be CLOSED. HOWEVER, from September 16 through November 30 the Burnett County Forest woods trails and forest roads are open for ATV/UTV use. What this means is that you can ride your registered ATV/UTV on any woods trail, snowmobile trail, and ATV trail that is located on County Forest Lands and is not bermed, gated, or signed as closed; and is at least eight feet wide. (A good rule of thumb is that if you can drive a truck down the trail, then you can take your ATV/UTV down it.) No off-trail use is allowed and operation on private lands is illegal unless you have permission from the private landowner.

It is very important to note that all of these trails are currently multi-use trails. This means that ANY street legal, licensed vehicle can use these trails during this time, (cars or trucks for example). It's also important to note that these trails are no longer being maintained during this time of year. For these reasons, the State-Funded Summer Use ATV Trail System is officially closed, even though you can still ride the majority of these same trails because they are located on County Forest Lands and township roads that currently allow for the use of ATV/UTVs during this time of year.

Remember, it is illegal to ride your ATV/UTV on the Gandy Dancer Trail in Burnett County south of Highway 77 at this time of year.


Use caution and look for signage regarding timber sale activity. Trucks may be crossing trails.

All ATVs and UTVs must display either a Wisconsin registration or an ATV trail pass to ride on our trails. Only machines meeting the state definition of an ATV/UTV are allowed on these trails. Please follow this link for the state definitions and registration/pass information.

Some township ordinances allow for ATV/UTV use of the town roads and others do NOT allow it. It is the rider's responsibility to contact the township in which you plan to ride in and get the current rules pertaining to ATVs/UTVs and the town roads. Please follow this link for contact information for the individual townships for their rules and regulations.

NO OFF TRAIL USE IS ALLOWED - Please stay on the trails. Much of our trail system is on private land, and we appreciate the easements granted by our generous land owners. It only takes one person to have the entire trail system shut down.

Caution: Trail maintenance vehicles may be on the trails at any time.

It is your responsibility to know where you are and whose property you are on. Please be careful, be respectful to other trail users, and ride safely.

To contact Burnett County Forest & Parks, please visit their website at www.burnettcounty.com/trails.

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Osseo Area Dusty Riders Receives Yamaha Outdoor Access Grant

Osseo Area Dusty Riders

Brad Van Schoyck, President
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Osseo, WI---August 2, 2021—The Osseo Area Dusty Riders is pleased to announce it has received a Yamaha Outdoor Access Initiative grant of $15,000 for resurfacing a one mile portion of the Buffalo River ATV/UTV Trail. The grant was awarded as part of Yamaha's Outdoor Access Initiative promoting safe responsible riding and open sustainable riding areas.

The Osseo Area Dusty Riders identified a three mile section of the Buffalo River Trail located in Garfield Township near Fairchild, WI, that needed resurfacing due to erosion and extremely rough riding due to the undulating surface. Improvements to the trail include grading and compacting, addition of 4 inches of ¾ inch rock and 4 inches of road gravel applied through a paver. According to President Brad Van Schoyck, the cost of the entire project will be $150,000.00 and will need to be completed in phases. The first phase will be completed this year.

President Van Schoyck stated that the project has been a community effort. " In addition to the funds provided by the Yamaha Grant, The Osseo Area Dusty Riders have received a second grant from Polaris, have raised funds through club activities, and have received donations from local business and private club members. We know that we have a lot of work ahead, but we have raised almost $50,000.00 to complete Phase I. We have been working with local townships, Trempealeau County and the State of Wisconsin to assure that the project meets the recognized standards for trail riding."

Local businesses located along the Buffalo River Trail have been impacted by rough trail conditions that have deterred many riders from using the trail. The trail is an important conduit in the ATV/UTV Trail System, as it connects the eastern counties of Buffalo, Trempealeau, and Eau Claire Counties, with the western counties of Jackson and Clark. In addition to the economic impact the trail has on the area, it also offers opportunities for trail riders to access new destinations.

The mission of the Osseo Area Dusty Riders is to provide a positive experience for all ATV/UTV riders who utilize the trails that their organization has adopted. The organization will maintain the trail system, develop and share maps, promote safety and education programs, and provide a conduit of communication between fellow ATV/UTV clubs, government entities, and the general public. Furthermore, the Osseo Area Dusty Riders recognizes areas of need in their community and will support these needs with charitable donations.
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WIDNR: Ride Responsibly This Holiday Weekend

17 Fatal ATV/UTV Crashes So Far In 2021 
It is the responsibility of all ATV and UTV operators to make the sport a safe one. Brush up on safety tips before heading out for the holiday weekend. / Photo Credit: iStock/wundervisuals

MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is asking ATV and UTV operators to ride safely this Fourth of July weekend.

When out with family and friends for off-road rides and adventures, wearing a helmet and seat belt, monitoring speed and brushing up on safety best practices could save your life.

So far this year, 17 people have died in ATV/UTV crashes. Of the 5 fatal UTV crash victims, none were wearing helmets and 4 of 5 did not wear seat belts. Of the 12 fatal ATV crash victims, 10 were not wearing helmets.

"The Fourth of July holiday weekend is often a busy time on our trails and road routes," said Lt. Martin R. Stone, DNR Off-Highway Vehicle Administrator. "This year, 12 of the 17 fatal crashes so far occurred on public roads or routes. We want everyone to stay safe out there; familiarizing yourself with ATV-UTV laws and safe operation practices is a must before you head out."


When used safely, ATVs and UTVs provide fun, family recreation and are a valuable tool for working or exploring the outdoors. However, these vehicles are powerful and can be dangerous and even fatal. It is the responsibility of all ATV and UTV operators to make the sport a safe one.

Follow these tips for a safe ride: 

  • Never consume alcohol or drugs before or during your ride.
  • Wear a seat belt and a Department of Transportation (DOT)-approved helmet.
  • In addition to a seat belt and helmet, wear protective clothing such as eye protection, gloves, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.
  • Keep your speed in check for the terrain, visibility conditions and your experience.
  • Remember that some terrain in Wisconsin is too steep for ATV/UTVs. Please be careful while traversing hills or uneven terrain.
  • Know before you go. Review all ATV/UTV laws here.

One of the best things ATV and UTV operators can do to operate safely is to take an online safety course. A list of approved safety education classes is available on the DNR Safety Education webpage.

ATV and UTV operators born on or after Jan. 1, 1988, who are at least 12 years old for an ATV (and at least 16 years old for UTV) must complete an ATV safety certification course to operate in Wisconsin (exception: on private property owned by operator's immediate family).

Wisconsin law requires every operator involved in a crash incident to report the incident without delay to law enforcement officials. In addition, within 10 days of the incident, the operator must submit a written report to the DNR.

For more information on ATV and UTV recreation in Wisconsin, visit the DNR's website.

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