When people think of off-highway vehicles (OHVs), differing connotations come to mind -- usually ATV (single-rider 4-wheeler) and Enduro-type motorcycles or dirtbikes. That’s probably fairly accurate, but technically when it comes to public lands managed by BLM and other federal and state agencies, any mechanized vehicle that can leave a paved road is an OHV. Thus, OHVs’ include pickups with camper shells or pulling camp trailers, RVs traveling down unpaved county roads, a car on an easy two-track road, mountain bikes on backcountry trails, and 4WD trucks and SUVs on challenging backcountry roads.
Numerous and diverse opportunities for OHV recreation exist on BLM-managed public lands. Miles of trails and open areas await all types of OHV enthusiasts. Please keep in mind that you are responsible for knowing, understanding, and complying with all OHV regulations and state vehicle use laws. Please obey all signs regarding the management of public lands and routes. Know where you are driving, respect private property, stay well away from livestock, wildlife and their water sources, and report any situations or public land management concerns to the nearest BLM office. The BLM regulates the use of roads, trails, and land under its jurisdiction in order to meet specific land management objectives, to protect resources, and to provide public safety.
Public lands in New Mexico are designated in the following vehicle use categories:
- Open Areas -- Open areas are available for all forms of cross-country travel. Vehicles may be operated anywhere within the posted boundaries of open areas. This designation covers about 33 percent of BLM-administered public lands in New Mexico.
- Limited-Use Areas -- The majority of public lands are designated for limited use. In these areas, vehicle travel is limited to approved (or designated) routes of travel. No cross-country vehicle travel is allowed in these areas. Approved routes of travel are most county roads, state highways, other roads and vehicle routes designated open to use through BLM's land-use planning process. This designation covers about 65 percent of BLM-administered lands in New Mexico.
- Closed Areas -- Most closed areas are closed to all motor vehicle use by the general public. Hiking, bicycle riding, equestrian use, and other forms of non-motorized recreation may be permitted in these areas. A few closed areas are closed to all use. These areas are closed for safety reasons or for the protection of special resource values which require a more stringent level of protection. No motorized or mechanized vehicles are allowed in wilderness areas. This includes mountain bikes. This designation covers about 2 percent of BLM-administered public lands in New Mexico.
Following is a table showing BLM’s OHV designations in New Mexico, separated by Field Office. These acreages are subject to change when resource management plans periodically are amended or revised.
|Las Cruces |
|Rio Puerco |
|Statewide Total |
BLM is currently working on maps and brochures depicting OHV use areas and will update these web pages with that information as it is developed. Visit our Field Office recreation web pages or contact a specific Field Office for additional off highway vehicle use information.
Off-Highway Vehicle Use on Public Land / Safety
Enjoy your play -- do it the right way by following all rules and regulations for off-highway vehicle use on public land. Anyone operating an off-highway vehicle on BLM land shall do so in accordance with State laws and regulations concerning use, standards, registration, operation, and inspection of off-road vehicles. Unless you are exempted by the New Mexico Department of Motor Vehicles, you must register your off-highway motor vehicle and affix the registration plate to your vehicle (NM State Statute 66-3-1003).
Anyone operating an off-highway vehicle on public land must have a valid state license or learners permit unless: a) the individual is under the direct supervision of a person 18 years of age or older who has a valid operator’s license and who is responsible for the acts of the person being supervised; or b) the person is certified by State government as competent to drive off-road vehicles after successfully completing a State approved operator’s training program.
Enjoy your play - do it the smart and safe way, by following these suggestions:
- Obtain map(s) of area(s) you wish to explore. Determine which areas are open for use, and make sure each rider in your group has a map and knows where the party is headed .
- Contact land manager(s) for area restrictions, and if crossing private property, be sure to ask permission from landowners.
- Check weather forecast.
- Prepare for the unexpected by packing a small backpack full of emergency items. Take plenty of water and high energy food. Pack a first aid kit. Avoid running out of gas and carry tools needed for minor repairs.
- Wear a safety gear appropriate for the activity, such as ATV, helmet, eye protection, and other safety gear.
- Never double up passengers on ATVs, which are designed for one rider only. This is the single most common cause of debilitating accidents and death, especially among children to young adults.
- Buddy up with two or three riders. Riding solo can leave you vulnerable if you have an accident or breakdown.
- Adhere to posted Travel Management Signs. The signs help guide visitors to do their part in resource protection, and actually benefits OHV experiences.
- Know your limitations.
- Be familiar with your vehicle and keep it in good working condition.
- Operating an off-highway vehicle requires a high degree of skill and judgment. Ride unimpaired - don’t use drugs or alcohol.
- If your vehicle is equipped with a headlight, ride with it on at all times. It will allow other users to see you sooner.
- If riding at night, make sure your vehicle is equipped with headlights sufficient to light an object 300 feet in front of you. Make sure your red taillights can be seen at a distance of 500 feet from the rear.
Active gas wells exist in the Dunes Vehicle Recreation Area. Be safe and stay away from well pads, pipelines, and oilfield equipment. Watch for traffic and heavy trucks.
Have a positive influence on the area and those around you, practice the Tread Lightly! Pledge:
Travel only where permitted.
Respect the rights of others.
Avoid streams, meadows, and wildlife areas.
Drive and travel responsibly.
BLM's Backcountry Guidelines
Click here for additional BLM safety information and guidelines to staying safe in the backcountry.
BLM's National OHV Strategy
For information on BLM's National Management Strategy for Motorized Off-Highway Vehicle Use please visit: www.blm.gov/ohv.
Please feel free to contact local BLM Field Office staff with questions related to OHV use, rules, and regulations.