BOISE – Idaho Fish and Game’s Conservation Officers are noticing a trend of hunters running afoul of motor vehicle use restrictions on public lands by using e-bikes and incorrectly assuming motorized vehicle restrictions do not apply to them.
No matter how you slice it, e-bikes are motorized vehicles in Idaho – whether you’re talking about lands that Idaho Fish and Game manages or provides access to, or federal lands managed by the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management.
It is a hunter’s responsibility to know and abide by vehicle use restrictions on public lands, including policies set by the land management agency, or restrictions that have been put in place by Fish and Game that relate specifically to hunting.
Know which agency manages the land, and where e-bikes are allowed
To clarify, this information is directed toward hunters using e-bikes, not recreational riders. Hunters with e-bikes need to know the land management agency for the property they are hunting, as well as that agency’s rules for motor vehicle and e-bike use for that specific area.
“While there may be some limited exceptions – which hunters are responsible for confirming with the appropriate land management agency – it’s generally a safe assumption that the use of e-bikes is limited to motorized roads and trails, regardless of where you are hunting,” said Matt O’Connell, Southwest Regional Conservation Officer.
On lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service, e-bikes are only allowed on National Forest System roads and trails that are designated for motorized vehicle use, or trails specifically designated as open to e-bikes.
Here is more information about e-bike use specific to US Forest Service lands. Hunters should also be aware that each USFS district has a motorized travel map that they publish annually, which are free to the public in several formats. Just because it may appear that a road or trail can be driven on doesn’t mean that it is legal.
On lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, e-bikes are currently allowed on all roads and trails open to OHV use, and in all areas designated as “OHV open” under applicable land use plans, or on trails specifically designated as open to e-bikes. Here is more information about e-bikes on BLM lands.
E-bikes are subject to the same restrictions as any other motor vehicle on lands administered by the Idaho Department of Lands, which you can read more about on their website.
What about properties that Fish and Game manages or provides access to?
E-bikes are not allowed on any road, trail or area that is closed to motorized travel, including at Wildlife Management Areas, Wildlife Habitat Areas, Access Yes! properties and Large Tracts Access lands.
Hunters can find maps of Wildlife Management Areas and Wildlife Habitat areas, many of which depict roads and non-motorized trails, on Fish and Game’s WMA webpage. Hunters visiting Access Yes! properties should check to see if the individual property they plan to hunt has any restrictions on vehicle use before heading out into the field.
Hunters in Northern Idaho should also check for motor vehicle restrictions on Large Tracts Access properties if they plan to use them, and make use of the interactive map that depicts roads approved for travel.
Fish and Game properties, as well as those available through Fish and Game’s access programs, are also often signed to indicate what roads are closed to motorized traffic.
Don’t forget about Fish and Game’s Motorized Hunting Rule
Another thing to consider is Idaho Fish and Game’s Motorized Hunting Rule, which is specific to hunting big game animals, including moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat, in designated units between Aug. 30 and Dec. 31. The rule restricts the use of motorized vehicles by hunters as an aid to hunting big game animals in certain areas.
You can find a map of units with Motorized Hunting Rule, as well as more detailed information about the restrictions (and exemptions) online, or on Pages 104-106 of the Idaho Big Game 2023 Seasons & Rules Brochure.
In these designated units, hunters may use motorized vehicles only on established roadways open to motorized traffic and capable of being traveled by full-sized automobiles. Per Idaho statute, a “motorized vehicle” means any water, land or air vehicle propelled by means of steam, petroleum products, electricity, or any other mechanical power — which includes e-bikes.