Have you ever wondered what applications and uses our U.S. Governmental agencies have found ATVs and UTVs to be of value? We recently met with Eric Lynch of the USDA Forestry Service – Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest branch in northern Wisconsin and asked him a few questions about the benefits these vehicles have brought to his department! We found what he had to share really interesting, and thought you would too! Here’s some of the interview!
As ATV / UTV enthusiasts, we know and live the multitude of uses and benefits operating these handy vehicles can provide. The numerous applications on the farm or in the field really make our lives easier as private owners. Whether we’re hauling logs or plowing food plots, you can’t deny work as an ATV or UTV owner is just easier! Let's see how the USDA Forestry Service puts them to use...
GearUp2Go: Good morning Eric! Let me start by thanking you for taking time out of your busy day to meet with us! You’ve shared with us that you work for the USDA Forestry Service, but what exactly is your role there?
Eric Lynch: Happy to be here! My official title is Supervisory Civil Engineering Technician for the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Forestry Service. I’m currently working in northern Wisconsin on projects in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.
GearUp2Go: The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest is such a beautiful part of the country! Being from Wisconsin ourselves, we’ve ridden the hundreds of miles of trails this wild, natural area has to offer. For our customers who aren’t as familiar, the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest encompasses more than 1.5 million acres and offers hundreds of miles of ATV / UTV rideable trails and roads through pristine old-growth forests and glacier-molded wilderness!
Eric Lynch: That’s right! The recreational opportunity to residents and visitors to the area is unbelievable! I really enjoy living and working here. As far as ATV / UTV use for me and my department, we’ve been using these vehicles for several years on all kinds of projects, everything from performing land surveying work and public trail maintenance, to mapping out existing roads and trails that currently are not inventoried to be used in future land management activities. Private surveyors use ATVs for some really technical applications like National Height Modernization work – which we do in conjunction with the Department of Transportation and the NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey.
GearUp2Go: Wow, that sounds intense! What exactly is the National Height Modernization work?
Eric Lynch: Basically, the National Height Modernization is a program in which we measure and record the most accurate, reliable, and consistent heights of elevation. This elevation information is critical and impacts a bunch of important activities, like mapping and charting, flood risk determination and floodplain creation, transportation, land use and ecosystem management.
Private surveying firms have been using ATVs to transport the equipment and help keep it at the surrounding temperature all day long! The temperature of the equipment for this type of work must be calibrated and used at the same temperature as the surrounding air temperature. Once the equipment is calibrated to the correct air temperature, it needs to stay outdoors as the accuracy of this work needs to be within millimeters.
ATVs are equipped with electronic distance measuring devices and modifications are made to assist in transporting our Electronic Leveling instruments and leveling rods. The sight distance between the measuring instrument and the level rods behind and ahead of the leveling instrument needs to be the same; the electronic distance measuring devices are calibrated to be within a half meter or less.
The picture below shows how the ATV has been modified to hold level rods needed for the height modernization work.
The picture below shows the use of three ATVs “leap-frogging” each other while performing this highly accurate work. The level rods have a barcode on them that the leveling instrument reads and gives an elevation back to the instrument. The boxes on the side of the ATV hold the level rod to keep it at the surrounding air temperature while keeping them secure and free of road dirt and debris. Survey crews performing this type of work with this set-up can perform approximately 15-21 miles of DOT leveling per day.
GearUp2Go: Who knew that ATVs were used in such important, precise work?! What other uses does your department have for ATVs and UTVs?
Eric Lynch: Well, there really are a ton of things we do that involves the use of ATVs and UTVs. Private surveying firms use them for performing topographic work in wide open spaces, such as fields and parking lots. Our ATVs have been configured to hold survey-grade GPS receivers which allow the operator to keep both hands on the handlebars at all times while moving. The federal government uses ATVs for a variety of projects, including timber harvesting and engineering work.
For timber harvesting, ATVs and UTVs are used to carry in large quantities of paint and measuring devices to scale standing timber and GPS survey old railroad grades and logging roads where a larger vehicle cannot access. Most timber sales have old existing roads in the sale area but are typically grown over, have berms at the entrances, blown over timber, or are too wet and/or rutted to access via pick-up truck. Most of the pre-sale work for the roads needed to access the timber is done using ATVs.
For Engineering work, ATVs are used to access bridges on OHV and snowmobile trails, and to carry in the necessary equipment for performing bridge inspections. ATVs and UTVs are also used to access remote dam sites and to carry in SCUBA diving equipment to these sites. All bridges and dams are required to have inspections performed on them on a routine schedule.
ATVs and UTVs have also been used for emergency response as well. During flood events, we use them to access areas that have been inaccessible by larger vehicles due to roads and trails flooding or washing out. Fire personnel uses UTVs for firefighting activities. They equip the UTV with a pump and a water tank that can hold a specified amount of water and/or foam to help get to remote areas where a fire engine cannot. They also carry firefighters in and out of remote areas and help carry in gear and supplies.
GearUp2Go: It sounds to us like ATVs and UTVs really are an invaluable tool for you and your department!
Eric Lynch: You got that right! We’d be very hard pressed to do a lot of the things we do without them. And I just scratched the surface on how we use them! There are tons of other projects and tasks that we use ATVs and UTVs for.