New Motorized Vehicle maps for Greys River Ranger District
Open House in Afton on April 30th
by Bridger-Teton National Forest
April 9, 2009
(Afton, Wyo.) – The Greys River Ranger District of the Bridger-Teton National Forest will present motorized use vehicle maps at an open house on April 30, 2009, in order to comply with the Forest Service’s 2005 Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) Rule. The OHV rule required the forests to restrict motorized uses to a designated route system. The maps will display only those roads, trails, or areas designated for motor vehicle use. Other landmarks and non-motorized trails, as well as unauthorized roads or roads intended to be temporary, will not be shown on these maps. The maps will be produced annually and will serve as the primary law enforcement tool for motor vehicle use citations.
"Operating a motor vehicle on National Forest System roads, trails, and to campsites on National Forest System lands" says Greys River District Ranger Jay Dunbar, "carries a greater responsibility than operating that vehicle in town or around the ranch." Not only must motor vehicle operators know and follow all applicable traffic laws, but they also need to show concern for the environment as well as for other forest users. "Motorized use conducted in a manner which causes damage to vegetation, soil and water resources," Dunbar adds, "may be reason to shut a trail down." Operators of motor vehicles are subject to State traffic law, including State requirements for licensing, registration, and operation of the vehicle in question, and Forest Service employees are authorized to write citations for failure to properly license vehicles.
The new Motor Vehicle Use Map was developed in order to be in compliance with the OHV Rule passed by Congress. On the Bridger-Teton National Forest, main forest road arteries like the Smiths Fork and Greys River roads are enrolled in Wyoming’s Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) program. Narrower, yet still busy, roads along the Star Valley Front, like Cottonwood Lake and Swift Creek roads are also enrolled. Enrollment allows for riders of 4-wheelers and motorbikes to utilize these forest corridors without purchasing license plates for their vehicles. Instead, state stickers can be purchased that allow both road and trail use. Nonetheless, state law still requires licensed drivers to operate these ORVs when on forest roads, which only makes sense from a safety standpoint. Young children are not conscious of road rules, other traffic, or even common hazards. Children or other drivers without a state license can legally ride on designated trails only. Recreation Specialist sid smith reminds adults that "While young people enjoy their ORVs, adults need to keep their safety at the forefront of your minds." Large vehicles, dust, sharp corners, blind hills, wildlife, livestock, rocks or potholes all add to the mix of riding challenges that drivers need to be aware of on forest roads. Slower speeds keep all drivers, and others using or crossing the roads, safer.
"With the new Motor Vehicle Use Maps due out by summer," Dunbar says, "designated routes will be clearly depicted for drivers and riders of different types of motor vehicles." ORV riders have grown accustomed to using the Forest Visitor Map to determine what routes they are allowed on. Full-size trucks and camping vehicles, however, may not be so accustomed, and many drivers still report following anything that ‘looks like a road.’ Many old two-tracks are not part of the designated system that came into effect in 1991. Motor vehicle designations include parking along designated routes and at facilities associated with designated routes when it is safe to do so and when not causing damage to National Forest System resources. "Understanding what constitutes damage is part of being a responsible driver," Dunbar asserts. "Forest roads will last a lot longer and need a lot less maintenance if people don’t drive on them when wet. Ruts provide a channel for water and eventually cause sediment to reach creeks and rivers. ORV riders especially need to protect motorized trails during spring runoff and fall rainy season."
Dispersed camping, that is camping outside of developed or fee campgrounds, will continue to be allowed along any designated road. A 300-foot allowance is given for dispersed camping with motor vehicles. "Many, but not all, routes to commonly used campsites on the Greys River District will be shown on the Motor Vehicle Use Map," says smith, "which is why we have the blanket 300-foot rule." Of course, driving a vehicle 300-feet off of a designated route just to pick berries or pull out a fishing pole are not part of that exemption. Game retrieval is also not considered a justified reason for driving any vehicle beyond the designated route. Few animals will be killed within that corridor, so game will already be in the process of being packed from somewhere in the backcountry out to a vehicle.
Driving into dispersed campsites is part of the attraction of camping on the Greys River. "People appreciate the freedom of not being required to camp only in developed areas," smith agrees. "We ask responsible drivers to be careful, however, of the soil, vegetation and water resources in these areas." Driving into a site is different from using ORVs or other vehicles, to get from the site down to the river, to go visit someone at a neighboring site, or to play on jumps or drive figure eights around the trees. All of these activities damage the resources that the Forest Service is mandated to conserve for next generations of visitors. As the TREAD Lightly® principles remind us, we can ‘allow for future use of the outdoors by leaving it better than you found it.’ District Ranger Dunbar applauds the efforts of many Star Valley residents and visitors who do just that. "We always appreciate the community’s willingness to recreate with minimum impact, and to keep roadways and campsites cleaned up and cared for."
The new Motor Vehicle Use Map will be presented at an Open House at the Greys River District Office, 671 N. Washington Ave. in Afton, on Thursday, April 30th, from 4-7:30 pm. Refreshments will be served and interested recreationists are encouraged to drop in.