Laramie, Wyo. – The Medicine Bow National Forest (MBNF) announced last Friday that minor modifications have been made to a recently-released winter travel Special Order.
The start date for usage of over-the-snow vehicles (OSV) operating off designated routes has been adjusted to Nov. 16 and the wording regarding minimum snow depth requirements for OSV off-road operation has been clarified.
“After further assessment and based on substantive feedback we’ve recently received, it was apparent that some portions of this Order needed clarification and modification,” said Forest Supervisor Phil Cruz. “We listened to the public, state agencies and our staff, and feel as though we have strengthened the Order with the changes that were made.
"We moved quickly to make the adjustments due to the proximity of the November dates, especially in regards to the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.”
The following summarizes the modified Special Order provisions:
- Wheeled motor vehicles may not be used from Dec. 15-April 15 of each year on designated and/or groomed snowmobile trails as indicated on the current State Trails map for the MBNF.
o No changes were made to this portion of the Order. These dates coincide with typical grooming by Wyoming State Trails.
- Between June 1 and Nov. 15 all types of OSVs may not be used off of designated routes shown on the local MVUM.
o There is no off road or cross country travel between those dates in the same way that wheeled ATVs are restricted.
o Provided snow depth conditions allow, OSVs may travel cross country for six and a half months, from Nov. 16–May 31.
o The start date for OSV off-road travel is based on the average end dates for most big-game hunting seasons on the Forest, while the end date for OSV off-road travel is based around when WYDOT typically plows open Wyoming Highways 70 and 130.
- The order sets a minimum snow depth of approximately 12 inches before OSVs are allowed off of designated routes as shown on the local MVUM. Protection of soil and vegetation resources is cited as grounds for determining if snow cover is sufficient.
o In order to give clear guidance to both the public and law enforcement alike, the modified Order uses the term “approximately 12 inches” in order to account for variability in snow depth, as well as the language “or when/where snow cover conditions are insufficient to protect soil and vegetation resources” in order to clarify the intent of this portion.
o The minimum snow depth standard is intended to be site specific, IE: 12 inches is not required everywhere, and will be used in coordination with the established seasonal dates.
o The minimum snow depth standard is consistent with sister forest and administrative management unit, the Routt National Forest.
The regulations remain consistent with the MBNF Plan and work in conjunction with U.S. Forest Service Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM), as well as the Wyoming State Trails map to curb user conflicts and provide resource protection.
It is important to note that OSVs are still allowed to travel on open roads from June 1–Nov. 15, but may not go off road or cross country until both dates and approximate snow depths are in place.
The premise of the new rules remains the same, as they are meant to protect groomed trails from damage, enhance snowmobile safety, as well as reduce resource impacts to wildlife, their habitat and vegetation when snow is shallow. Conflict between user groups should also be reduced, such as during the fall when hunters and other recreationists are still afoot in the Forest and OSV usage begins. Another example would be when hikers begin early season treks on the Forest and OSV usage is winding down.
Forest Service employees will work this fall, winter and spring towards making contact with as many recreationists as possible and providing education on the new order. Signage will also be changed as time and budget allows, expecting for all information to be updated in 2014. Information will be distributed to Forest Service permitees and will be made available at locations where annual State OSV registration stickers are sold.
Since implementation of the new order will be gradual, U.S. Forest Service staff will be using discretion in the coming months when faced with enforcing the new special order. The history of winter travel in the area and the rate of information distribution concerning the new order will be taken into account.
Visitors to the Medicine Bow National Forest should contact their local Ranger District for additional information regarding winter recreation.
- Brush Creek-Hayden Ranger District, 2171 Highway 130, Saratoga, WY, (307) 326-5258
- Douglas Ranger District, 2250 E. Richards Street, Douglas, WY, (307)358-4690
- Laramie Ranger District, 2468 Jackson Street, Laramie, WY, (307)745-2300
Information may also be found on this website, http://fs.usda.gov/mbr, or you can follow the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests and Thunder Basin National Grassland on Twitter, @MBRNFsTBNG.