New winter recreation plan implemented

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This week's snowstorm ushered in a new era in winter recreation in areas of the Routt National Forest bracketing Steamboat Springs.

The new Winter Recreation Management Plan approved by the Forest Service last summer is in effect on Rabbit Ears and Buffalo passes and is enforceable by law. The practical result is that boundary lines have been drawn to separate motorized and non-motorized forms of recreation.

Maps are available at the U.S. Forest Service Office, on the south edge of Steamboat Springs on U.S. Highway 40, or they can be viewed at www.fs.fed.us/r2/mbr

However, Hahn's Peak/Bears Ears District Ranger Kim Vogel said the intent behind the boundary lines is to ensure winter recreationists of all kinds find what they are seeking.

"We want everyone to have an opportunity for a quality recreational opportunity," Vogel said.

Hahn's Peak Ranger District officials are erecting maps at trailheads and installing boundary markers in the forest. In the meantime, maps are available at the Forest Service office on the south edge of Steamboat Springs on U.S. Highway 40, or they can be viewed at www.fs.fed.us/r2/mbr.

Also new this year is a requirement that all winter forest visitors in the Buffalo Pass Area obtain a free permit beginning Jan. 1. Although the permit is free this year, failure to produce one when contacted by a Forest Service law enforcement person could result in a fine ranging from $50 to $100.

Vogel said that beginning in the winter of 2006-07, an undetermined fee will be charged for the permits. Daily permits and season passes will be available. There are no current plans to require permits on Rabbit Ears Pass.

The Forest Service has been working with the different user groups for several years to come up with a workable plan to reduce the growing number of conflicts resulting from the popularity of Rabbit Ears and Buffalo passes. The new plan was deemed necessary because snowmobiling, backcountry ski--ing and commercial snowcat operations aren't always compatible. "Hybrid" users who use snowmobiles to ski and snowboard backcountry powder are also in the mix.

-- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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