Community Agriculture Alliance: Take care of your national forest while hunting

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Each year, the Routt National Forest spends hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars repairing road damage. Most of the damage to roads and motorized trails on the Routt National Forest happens during October and November. This is partly because the roads are usually wet, and it's easier for motorized vehicles to cause ruts and other damage. It's also partly because of the increased number of people using motorized vehicles on the national forest during hunting season.

People traveling in the forest during hunting season often are from other states and may be unfamiliar with the roads and the travel management rules. Unfamiliarity also can result in damage to forest areas that are not even open to motor vehicle use.

Forest Service offices have travel management maps to help people identify routes that are open to motorized use. Motorized Vehicle Use Maps are free to the public and are available at Ranger Districts in Steamboat Springs, Walden and Yampa, as well as on the Web site, www.fs.fed.us/r2/mbr/recreation/travel_management. The maps show only the motorized routes - either off-highway vehicles (ATVs, motorcycles) or full-size vehicles. If the road is not on the map, motorized travel is not allowed. Citations will be issued for illegal travel.

Motorized travel is restricted to designated roads and trails to protect soil, watershed and wildlife. Many of these travel restrictions enhance hunting opportunities by creating areas in which big game feel secure.

The Forest Service puts travel restriction signs on the ground where practical, but signing everywhere simply is not feasible. Forest users should have a map and know the travel regulations for the areas they are visiting.

In addition, the Forest Service reminds people to not travel on wet, muddy roads. It tears up the road, and you could end up stuck and cause even more damage trying to get unstuck.

Another action that seems to occur mostly during hunting season is the placement of makeshift toilets on the national forest. Although it's okay to place and use the toilets, it's also a requirement to remove them and bury the waste when finished. Each year, dozens of these makeshift toilets are left on the national forest. The Forest Service does not have extra personnel to spend days locating and removing the toilets and other items or garbage left behind. So remember, if you packed it in, you pack it out. This applies to all items - garbage, carpets, tents and other camping gear.

Enjoy and help take care of your national forests.

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