Steamboat Springs Bountiful snow has made the local forests a mecca for snowmobiling this winter, but some of those recreating in the backcountry have not been following the rules.
The U.S. Forest Service has issued several violations to snowmobilers caught riding in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area northeast of Steamboat Springs, said Kent Foster, recreation manager for the Hahn’s Peak/Bears Ears Ranger District. There also have been violations in the Sarvis Creek and Flat Tops wilderness areas.
Snowmobiles, like all motorized equipment, are illegal in wilderness areas.
“The 1964 Wilderness Act set aside wildernesses as places to enjoy primitive adventure and solitude, as refuges from the sights and sounds of the mechanized world,” the Forest Service wrote in a news release asking snowmobilers to respect the wilderness.
In addition to wilderness areas, the Forest Service also is reminding people to respect the nonmotorized areas such as the west side of Rabbit Ears Pass and the area adjacent to the Dry Lake winter trailhead on Buffalo Pass.
“It’s a regulation that we can enforce with a fine if violated,” Foster said.
Nonmotorized boundaries are clearly marked, Foster said, so he does not think the violations are accidental.
“I’ve been up there where a snowmobile track will go right past a wilderness boundary sign,” Foster said. “We have it well signed.”
Violations are punishable by fines of as much as $5,000, six months in jail, and the forfeiture of snowmobiles and other items involved.
Boundary signs are posted in heavy-use areas, and maps at winter trailheads show where people can go on snowmobiles. Maps also are available at http://fs.usda.gov/mbr.
“This information is to inform riders, but ultimately, it is their responsibility to know where they are and to avoid taking their machines into the wilderness or other areas where snowmobiling is prohibited,” Foster said.
Forest Service offices can be reached by phone in Steamboat Springs at 970-870-2299, Yampa at 970-638-4516 or Walden at 970-723-2703.