Forest Service’s new Travel Management Plans restrict driving in national forests
By Bob Difley
After five years of work with local authorities and recreational providers, the supervisors of the various national forests are finishing off their mandated Travel Management Plans (TMP) that will designate where you can drive in their forest. Many of the forests have already published and implemented their TMP and others are being added as their work is completed.
Former Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth had named unregulated motor vehicle use as one of the four biggest threats to the national forest system and directed all forest supervisors to write new plans that lay out–in detail–where motor vehicles are permitted.
The Wallowa-Whitman National forest in northeastern Oregon is one of the latest to announce the completion of their long-anticipated TMP which will be released to the public in the next couple of weeks. Forest supervisor, Monica Schwalbach, wrote in a letter to the Baker City Herald that the plan “creates a balance between providing motor vehicle-based recreation opportunities and reducing damaging effects to natural resources.”
In most forests–including the Wallowa-Whitman–driving motor vehicles and boondocking was previously allowed on all forest roads. The TMP, however, will designate those roads where driving and boondocking is permitted. If it is not permitted, it will not be allowed and a fine could result.
The TMR will also outline specific areas where boondocking (dispersed camping) is permitted. If not on the list, camping will not be permitted further than one vehicle length off the road.
Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM) detailing the permitted driving and camping areas will be provided free at ranger stations and on the internet on the forests’ individual websites and it will be the responsibility of forest users to know which areas are permitted. Most closed areas will NOT be signed, so a map is necessary if using the forest.
The forest service states that most previously used boondocking/dispersed camping areas will be included on the maps unless there is serious degradation of the site and it is in the best interest of the forest to close the are until it has recovered.
In addition, all legally constructed roads (most built to support fire fighting equipment, logging trucks, and cattle trucks) will be permitted, limiting most closures to roads created by hunters and off-roaders or that have been abandoned, most of which would be unfit for RVs, though are likely used by RVers towing off road vehicles.
It is immportant to obtain a map anytime you enter a national forest with the intent of driving on forest service roads or boondocking in the forests. Go into the individual website for each forest to learn more aboutn their particular TMP.