Travel Management Plans will change forever how you use the national forests and BLM land
By Bob Difley
As many of you boondockers know by now, the National Forest Service (FS) is in the process of implementing their new Travel Management Plans (TMP) throughtout the nation’s forests. These new rules, once approved by each individual forest, will apply to everyone who uses a national forest for driving and camping, designating which roads you are allowed to drive on and where you are allowed to camp or boondock.
Allowed driving roads will be limited to only those legal roads built by the FS, usually with specifications that will support cattle trucks, firefighting equipment, and logging trucks, and therefore presumably suitable for RVs as well. All illegal roads will be designated and driving will not be allowed on them–that includes off-road vehicles if you happen to be towing one.
Camping and vehicle parking will only be allowed within 30 feet (or one vehicle length, depending on the forest) from the side of the road unless in a designated “dispersed camping area.” These areas and roads will be defined on Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM) that will be available free online, from rangers, and at ranger stations and regional offices. Not following the rules will result in a fine after a period of up to a year (as long as you are not a flagrant violator) for informing and explaining the new rules to the public.
The FS has been putting the TMPs together for several years and has asked users and the public for their input all along in the process, yet, as can be expected, as the rules go into effect it is a surprise to much of the public that then is outraged about the “government taking our public lands” and has resulted in court action, delayed implementation, and disruptions to the vision of how users are currently using the forest and how they plan to use it in the future. These include: off road vehicle drivers, hunters, campers, boondockers, 4-wheelers, recreation outfitters, adventure tour operators, ranchers, firewood gatherers, berry pickers, and many more.
Now the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is starting to put together their own travel management plans for use of the land under their administration, which includes much of the southwestern deserts used by snowbirds in the winter. The following was published in Eastern Idaho and Western Wyoming’s LocalNews8.com
ARBON VALLEY, Idaho — The Bureau of Land Management wants the public’s opinion on what to do with the 360,000 acres of public land in the Deep Creek and Curlew areas.
Currently, the BLM does not have a travel management plan for the area, meaning that people can drive, ride or walk anywhere, but that will change and public input can help to shape the outcome.
BLM Outdoor Recreation Planner Chuck Patterson said there may be nothing out there now, but he wants to know if people want specific mountain bike trails, horse-riding trails or hiking trails.
“Those are the kind of opportunities that we want to work with the public to identify, you know, are there areas that we can provide additional recreation for them?” Patterson said.
The land will become a limited use area, meaning people can only travel in certain places. Supervisory Resource Management Specialist Blaine Newman said they don’t want to hurt the activities that people already use the land for, but with the number of off-highway vehicles in Idaho jumping to more than 100,000 in the last several decades, keeping a balance is crucial.
“What we would like to do is designate a system of roads and trails that’s reasonable for people to get access to public lands, as well as offer protection for wild life and sensitive plants and other resources that are out there,” Newman said.
This is just an example of the dozens of FS and BLM districts where restrictions will eventually roll out and your travel and boondocking will be affected forever. It is not a good idea to just let the government supervisors go ahead and make plans with the vision as they see it–remember, their goals will not be the same as yours–because nobody spoke up.
If you don’t want to see this happen, it is important that you get involved in the process before all the decisions have been made. Contact the forests and BLM districts where you pursue your recreational activities and make sure your questions are answered, your opinions heard and considered, and your favorite areas included, otherwise you may find your favorite boondocking campsites going, going, gone.
For more RVing tips take a look at my Healthy RV Lifestyle website, where you will also find my ebooks: BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands (PDF or Kindle), 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang for your RV Lifestyle Buck (PDF or Kindle), and Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts (PDF or Kindle).