Thursday, February 23, 2006
Steamboat Springs U.S. Forest Service officers cited about 20 snowmobilers, warned 75 others and attempted to serve six arrest warrants to those who were caught violating new boundary regulations on Rabbit Ears and Buffalo passes last weekend.
U.S. Forest Service Public Affairs Director Kim Vogel said Forest Service officers were concentrated near Rabbit Ears and Buffalo passes, looking for riders who were not abiding by the new laws. Officers also were seeking riders who had unresolved citations.
"We're actively enforcing all of the new rules. I think people are thinking this isn't a big deal," Vogel said Thursday.
The new Winter Recreation Management Plan was approved by the Forest Service in the summer as an attempt to balance the demands of motorized and nonmotorized users. Both user groups have complained that not enough was being done to designate recreational areas for each group.
The new plan went into effect this winter.
Vogel said areas of the national forest were busy last weekend because of the Presidents Day holiday. A record number of people participated in backcountry activities, which increased the potential for conflict among users, Vogel said.
An increased number of law enforcement officers patrolled the areas to ensure riders and other recreational users were obeying the new boundaries and confronted those who weren't abiding by the rules.
Forest Service Officer Dan Nielsen said officials also focused on contacting users who had outstanding arrest warrants because they hadn't taken care of citations issued to them earlier this winter.
"If you are issued a citation and do not respond as ordered, the next step is an arrest warrant. Violations of federal statutes are serious offenses," he said.
In addition to issuing citations, warnings and arrest warrants, Vogel said the officers focused on educating backcountry users about the new rules.
Some of the new rules include abiding by the designated motorized and nonmotorized use areas on Rabbit Ears Pass; having the appropriate permit to use the 7,300-acre Buffalo Pass backcountry area; and not parking overnight anywhere except at the Muddy Creek trailhead near Dumont Lake.
Vogel said it is important that snowmobilers know the correct boundaries and trails and that they don't assume other tracks or trails are legal for them to use.
"People tend to think designated routes are routes where they see any kind of use, and oftentimes those tracks aren't legal trails," she said.
Vogel said maps of the boundaries are posted at parking lots and trailheads and also can be found on the Forest Service's Web site.
Those who fail to follow the plan's new rules could face fines of as much as $5,000, six months in jail and loss of privileges to use the area.
"When you get a citation, you need to take care of it," Vogel said. "We've seen a lot of people not taking the (citations) as seriously as they should."
Vogel said Forest Service officers did not confiscate any snowmobiles during the weekend.