Snowmobilers fined up to $500 for violating Routt National Forest restrictions
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Multiple snowmobilers received citations last weekend in what forest officials described as a reoccurring issue of people taking snowmobiles into restricted areas in the Routt National Forest.
On Sunday, Dec. 29, U.S. Forest Service officers caught seven people snowmobiling in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area, according to Aaron Voos, public affairs specialist with the Forest Service. Two additional people received citations for snowmobiling in the non-motorized area by Walton Peak the previous day. All of the people involved received monetary fines, with maximum amounts of $500 for the snowmobilers found in the wilderness area.
All areas marked as wilderness or for non-motorized use are closed to snowmobiles and other motorized vehicles. Each year, the Forest Service issues citations to people who violate the restrictions, according to Voos.
“It is ultimately up to individuals to know where they are in reference to restricted or prohibited areas,” he said in an email.
The restrictions on non-motorized areas have been in place at least since 2005, according to Voos. They arose due to a growing popularity of outdoor recreation and safety concerns over user conflicts. Keeping motorized vehicles away from skiers, snowshoers and other non-motorized recreationists has been successful in reducing those conflicts, Voos said.
The prohibition of taking motorized vehicles into wilderness areas has existed since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Wilderness Act in 1964.
Most people who violate the rules do so either out of ignorance or blatant disregard of the closures, Voos said.
“When people don’t know, it is because they haven’t taken it upon themselves to learn or did not bring maps,” he said.
The Forest Service has been trying to increase education about the restrictions and have posted additional signage to demarcate areas that are closed to snowmobiles. The agency also has increased its enforcement presence to nab violators, but patrolling the thousands of acres of local public land poses a challenge.
“Unfortunately we just can’t be every place all the time,” Voos said.
Other rules on the use of snowmobiles exist to protect the integrity of the natural world. For instance, snowmobilers must stay on areas where there is a minimum of a one-foot snow base, according to Forest Service rules. Accessing the west side of Buffalo Pass requires a permit for all uses. Mandatory and voluntary winter closures also exist on certain areas throughout Routt County, predominantly to protect wildlife.
Maps showing these restrictions are available at outdoor stores throughout Steamboat Springs, at the Forest Service office at 925 Weiss Drive. A digital map is available online on the Forest Service’s website.