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Citations issued for off-road damage in the Bighorns

(Sheridan, Wyo.) — Red Grade Road is open for the season, but only after off-roaders caused damage to an area near Sawmill Divide trying to traverse around the last snowdrift across the road. Though the Forest Service does not release the names of those issued citations for driving infractions on the National Forest, District Ranger Amy Ormseth confirmed that ATV riders were cited for driving off-road to skirt a snowdrift in the Red Grade Road area this week. She said that the BHNF reached out to the Bighorn Mountain Crawlers UNA 4x4 club to help create a pathway through the last snow drift on Red Grade Road on June 6, in the hopes that people would use that pathway instead of skirting the road. Bighorn National Forest travel management regulations specify that motorized travel is allowed up to 300 feet off of a designated route for the purpose of camping, game retrieval and firewood collection, providing no resources damage occurs. However, some motorized routes are closed seasonally or for other reasons, and signage always takes precedence over maps of an area. Penalties for traveling off designated routes or in closed areas could be up to $5,000 and/or up to 6 months in jail. The riders who went off-road to bypass the snowdrift near Red Grade damaged a recently reseeded area off the road, according to Ormseth. "We hope that area will grow back," she said. The Forest Service does not open Red Grade, but instead waits for Mother Nature to clear the road, Ormseth said. While she understands peoples' desire to get into the mountains, Ormseth says people can and will be cited for off-roading in areas where it is not allowed, and for causing damage to the forest. Travis Harnish of the Bighorn Mountain Crawlers told Dally that rules for ATV use on the forest come from a place of "common sense and logic." [image: 13343080_1214660241878762_7896895138968159769_n.jpg] The Crawlers are a registered Wyoming non-profit and have created a relationship with the BNFS, doing restoration work to help keep trails open, and volunteering time and resources for continued forest maintenance, Harnish says. Harnish has seen his fair share of vehicle damage on the forest, and said the sheer volume of usage on the Forest can wreak havoc on the trails. Riders are coming from several states away to use this resource, he said, and some are misinformed. "Most of the time, people believe they are doing the right thing by not going through a mud puddle, but they don't realize the damage they are doing (off-road)," Harnish said. After the incidents June 6, and the pathway created by the Crawlers, Red Grade Road is now clear for motor vehicles, Ormseth said. Harnish advised that outdoor enthusiasts check Tread Lightly or the Bighorn National Forest Off Road Vehicle Program page for more information on responsible outdoor recreational practices. *Photos h/t Travis Harnish via the Bighorn National Forest* #dally #news