Forest Service's new Travel Management Plans restrict driving in national forests

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March 3, 2012


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.

Leave a Reply


  1. Nat

    Excellent article; however, there is one quote I disagree with.

    ” that will designate where you can drive in THEIR forest”

    The article mentions a common misconception that the Forest Service owns the National Forests. They do not! However, they frequently act and talk like they do! The national forests belong to the citizens and taxpayers of the USA. The US Forest Service should be there to administer them for us.

  2. Barb

    Ditto Nat !!! I keyed on the same phrase instantly.
    Difley needs to look at the big picture, not just from his environmentalist view point.
    We don’t need more regulation, we need logging, camping, hunting, hiking and recreating in and of OUR forests.

  3. Ditto Nat and Barb. It’s all about the big picture!!!

    Dave M.

  4. hoppe

    I tend to agree with the previous posters on this subject. I think that access is a good thing. Without use by us/the citizen owners of the land, the quote multi use act, with it’s associated ‘uses’ can be very destructive with only the Rangers having a clue as to what is happening. Witness the logging operations in some areas, where once you are out of sight of the main highway, it’s just plain Clear Cut. What is more destructive than that, except the removal of whole mountain tops by open pit mining.

    I’m not all about oil wells in the middle of my ‘tranquility’ either.

    That said “one vehicle length?”, what the heck is that? Something similar to the proverbial, This is a FOOT? And this is destructive by what comparison to logging and mining?

    To me there seems to be more going on here than ‘protecting’ the resource.

  5. hoppe

    Along with the above post.
    “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.”

    I’m really curious as to Where Mr Bosworth is working or consulting NOW? Especially since during his ‘watch’ logging, mining, and drilling, seem to have expanded exponentially….. But he’s concerned about OUR travels, and how far off the ‘road’ we can camp?

    I call BULLSHIT! on his policy.

    Now I’d tend to agree that some users who bring Off Road vehicles, would better serve the areas if they could be a bit more involved in NOT needing to climb straight up, without observing what their path with produce. Yes I know it’s fun to do, but the result takes a long time to heal, if it ever does. Witness what the ‘exploratory’ mining did when they went straight up the slopes with Tracked Vehicles to ‘sample’ the substrate. Most of that was 50 to 100 years ago, and you can still see where they thought there might be recoverable minerals. Their ‘cuts’ look a lot like the cuts made to lay cable and erect power lines…. but That was OK? Hmmm?

  6. hoppe

    I’d be remiss if I didn’t say ‘Thank You’, for bringing these situations to the fore.

    Your blogs are of way more interest than some others that show up here, Appearing to be nothing more than advertisements for one thing or place.


    Suggestion; Add a clicky to send responses to the people who need to be made aware that they are on our radar.


  7. hoppe

    “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, ”

    This statement seems to assume that unless the roads are currently being used by interests who are paying MONEY to the Government. We can’t, and Don’t need to use them either?

    Hell,,, WE OWN THE ROADS. \

    The Government is SELLING our RESOURCES , to PRIVATE/CORPORATE entities, for peanuts.

    Since we can’t seem to keep ‘reasonable’ gas/fuel, prices, while the OIL Companies are still reporting RECORD profits. I’m thinking we need to encourage the Government to Produce the Resources for OUR benefit!!!!!

    Or do we OWE BP, SHELL, etc…. Record Profits, while we Pay stupid prices for fuel?

    We have more Oil production facilities here than any place in the WORLD. Now they want us to allow them to take OUR resources for EXPORT???? Texas is even allowing ‘Right of Immanent DOMAIN’, for land to build Silverado XL!!!!

    Our Government is, and has sold us out, to make themselves rich. Check out where and how much Congressman are PAID, AFTER they retire… IT needs to stop NOW.

  8. Frank

    “… where you can drive in their forest.” Pardon me, but someone needs a reminder that these forests belong to US and not a privileged few.

  9. My choice of phrasing could have been better. By referring to “their” forest, what I was trying to say was that each forest supervisor had the authority to say what would happen in the specific forest that they managed, not using “their” in the possessive sense.

  10. Big Bubba

    Gosh Bob, I didn’t realize you were an “environmentalist”. I thought that you were just someone who cared about our forests and grasslands, and wanted to encourage people to get out and enjoy them, and also behave responsibly when they used them. I tend to be more Libertarian than any other political persuasion, and it’s my belief that OUR public lands do belong to ALL of us. BUT, we ALL have to treat them with respect, so the next person can enjoy what was there before we came along. It seems as though some of the previous posters don’t feel there should be any regulations. I disagree.

    Keep up the good work.

    Lynn H, in Big Bubba

  11. Rod H.

    This is like all the other reactions OUR Forest Service has to the miss use of OUR lands. Instead of enforcing the rules that are all ready on the books they go over board and punish the majority for a few bad apples. We like to play in the Oregon dunes, OHV, but they are slowly restricting us to a small portion of the dunes making it more crowded and more dangerous. One excuse is to much noise, so enforce noise restrictions. Now they are doing the same thing to our National Forest. Like others have said, whose land is it?

  12. gary sheldon

    As the land of the free and the home of the brave dissolves into a tyrannical socio-com “dicktatership” from the Constitutional Republic of 60 years ago why is anyone surprised at the dwindelling of liberty and smothering control of the Federal ENVIRONMENTALISTs UNDER THE LAYERS OF gumMENTAL control disguised as protectors of OUR national forests.

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