By Bob Difley
This week the Forest Service (FS) posted the motor vehicle travel regulations that are now in effect for the Williams Ranger District and the Tusayan Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest. These motor vehicle travel regulations are the result of the national Travel Management Rule which the FS has been working on for several years, and which are coming to all national forests in 2012.
Details of the motor vehicle travel regulations and associated maps are available at any Kaibab National Forest office or online at the forest service website. And remember this little ditty that appears there also: “Be sure you know before you go! And please remember: Nature Rules! Stay on designated roads and trails.”
What is important is that it is up to you to know the new rules for driving and boondocking in all the the National Forests (FS)–not just the Kaibab. There are two important changes with the new Travel Management Rule (TMR). The first is that you may no longer drive on roads not designated by the FS. Many roads have been closed–but not necessarily blocked or signed–though most of those were illegal roads that were created by off-roaders, hunters retrieving game, and other illegal uses so it shouldn’t affect RVers–except maybe for truck campers driving 4WD vehicles.
Some of these trails, though, were being used by off road vehicles (OHVs) which will no longer be permitted, though there are also many legal trails for OHVs that are not usable by RVs or passenger cars. The Kaibab–like all national forests as soon as they implement the TMR–will provide free Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs) that will clearly show which roads and trails are legal and for what purposes. You can download these maps from the individual forest’s website or pick one up at a ranger station or from a ranger.
The other major change is that all dispersed camping–the term the FS uses to describe camping outside of designated campgrounds–is also now regulated. The primary rule is that you may only park (either for day use or for camping) within 30 feet of the side of any forest service road. Again, your vehicles–motorhome and dinghy, truck and fiver, or truck and travel trailer–must all be parked within 30 feet of the side of the road, which means you may have to park parallel with the road to fit all the vehicles within that 30-foot space.
However, there are some additional areas designated as dispersed camping areas that have been used in the past and that will be permitted. The information page of the Kaibab forest describes it this way, “In many areas, short routes have been added to the designated road system to access recreation opportunities including motorized dispersed camping. These routes, which access historically-popular motorized dispersed camping sites, were added specifically to provide visitors a more enjoyable motorized dispersed camping experience.”
These dispersed camping areas are located on the MVUM for each forest. Though this information is provided for the Kaibab National Forest, the TMR applies to all forests–though some have not yet implemented the plan–so the rules will be basically the same. But it is imperative that you obtain a MVUM before camping in a national forest. And something similar is coming soon to Bureau of Land Management Lands (BLM) also.
Other rules regarding disposal of waste water, campfires, and how close you can camp to wildlife water sources remain the same. You can see all these rules on Kaibab’s information page.
The forest spokespersons say that 2012 will be mostly a learning period for RVers, boondockers, hunters, off roaders, and all those that use the forests for recreational purposes to adjust to the new rules, so few tickets will be handed out. But if you blatantly disregard the rules, or ignore a ranger’s orders to move your rig or in some other way do not adjust to the rules as they are explained to you, you could receive a stiff fine–up to $5,000 and six months in jail is allowed, though those upper limits are highly unlikely.
Best advide is to learn the rules, follow them, and if you see discrepancies or historically used dispersed camping that are not included on the MVUM, point that out to rangers or forest management. They say that most of these areas will be included, and restricted only if forest restorative measures–such as due to overuse or damage to streams–are necessary.
And–if you find that reality is different than what I describe here, send me an email and I will likely post it for us all to discuss.
Check out my website for more RVing tips and destinations and for my ebooks, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands (or for Kindle version), Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts (Kindle version), and 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang out of your RV Lifestyle Dollar (Kindle version).