If you haven’t encountered the new Travel Management Rule (TMR), you will soon. The new rule governs the use of motor vehicles, including RV camping, in the National Forests and “. . . requires National Forests to designate which roads, trails, and areas are open to motor vehicle use. Once designation is complete, the rule will restrict motor vehicle use to designated roads, trails, and areas and prohibit motor vehicle use on those routes and in those areas that is inconsistent with the designations.”
The purpose of the rule, which has been in the development stage for eight years, is designed to protect the health and wildlife of our National Forests from increasing public visitation and vehicle use.
The previous rule allowed dispersed camping (boondocking) anywhere except in areas designated as closed. This will now change to only in areas designated as open. The identified dispersed camping areas will be limited to 300 feet from the edge of a road.
Dispersed camping areas will be defined by the individual forest supervisor according to their individual forest’s condition and will be limited to areas already used for that purpose, though some areas—based on the health and fragility of the site—could be closed. All approved roads and dispersed camping areas will be identified on Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM) that will be free to download online, or as a paper map from rangers and forest service offices. All non-designated areas will be closed to camping and vehicle use.
A sample map for Ocala National Forest.
Courtesy of www.fs.fed.us/
The new rule does not require the Forest Service to sign each open or closed road so that if you haven’t obtained the appropriate map and drive on or camp in an unapproved area, you could be subject to a fine. However, officials say the first year will focus on education, providing time for the public to understand the specifics of the new rules. Fines will be levied only on flagrant or repeat violators, though these penalties could be stiff—up to a $5,000 fine and/or six months in jail [18 U.S.C. 3571(b)(6)].
Many of the forest supervisors have completed their forest designations and have implemented the rule, though some have yet to be completed. It is every forest visitor’s responsibility to know these new rules before entering any National Forest for off-highway travel—whether you’re driving an ORV, truck, motorhome, dinghy, or motorcycle—or for camping. Contact the individual forest to see if the rule has been implemented and download a MVUM or pick up a copy from a ranger or forest office.
On the Forest Service website (http://www.fs.fed.us/)choose the state in the “By state” box. Follow the links to the forest you are interested in, and to their recreation and camping pages and the TMR and MVUM.
You can go directly to the “Completed Motor Vehicle Use Maps” (http://www.fs.fed.us/recreation/programs/ohv/ohv_maps.shtml) to download a completed MVUM.