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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Analyzing the Forest Service’s Motor Vehicle Travel Management Plan (TMP)

In accordance with the new TMP, you will not be legally permitted to drive or camp on any roads or trails that are not specifically authorized, and as stated in a previous blog, if you get caught on an unauthorized road, you will be subject to a $5,000 fine or six months in the slammer. The rule also designates accepted areas for camping and boondocking if more than one vehicle length from the road.

FS officials say that all legally built FS roads, those constructed according to specific standards--mainly those supportive of fire-fighting, logging, and cattle trucks--will be authorized. An unauthorized road or trail is defined in the TMP as, ‘‘a road or trail that is not a forest road or trail or a temporary road or trail and that is not included in a forest transportation atlas." If it isn't in the atlas, stay off it. You can read the questions and FS responses posed during the public comment period here.

All popular camping areas will be authorized in the TMPs as well, and will be specifically detailed on TMP maps (Motorized Vehicle Use Maps or MVUMs) available for free from the FS or downloadable from the individual forest's website. The previous rule that allowed boondocking anywhere except where prohibited will be changed to permit camping only in designated dispersed camping areas.

As the directive states, "Determination of the specified distance for limited motor vehicle use off a forest road or trail is a local decision dependent on site- and route-specific circumstances. Therefore, the travel management rule and final directives give the responsible official some discretion in making this determination."

The potential conflict between boondockers and the FS is probably not in the authorization of FS roads, since most unauthorized roads would not be suitable for RVs anyway (except truck campers), but in the designation of dispersed camping areas. FS rangers would simplify their patrol duties by keeping campers and boondockers within a tighter group, rather than dispersed throughout the forest. The result could be boondocking areas that looked more like campgrounds, dispersed camping areas where many RVs would camptogether, rather than in single site locations scattered along FS roads.

Since this decision of specifically where boondockers will be allowed to camp will be made forest to forest by the local management, it can become subjective, resulting in decision making based on the environmental, operational, recreational, or protective views of management.

Unfortunately, we won't know how liberal or restrictive the new maps of authorized camping areas will be until they are officially published and we study each individual map for our favorite forests.

Check out Bob Difley's Boondocking and Snowbird Guide eBooks at

1 comment:

  1. While it still sounds scary it's not as bad as we first feared. My hope has returned. Thanks for the update.