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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fulltimers can be cited for "living" in a National Forest

A new meaning for "stealth camping" may be emerging out of the lousy economy and budget shortfalls for public agencies.

In the  past, stealth camping generally referred to the attempt to keep a low profile by appearing to be just a parked vehicle when camping in your RV within city limits where laws prohibited sleeping in your vehicle on the streets.

In a previous post I wrote about the fulltimer that was ticketed for "living" in his RV in a National Forest. The actual Federal regulation they were cited under was 36 CFR 261.10(b) - no one may “possess, occupy, or otherwise use National Forest System lands for residential purposes . . . " 

The fine can be hefty and if wielded ruthlessly could bring much needed revenue into public coffers. On the good side, none of us wants to see the national forests turned into squatters camps and this rule is meant to address that issue. However, when a fulltime RVer, whose rig is his residence, is cited is it pushing the rule too far? 

Consider that ALL fulltimers, even when obeying the law and spending time camping or boondocking in a National Forest, could be cited under this regulation--even when adhering to the established ruling that two weeks of camping was the maximum, then you had to move at least 25 miles away and could not return for another 14 days. 

When I asked for a clarification of the regulation, the response given was: "Our law enforcement officers have interpreted this regulation to mean that people who are using the forest as a residence are violating this regulation. This doesn't necessarily contradict the 14-day camping rule."

As ambiguous as this explanation may be, will fulltimers have to provide proof of having another residence, or remove any stickers that indicate they are fulltimers, or outright lie to a ranger who asks if they are fulltimers? And just adhering to the two-week rule may not protect you if it is up to the ranger's interpretation. 

If you are nervous about this rule--and are a fulltimer--it may be prudent to clarify to the local rangers that yes, you are a fulltimer, but you do not intend to "live" in the forest and will not stay longer than tow weeks and find out if this is acceptable before you set up camp. The alternative of a $250 fine should be worth the trouble.   

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