Santa Fe National Forest Travel Rules Now in Effect

Ron Loehman

The Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) has rolled out a comprehensive Travel Management Plan that makes a lot of changes in the road and trail network in the forest. The process started in 2005 when the USFS adopted a rule that required each National Forest and Grassland in the US to identify and designate the roads, trails, and areas that would be open to motor vehicle use. Once implemented, all motor vehicle use off the designated system would be prohibited. That process is now complete for the SFNF following years of planning, environmental impact analyses, and input from the public in many hearings and public meetings. By contrast with past policy, all roads that are not specifically open to vehicular traffic are closed. Driving on those closed and decommissioned roads is a violation and can result in a citation. This is a significant change considering how many old logging roads, informal off road tracks, and other vehicle trails there are in the forest. Our June 1st project described elsewhere in the newsletter closed off one of these decommissioned informal roads.

314If they are observed by the public and enforced by the USFS, these new regulations will remove a significant source of degradation of Jemez streams. The Rio de las Vacas downstream of the Girl Scout camp is one good example where the road closures should eventually show some improvements in stream quality. Enforcement is always a question for the Forest Service, given their tight budgets and other priorities, such as fighting wildfires. We can help by reporting trespass vehicles to the Forest Service (date, location, type of vehicle, license plate), particularly if they are in riparian areas and are messing with our streams. The Jemez District office number is (575) 829-3535. The SFNF Headquarters number is (505) 438-5300.

The SFNF has published detailed maps of the newly- designated road system. They are available on-line. As stated on the SFNF website, “These maps show which routes (both roads and trails) are open to motor vehicle travel, what type of vehicle they are open to, and what season they are open. The maps are free and are available now. The Motor Vehicle Use Map is the key to understanding each district’s motorized transportation system and can be used in conjunction with the Santa Fe National Forest visitor map. Use the Motor Vehicle Use Map on the Forest to determine what roads are open and how far you are allowed to drive off of the road.”

The Travel Management Rule (the Rule) announced in 2005 requires Forests and Grasslands in the Rocky Mountain Region are seeking public input and coordinating with federal, state, county, and other local governmental entities as well as tribal governments to implement the Rule.