This is a new rule for the Manti-La Sal National Forest where hunters have previously been allowed to take motorized vehicles 150 feet off road to retrieve game.
The Manti-La Sal has developed Motorized Vehicle Use Maps showing all official roads and trails on the Forest. It is available in district offices and on the forest web site: http://www.fs.fed.us/r4/mantilasal/maps/
Hunters are being asked to be prepared to hunt and retrieve game on foot or horseback.
The closures are coming as a surprise to many hunters, who are unable to access a large number of areas by vehicle. San Juan County Sheriff Mike Lacy reports he has received a number of complaints from residents and long-time hunters.
“We have been hunting this area since my dad was a kid,” said one Blanding resident, who asked that his name not be used. “It seems like they have closed a thousand roads.”
Others hunters welcome the new rule, believing that motorized vehicles spook game and ruin the hunting experience. “Animals stressed by motorized vehicles are not as healthy as those that are able to live in a naturally quiet habitat,” explained Kelle Reynolds, Forest wildlife biologist.
Sheriff Lacy said, “The closures come from a 1991 study that was not implemented until now, 19 years later. I don’t understand why they are doing this now.”
Forest Service officials state that while hunting is an important and time-honored activity, watersheds and habitats recently have suffered from off-highway vehicle use.
In order to protect soils, vegetation, wildlife, fisheries, and wetlands, off-highway travel has been restricted to designated roads and trails.
Forest users found in violation of the rule will be cited and ordered to appear in federal court. Any violation of this rule is punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, and/or imprisonment for not more than six months and restitution for the damages.