Snowmobilers fined for venturing into designated wilderness areas near Steamboat
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Snowmobilers who are not following the rules in the Routt National Forest are paying the price.
According the U.S. Forest Service, 14 snowmobilers from Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Nebraska have been cited this winter for going into the Mount Zirkel Wilderness northeast of Steamboat Springs.
Mechanized equipment, including snowmobiles, cars, bicycles, drones and even chainsaws, is forbidden in wilderness areas, which are set aside to limit the impact from humans.
Ben Lindsley, who works for the Hahn’s Peak/Bears Ears Ranger District in Steamboat, said many wilderness boundaries are marked, and there are also signs to let people know when they are entering.
“The locals are one of the best resources we have in the area to help spread the word,” Lindsley said. “Many of the locals know the area very well and know where people should and shouldn’t be.”
The fine for snowmobiling in forbidden areas is $500, and additional fines can be issued if other laws are broken. Snowmobiling continues to be a popular sport in the Steamboat area.
“The parking lots were inundated last year,” Lindsley said. “They are inundated this year.”
He said the number of snowmobile citations in the Routt National Forest is high when compared to other national forests. Snowmobilers who went into wilderness areas are not the only ones who have been issued tickets this season.
There are other areas where motorized vehicles are prohibited. The west side of Rabbit Ears Pass is reserved for non-motorized uses, while snowmobiles can be used on the east side. Buffalo Pass is a Winter Backcountry Permit Area where a permit is required for all uses. There is also an area where only non-motorized uses are allowed.
Mandatory and voluntary closures are in place annually from Dec. 1 to April 15 at trailheads and in areas near town designated as wildlife winter range. Information and maps regarding the regulations are available from Forest Service offices, or online at fs.usda.gov/mbr and routtpowderriders.com.