Changes to Bighorn National Forest camping regulations coming in 2023 | Local News

SHERIDAN — The Bighorn National Forest is initiating a process to change the way camping is regulated on the forest to be effective in January 2023.

During the summer of 2022, managers will open a public comment period to update the regulations based on recommendations from the citizen-led Dispersed Camping Task Force. The proposal will include changing the moving requirement, a consistent approach to scenic by-way management where U.S. Highway 16 would have a no-camping buffer like U.S. Highways 14 and 14A, and consistency with all other national forests in the region to change to a year-round 14-day stay limit.

“The intent is to have an easy-to-understand program that is also easily enforced,” said Andrew Johnson, Bighorn National Forest supervisor. “This is just the beginning of implementing a series of recommendations sent to the Forest by a grass-roots community group to resolve dispersed camping issues that have been going on far too long.”

In 2016, the Big Horn Mountain Coalition, in coordination with Bighorn National Forest staff, initiated a public discussion of dispersed camping in the forest. The coalition found the public agreed that issues with dispersed camping are a widespread problem. In response, the coalition solicited each of the four counties comprising the forest to seek interested citizens to participate in a collaborative task force. The goal of the Dispersed Camping Task Force was to review the findings of the coalition surveys, hear the concerns of the forest and work on building possible solutions.

After a year of monthly public meetings, the task force submitted a list of recommendations to Bighorn National Forest managers. Due to staffing shortages and the pandemic, forest officials were only able to implement one recommendation, an extension of the ending dates of the camping stay limits in 2020 (from Sept. 10 to Sept. 30).

In addition to updating the regulations, the task force also suggested the following items, which are being considered by forest managers:

• Implement a sticker program to authorize dispersed camping.

• Identify and assign designated dispersed camping sites.

• Expand Jaws Trailhead to allow overnight camping, including livestock.

Separate of the upcoming local management changes, all National Forest Federal Collateral fines were recently updated within the state of Wyoming, including the Bighorn National Forest. The fine for exceeding the camping length of stay, which is 14 days on the Bighorn National Forest, remains at $100. However, for each additional day property is left in violation, an additional $20 will be added to the fine. Violators who abandon personal property weighing more than 500 pounds that requires special equipment or procedures to remove will be assessed a fine of $300. For repeat offenders, a mandatory court appearance can also be issued.

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