Law Enforcement

A Travel Plan is just paper unless it is implemented on the ground.  Implementation requires consistent and effective  law enforcement.  The old (1987) Travel Plan was pretty good for its time, but was never well implemented, or effectively enforced. The new (2008) Travel Plan, although very unbalanced and disappointing, could be an improvement over the previous “anything goes” situation – but only if it is enforced.

That is a major uncertainty and early signs do not look good.  Certainly the USFS staff on the Beartooth District (including the Pryors) are sincere and well intentioned about wanting to implement and enforce the new Travel Plan in the Pryors.  But they are severely limited in both staff and budget – with many competing tasks in many areas – not just in the Pryors.  They can’t do everything they would like to do.  Priorities must be set.

The most glaring example of the lack of staff is the fact that there is only one law enforcement officer (LEO) for the entire Custer National Forest. According to the CNF website “Custer National Forest is the most diverse and widespread Forest of the whole National Forest Service System. It has three Ranger Districts in two states, stretching from the northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park into the northwest corner of South Dakota (an air distance of some 360 miles).”  CNF’s single Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) is responsible for more than 1,187,000 acres, including over 510,000 acres in the Beartooths, over 430,000 acres in the Ashland District, and over 160,000 acres in eight separate units of the Sioux District scattered in southeastern Montana and northwest South Dakota – and 76,000 acres in the Pryors.  The LEO’s duties include more than dealing with motor vehicle violations, and the Pryors are a tiny fraction of the area he must cover.  Irresponsible recreationists know the chances of seeing the LEO in the Pryors are slim.

See Examples of damage done by irresponsible OHV users.
Violations of the Land and the Law

Further Reading:
Management Issues
Custer Gallatin National Forest Management Plan
The Pryors Coalition’s Vision
Custer National Forest Travel Plan