A recent incident involving the unauthorized plowing of a road on the Medicine Bow National Forest has resulted in the temporary closure of the road to motorized wheeled vehicles, as well as disruption of over-the-snow recreation uses on the road.
Over a mile of the Barber Lake Road (Forest Road 351) on the Laramie Ranger District was plowed from Highway 130, and in addition to causing an inconvenience to other users, the responsible party has been cited by U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement for the plowing.
Until conditions permit or until May 15, the road will be closed to wheeled vehicles to protect the road base. Recreationists should be aware that the snow-packed, center portion of the road, which was used by both skiers and snowmobilers, no longer exists, necessitating alternate routes and caution when approaching the area from the northwest.
Cabin owners and users of the National Forest are reminded that snow removal or maintenance on a National Forest System (NFS) road requires a permit and an agreement of liability for damages that occur as a result of snow removal activities or resulting traffic on the road.
In recent years the illegal plowing of NFS roads has caused extensive damage and delayed openings and use of roads by up to three weeks.
Instances similar to Barber Lake have occurred in past years on the Medicine Bow/Routt National Forests and Thunder Basin National Grassland (MBRTB) on NFS Road 500 near Albany, Wyo., Road 512 near Foxpark, Wyo., Road 111 near Arlington, Wyo. and in North Routt County, Colo., around the community of Clark.
There are many reasons why the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) does not plow snow on NFS roads when it appears that they could. Plowing snow on native or aggregate surfaced roads can lead to costly damage, such as ruts, due to increased traffic on wet roads. Additionally, roads plowed prematurely can result in public safety issues when road conditions are muddy or impassable. Ruts can channel muddy run-off water into nearby creeks, causing soil erosion and damage to fisheries. Also, per USFS guidelines money is not appropriated for snow plowing as part of the road maintenance program.