Sunday, November 18, 2018
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Forest Service ups fines for breaking law on public land

Some fines double

Snowmobilers who like to go on those “epic rides” should use caution the next time they head out.  The fines have been increased for infractions of rules on Forest Service lands, such as those that prohibit operating a snowmobile in a wilderness area. 

 

Some fines have more than doubled, such as the fine for making a campfire during a fire ban, once $25, now raised to $300. The minimum fine for using a motorized vehicle in a wilderness area rose from $75 to $500. The fine for operating an unregistered snowmobile rose from $50 to $100.    
U.S. District Court Judge Edward Nottingham approved the fine increases, as part of the Colorado Collateral Forfeiture Schedule, on Friday, February 29.
Forest Service officials say the old fine schedule was not adequate to deter infractions. “Most forest users are law-abiding citizens; however, there are a few who are not. Our goal is to encourage all forest users to obey regulations and protect forest resources and the rights of other forest visitors,” says Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National (GMUG) forest supervisor Charlie Richmond.
“The previous Forest Service fine schedule has been in place for over 10 years and we found that the penalties were so low they weren’t much of a deterrent to violators,” he says.
Previous fines ranged from approximately $25 to $100 for infractions, but under the new schedule, fines range from $100 to $500. Other examples include damaging a road or trail, raised from $75 to $300; setting off fireworks, raised from $75 to $200; and operating a motor vehicle in a prohibited area (outside of wilderness), raised from $75 to $300. Additionally, all National Forest infractions require a $25 processing fee.
High Country Citizens’ Alliance public lands director Dan Morse says GMUG does a pretty good job of educating the public about Forest Service laws and regulations, and for the most part they successfully deter infractions through education. 
But there are exceptions, he says, and that’s where the new fines come in.  “There are circumstances where someone willfully breaks the law, and we need to have fines that deter people from doing it again,” Morse says. 
In addition to a range of infractions from unattended campfires to setting off fireworks, Morse says, the biggest problem locally is motorized trespassing into wilderness areas.  “Locally, every year there are instances of summer and winter wilderness trespass by motorized vehicles,” Morse says. 
The new fee schedule is effective immediately. 

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