New Motor Vehicle Use Maps are now available for the Williams and Tusayan ranger districts of the Kaibab National Forest. The maps, which show what roads are open to motor vehicle travel, are the result of years of monitoring public feedback following implementation of the Travel Management Rule on the forest.
The maps, which are available for free at any Kaibab National Forest office, implement the decisions of the South Zone Travel Management Revision Project, signed in December by Williams and Tusayan Districts Ranger Danelle D. Harrison. The biggest change stemming from that project and reflected on the new Motor Vehicle Use Maps is the authorization of motorized dispersed camping along 276 miles of designated National Forest System roads.
Motorized dispersed camping is now authorized for 100 feet from the centerline of designated roads. Motorized dispersed camping is allowed only for ingress and egress following the most direct route from and to a designated road and for parking a recreational vehicle. In years to come, motorized dispersed camping will be authorized for 300 feet from the centerline of these designated roads. However, additional natural and cultural resource surveys will be undertaken over the next three years before the motorized dispersed camping distance is extended from 100 to 300 feet. This is to ensure forest managers can identify forest resources that may require further protection within that zone.
Prior to this new travel management decision, motorized dispersed camping was restricted to within 30 feet of forest roads open to motor vehicle use. That eliminated access for motor vehicles to many historically used and already impacted dispersed camping sites. It also created safety hazards by restricting motorized dispersed camping to within close proximity of traffic on roadways, and it negatively affected people’s camping experience by exposing them to dust, exhaust and noise. Finally, it exposed previously undisturbed portions of the Kaibab National Forest to the effects of dispersed camping-related motor vehicle traffic because people couldn’t access many historically used sites and instead starting creating new motorized dispersed camping sites in order to comply with the 30-foot regulations.
“Something needed to change,” Harrison said. “The South Zone Travel Management Revision Project was directly responsive to the hundreds to thousands of comments we received from our local community members and other forest users. We heard over and over again that our visitors were dissatisfied with their recreation experiences. It was incumbent upon us to find a better way to protect forest resources while also providing a quality motorized dispersed camping experience. We believe we’ve found that balance.”
Also as part of the new travel management decision, the following changes are being implemented:
- 14 spur roads designated for motor vehicle use have been added in the Tusayan Ranger District. These designated spur roads total approximately 1.1 miles and provide access to sites historically used for motorized dispersed camping.
- About 9 miles of National Forest System roads have been closed to motor vehicle use in the Williams and Tusayan districts to mitigate resource impacts caused by motor vehicle use on these roads.
- Approximately 24 miles of National Forest System roads have been added to the road system open to motor vehicle use in the Williams and Tusayan districts. This includes 17 miles of roads that were previously closed to motor vehicle use, 4 miles of user-created routes that were found to have no resource concerns but that provided important access to portions of the Williams Ranger District, and 3 miles of roads in the Tusayan Ranger District needed to provide access to water tanks.
- An adaptive management strategy has been established that will allow for future, limited changes to the South Zone road system.
Motorized big game retrieval was not addressed in the new travel management decision, which means the rules governing it have not changed. Within 1 mile of all open roads, except where explicitly prohibited, hunters can drive off the road to retrieve a legally killed elk using the most direct and least ground-disturbing route in and out (one trip in, one trip out) during all elk hunting seasons as designated by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, and for 24 hours following the end of each season.
“We made a commitment to the public to be responsive to the feedback we received and to refine our transportation system over time,” Harrison said. “We took our monitoring role seriously, and we have worked hard to make changes that we believe our local community members and other forest users will be pleased to see implemented. And, we plan to continue monitoring and improving over time by being open to what our communities and visitors are telling us.”
The Kaibab National Forest undertook the South Zone Travel Management Revision Project with the goal of improving implementation of the Travel Management Rule within the Williams and Tusayan ranger districts. The need for this effort was revealed through public and internal feedback received by the Kaibab National Forest over the years since the original travel management decisions were implemented. The Arizona Game and Fish Department has been an exceptional partner to the Forest Service during this effort by providing critical data and by advocating for improved consistency among Arizona’s National Forests to assist visitors in understanding motor vehicle travel regulations.
Besides hard copy Motor Vehicle Use Maps being available for free at Kaibab National Forest offices, there are several other motorized travel aid options that can be accessed on the “Motor Vehicle Use Maps & Motorized Travel Aids” page on the Kaibab National Forest website.
To provide feedback on the implementation of the Travel Management Rule on the Kaibab National Forest and associated Motor Vehicle Use Maps, visit the Travel Management Feedback Implementation Comment Form online.