GILLETTE, Wyo. — Sparse snowfall in the Bighorn Mountains this season has created a new issue for forest managers urging the public to avoid driving on closed routes to avoid resource damage, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
“Many routes that are typically snowbound now look inviting and open enough to drive in a wheeled vehicle,” the Forest Service said earlier this month, adding that citations have been issued to motorists who failed to ensure their routes were legally open before driving on them.
Amy Ormseth, Tongue District ranger, said seasonal road closures in the Bighorn Mountains are in place for many reasons, including protecting snowmobile trails and the road from damage.
“Roads and trails are the most vulnerable to damage when they are wet and muddy,” Ormseth said in a Feb. 2 release.
Initial damage to a trail or road can expand and possibly lead to longer closures, especially if road crews are unable to make repairs right away, per the Forest Service, which is asking residents and recreationists alike to respect seasonal closures and to stay off routes until they are fully open.
More snow is expected this season and snowmobile grooming is still occurring in some locations. If the trails are damaged by wheeled vehicles, it could make it worse for over-snow vehicles in the next few months, the Forest Service says.
“Damage slows the grooming process and can lead to impassible conditions in the spring,” the Forest Service says. “Avoid potential injury, expensive tow bills, and/or damage to your vehicle, and make the right choice to wait until it’s open.”