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Bob Marshall Wilderness

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Why Regulations May Be Necessary in Wilderness

The most common types of wilderness regulations are listed below. Not all regulations are in effect for every wilderness.

Visitor Use Limits

When the amount of visitor use is the cause of degradation to the social, biological, and/or physical resources, managers may choose to limit use and require visitors to obtain a permit before entering. This action is implemented after other less restrictive methods are determined to be insufficient to meet the requirements of the Wilderness Act and protect the wilderness character.

Suggested action(s) for visitors:
  • Where visitor use-limiting permit systems are in place, ensure your opportunity for a high quality wilderness experience by making advance reservations to obtain a permit.

Group Size Limits

The activities of large groups can affect the solitude of others and can increase impacts in and around campsites and near water. In some areas, campsite size is limited by topography or vegetation type and large groups cannot be accommodated.

Suggested action(s) for visitors:
  • Visit wilderness in smaller groups when possible.
  • Large groups which have split to conform with group size limits should plan on traveling and camping separately.
  • Make extra effort to minimize all unnecessary noise and impacts from large groups.

Length of Stay

The Wilderness Act defines wilderness as a place where "man is a visitor who does not remain." In some popular areas, managers may limit the number of nights camping in one campsite, one specific area, or in the wilderness as a whole, so that the wilderness experience can be available to others.

Suggested action(s) for visitors:
  • Plan your trip to conform with local length-of-stay restrictions.
  • Experience wilderness as a visitor whose presence is temporary.

Camping Setbacks from Lakes, Streams or Trails

Aquatic habitats and riparian ecosystems immediately adjacent to water are sensitive to human-caused impacts and critical to the survival of native species in wilderness. Lakes and streams are enjoyed by both overnight and day users, and camps placed too close to the water can block access to others. Trail corridors are the means of travel for those seeking wilderness solitude, and camps placed along side the trails can add to a sense of crowding in popular areas.

Suggested action(s) for visitors:
  • Camp away from lakes, streams, and trails to minimize resource impacts and allow others to experience recreation and solitude in wilderness.

Designated Campsites

Suitable camping areas are sometimes limited by topography or vegetation type. In other cases, the amount of visitor use may exceed the number of available campsites. Research studies indicate that impacts are reduced if visitors use established campsites rather than disperse and create new ones.

Suggested action(s) for visitors:
  • Use designated campsites, if required.
  • In areas where campsites are not designated, use existing campsites.
  • In more pristine areas, limit the length of your stay and restore your campsite when departing to remove evidence of your visit.

Campfires

Certain ecosystems, such as high-elevation sub-alpine types, generate little downed and dead wood for campfires. In these same ecosystems, woody debris is an important part of the soil's nutrient recycling process to help maintain natural conditions. Where visitors' use of the firewood supply exceeds what is available, significant and long term impacts can occur, such as removing limbs and stripping bark from live trees, and removing woody material used as habitat by wildlife. Evidence of campfires, such as blackening of rocks, is one of the longest lasting, most visible, human impacts to the wilderness resource.

Suggested action(s) for visitors:
  • Use a stove, lantern or candle where campfires are prohibited.
  • Where campfires are permitted, keep fires small, limit the use of firewood to just what is necessary, and gather at a distance from your site.
  • Use fire pans or fire blankets to reduce impacts to your campsite.

Recreation Livestock Grazing and Salting

Grazing in sensitive, high-elevation vegetation types and adjacent to water can cause significant impacts such as loss of native vegetation and manure washed into lakes and streams. Placing salt blocks in wilderness, especially near water, degrades the natural conditions.

Suggested action(s) for visitors:
  • Graze pack animals in meadows at lower elevations and away from water.
  • Refrain from placing salt directly on the ground. Mix salt in the feed for stock and keep contained.

Weed Free Feed

Feed for pack and saddle stock can introduce seeds from non-native invasive plants and noxious weeds. Once established, these plants can out-compete native species and become a significant human-caused influence on the natural conditions. Hay or straw may not be allowed in all areas, please check local regulations before packing in.

Suggested action(s) for visitors:
  • Avoid packing hay, straw or other non-processed forage into wilderness unless absolutely necessary.
  • When hay, straw or other non-processed forage is packed in, use only certified, weed seed free feed.
  • Switch stock to processed feed several days prior to entering wilderness.

Recreation Livestock Hitching, Tying

Stock confinement near water and in camps, and tying stock directly to trees causes impacts that affect the natural conditions and the experience of other wilderness visitors. Loss of riparian habitat, manure in the water, exposed tree roots, scarred and dead trees, and manure in camp areas are unnecessary and avoidable signs of degradation.

Suggested action(s) for visitors:
  • Confine stock away from water.
  • Avoid tying directly to trees, especially in camp areas, except for temporary loading and unloading.
  • Use high-lines, hobbles, pickets, and electric fences to confine stock.

Equipment Caches

Long-term storage of gear and equipment in wilderness can detract from the experience of others and is inappropriate because it violates the spirit of the Wilderness Act, which identifies wilderness as a place where 'man is a visitor who does not remain.'

Suggested action(s) for visitors:
  • Plan to pack out what you pack in.
  • Leave equipment unattended in wilderness only for the short-term periods specified by local regulations.

Area Closures (restoration, wildlife, fire)

In some cases, it may be necessary to temporarily or permanently close an area of wilderness to visitor use to help protect wilderness dependent plant or animal species, insure recovery of restoration areas, or reduce the risk from wildfire. This action is consistent with the need to provide for public safety and preserve wilderness character and natural conditions.

Suggested action(s) for visitors:
  • If necessary, select alternate travel routes and respect closure orders.

Dogs

Loose dogs can harass wildlife and pose a potential risk to wilderness visitors and recreation livestock. In addition, loose dogs can become lost, injured, or attacked by predators in wilderness.

Suggested action(s) for visitors:
  • Consider leaving your dog at home.
  • Keep dogs on a leash, or if allowed, under voice control.

Human Waste

Improper disposal of human waste can cause water pollution, harm wildlife and fish, and affect the wilderness experience of others.

Suggested action(s) for visitors:
  • Bring the necessary and appropriate tools and equipment, such as a spade, small trowel, waste disposal bag, or portable toilet, to be able to dispose of waste properly.
  • Locate 'cat holes' or group latrines away from water, camps, and trails.
  • Never leave waste or toilet paper exposed on the ground.

Bear Protection

Improper food storage practices can attract bears and other wildlife into camps and create an unsafe situation for visitors, recreation livestock, and the bears. Bears that become habituated to human food often need to be destroyed.

Suggested action(s) for visitors:
  • Learn and use safe food storage techniques.

Competative Events

Competitive events are not allowed in wilderness because they typically are not a wilderness dependent activity. This activity is inconsistent with providing opportunities for primitive recreation or solitude, as required by the Wilderness Act, and there is potential for unnecessary increases in resource impacts and large groups affecting the wilderness experience of others.

Suggested action(s) for visitors:
  • Contact the local national forest office to determine if there is a non-wilderness location on the national forest suitable for the competitive event.

Wagons, Carts, and Other Vehicles

Wagons, carts, and other vehicles are considered forms of mechanical transport and therefore included in the 'Prohibited Uses' section of the Wilderness Act. The exclusion of mechanical transportation equipment is consistent with the concept of primitive recreation, meaning human or animal-powered transportation without the use of a wheel as a mechanical advantage. The one exception to this definition, by law, is wheel chairs. If they are suitable for indoor pedestrian use, they are allowed in wilderness.

Suggested action(s) for visitors:
  • Plan to visit wilderness on foot, or with recreation livestock, skis, or non-motorized watercraft.

Short Cutting Switchbacks

Cutting switchbacks, or not staying on trails, causes unnecessary erosion, additional repair work for trail crews, and affects the wilderness experience of others.

Suggested action(s) for visitors:
  • Where trails are provided, confine travel to existing routes to limit unnecessary impacts and encourage others to do the same.

Litter and Debris Disposal

Littering in wilderness affects the experiences of other visitors and the health of wildlife.

Suggested action(s) for visitors:
  • Pack out what you pack in and help preserve wilderness character by packing out the litter of others too.

Bottles or Cans Prohibited

In certain environments, such as lake-based wilderness, disposal of bottles and cans in the water can be a significant hazard to humans and aquatic life.

Suggested action(s) for visitors:
  • Refrain from bringing bottles and cans into the wilderness by re-packaging food into light-weight, reusable containers that are packed out when empty.

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