Sheridan, WY May 23, 2023 — Bighorn National Forest Supervisor, Andrew Johnson, recently signed an updated occupancy and use special order that, among other uses, affects dispersed camping. Changes to note are the 14-day stay limit is now year-round, visitors are required to move any personal property five road miles before returning to a campsite, and a new wildlife attractant storage requirement. Changes to the camping regulations are being phased starting this year. These new regulations expire in December 2023 and will be re-evaluated at that time. If there continues to be an unacceptable number of violations in 2023, further changes can be expected in 2024 including the requirement to remove all personal property from the Forest.
“Past environmental analysis and public input show that dispersed camping has been an issue on the Forest for decades,” said Andrew Johnson, Bighorn National Forest Supervisor. “Along with resource damage, the behavior of leaving equipment on the mountain has reduced the opportunity for people to enjoy public lands. There is a finite number of quality camping locations, and we all need to work on sharing them appropriately.”
Due to increasing conflicts between wildlife, such as bears, and humans over the last several years, a wildlife attractant storage requirement was included in the new regulations. The wildlife attractant portion of the order includes requiring wildlife attractants to be stored in a closed vehicle, trailer, building, or facility constructed of solid, non-pliable material that, when secured, has no openings, hinges, lids, or coverings that would allow a bear to gain entry by breaking, bending, tearing, biting, or pulling with its claws (any windows must be closed). Horse or livestock trailers may not have any openings greater than 10 inches in two dimensions and must have any food, refuse, or animal carcasses stored more than three feet from any opening. Regular coolers are not considered bear-proof and should not be left outside unattended.
The high and long-term use of dispersed camping sites in the Bighorn National Forest has been impacting other resources and regulation changes were necessary. Most of the changes to the regulations were developed from input provided by the public online and during six public meetings held during the late summer in 2022.
Bighorn National Forest officials continue to evaluate the remaining Big Horn Mountain Coalition’s Dispersed Camping Task Force recommendations. These recommendations include a sticker program to authorize dispersed camping, identifying designated dispersed camping sites, and the expansion of Jaws Trailhead to allow overnight camping, including livestock. Other ideas such as identifying locations that may have dispersed camping potential but are currently closed to motorized access are also being considered.
You can find the new regulations along with all Forest orders on our website, https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/bighorn/alerts-notices/?cid=stelprdb5151832. If you have questions, please contact the Supervisor’s Office and Tongue Ranger District 307-674-2600 or your local Bighorn National Forest office. Follow us on Twitter (@BighornNF) or like us on Facebook (US Forest Service – Bighorn National Forest).