Snowmobile trespass into the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness has decreased dramatically this winter thanks, in large part, to the effects of an educational campaign conducted cooperatively by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the community of Cooke City.
The use of motorized recreational vehicles and equipment is illegal in wilderness areas.
An environmental assessment conducted by FWP last year, in conjunction with a USFS law enforcement report, identified the trespass problem. That USFS report identified 472 snowmobile encroachments into wilderness areas in the vicinity of Cooke City during the winter of 1995-96.
However, the cooperative educational effort involving the town of Cooke City, the USFS and FWP appears to be paying off. Through April 6 of this year, only about 45 snowmobile encroachments into wilderness areas had been reported. The Cooke City Chamber of Commerce, individual businesses, the Upper Yellowstone Snowmobile Club and individuals are helping spread the word to visitors about the importance of staying out of designated wilderness areas while snowmobiling.
The USFS, in cooperation with FWP, has increased law enforcement patrols, is now employing aerial surveillance to monitor snowmobile locations and has stiffened penalties for violations of the federal wilderness law.
Wilderness boundaries have been marked and locator signs have been placed on groomed trails near Cooke City to inform snowmobilers of their location. Maps that clearly identify the wilderness boundary also are available to recreationists.
FWP encourages snowmobilers visiting the Cooke City area to stay out of wilderness areas and to ride safely and ethically.