National Forest issues new vehicle use maps

Published 12:01 am Thursday, October 11, 2012

Forest enthusiasts are being encouraged to “know before you drive” before heading out into the state’s national forests – including the Conecuh National Forest.

The initiative was designed to sustain the health of Alabama’s national forests. Free vehicle use maps outlining Forest Service roads and trails are available for each of the state forests, said Tim Mersmann, CNF district ranger.

“The motor vehicle use map was created to comply with the 2005 national Travel Management Rule requiring each national forest to evaluate and identify roads, trails and areas designated for legal motor vehicle travel,” Mersmann said. “After designations are complete, on the ground implementation involves effective partnerships with state and local governments and user groups to enhance and protect natural resources and limit impacts on public lands.”

Maps also include information on the types of vehicles allowed on each route and any seasonal restrictions that may apply during the year, he said.

The maps do not replace the forest visitor map, which provides detailed information about the national forest, he said.

Mersmann said the popularity of off-highway vehicle use has increased over the years, impacting natural resources and in some cases creating unplanned roads and trails. The management rule helps the Forest Service “balance providing recreational activities for the public while sustaining the health of public lands,” he said. “As a result of national direction, we have moved on the Conecuh to a policy where motor vehicles are allowed only on open roads, versus ‘drive anywhere you want.’”

He said this is the fifth year of this new approach.

“But there are a few changes,” he said. “This year we’ve added about 60 roads to our open roads system. There’s better signage on the ground, and we have better maps and information available to help users know where they can legally drive.”

“We are in fifth year of this new approach. We are trying to adjust and improve each year,” he said.

Mersmann said the Conecuh has a very high level of motor vehicle access.

“In fact, we have a higher density of open roads than most national forests,” he said. “And although road maintenance costs and related resource protection issues on the Conecuh are not major problems, open roads do have costs that we must manage responsibly.

“It remains our goal to identify the right-sized road system in order to meet public needs and to manage road-related costs,” he said.

Requests for specific adjustments to our open road system may be made by calling Daks Kennedy or Debbie Russell at the Conecuh National Forest office at 222-2555, he said.

Maps are available at or available at Forest Service district offices throughout the state.