U.S. Forest Service encourages caution for snow travelers

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RUTLAND — With snow expected in the coming weeks, the U.S. Forest Service is looking forward to a successful snowmobile season and wants to encourage all riders to put safety first. Green Mountain National Forest (GMNF) officials are recommending that snowmobilers exercise caution when operating on the National Forest, and all lands, in Vermont this winter. GMNF officials remind snowmobile enthusiasts to heed to all gates and signs and to stay off roads and trails that are closed.

Weather permitting, snowmobile use is allowed on designated trails within the GMNF for four months beginning on Dec. 15 and ending on April 15. "We are concerned about user safety. Patrols which are aimed at enforcing rules and regulations, monitoring trail conditions and providing visitor information will occur throughout the Forest," said John Sinclair, Forest Supervisor for the Green Mountain and Finger Lakes National Forests. The GMNF will continue to work closely with state and local law enforcement agencies, as well as the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers (VAST) to make sure that users of the trail system are respectful, responsible, law abiding, and safe.

The GMNF and VAST cooperate to maintain more than 470 miles of National Forest System trails that are part of the larger statewide snowmobile network. VAST is one of a few snowmobile associations in the United States that has a cooperative partnership agreement with the U.S. Forest Service. "All of these trails allow mixed uses, so people are snowshoeing, hiking, and cross-country skiing, as well as using snowmobiles. Snowmobilers should travel responsibly and yield to other users," said Sinclair. The maximum speed is 35 miles per hour and Vermont has a tough Snowmobiling While Intoxicated Law that covers alcohol, as well as drugs.

The U.S. Forest Service is also warning the public of the dangers associated with riding, hiking and skiing on frozen water bodies. Trail users are encouraged to be mindful of fallen trees and other hazards they may encounter. Operators must maintain control of their snowmobile while riding; keep to the right at all times, wear helmets, and stay on designated trails only. All snowmobiles must be legally registered, have liability insurance, and operators must purchase a VAST Trails Maintenance Assessment decal. Officials also encourage winter trail users to pack a flashlight, cell phone, food, and extra warm clothing in case of an emergency.

Due to recent evaluation by Forest Service engineering staff, several trails and bridges on the Manchester Ranger District have been determined to be structurally unsound and unsafe for use by the snowmobiling public this season. The trails and bridges at the following link have been temporarily closed by a Forest Supervisor closure order and will undergo further analysis to determine if they will be replaced, repaired or removed: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd485639.pdf


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