Law Enforcement Investigation Leads to Guilty Verdict for Violator
HELENA, MONT., December 22, 2014—After a multi-year investigation, the Helena National Forest received a favorable court decision on a case that involved an individual’s illegal use of, and occupancy on, National Forest System lands just outside of Helena. Robert Myers was found guilty of multiple Federal violations and was ordered to pay more than $1,700 in fines and banned from all Federal lands for four years, two of which were suspended once the fines were paid.
The Forest Service law enforcement investigation was initiated after the Forest received a report from a concerned citizen about a trail and hunting camp in the Black Mountain/Colorado Mountain area. Forest personnel, both resource specialists and law enforcement officers, made multiple field visits to gather evidence for this case.
“We can’t be everywhere all of the time,” Forest Supervisor Bill Avey said. “We appreciate and follow-up on legitimate reports from people who notice an unusual situation or occurrence on the forest; and this is a prime example of that.”
During the investigation, law enforcement officers documented that a 4.5 mile trail with bridges over the marshy areas was constructed and maintained to allow access to a semi-permanent hunting camp, whereupon multiple structures—including a jack-leg fence, permanent wooden foundation for a wall tent, a makeshift horse corral, and a hay barn—were illegally built.
“I am satisfied with the verdict of this case, but I’m also very disappointed that this situation even occurred on our public lands,” Avey said. “The vast majority of the American public enjoys their national forests in a respectful manner, so it is always disturbing to me when individuals choose to ignore the regulations and laws that are in-place to help us responsibly manage the public’s land and resources.”
The Forest Service mission is to “sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.” Part of ensuring responsible management for current and future generations is enforcement of the laws and regulations specific to Federal lands.
“It truly is a treasure to have portions of the Helena National Forest as our ‘backyard’ and I encourage people to enjoy their forest as often as they can,” Avey said. “Because regulations, closure orders and even basic conditions can change regularly, I urge people to call our office for the latest information before they head out to the Forest.”
Most recently, the camping “length of stay” regulation was changed from 14 to 16 consecutive days at one spot before moving at least five miles away to a new location. Regional Forester Faye Krueger recently signed the length of stay order allowing two additional days in one location to help maximize visitors’ experiences on National Forest System lands in the Northern Region.
Other recreational-related regulations that Forest officials would like to remind people about are:
· Regardless of the purpose or duration, nobody can “cache”—or otherwise store—their equipment, personal items, pet or livestock food or other supplies on the Forest or within Wilderness boundaries.
· Discharging a firearm or any other implement capable of taking human life, causing injury or damaging property as follows:
o In or within 150 yards of a residence, building, campsite, developed recreation site or occupied area, or
o Across or on a National Forest System road or body of water adjacent thereto, or in any manner or place whereby any person or property is exposed to injury or damage as a result in such discharge; or
o Into or within any cave
· Follow all designated travel routes and seasonal travel restrictions across the Forest. Motorized use is only allowed on designated routes; if the route is not shown as a designated route on the travel map, it is closed to wheeled motorized vehicles.
· Food storage regulations are in-place for portions of the Helena National Forest, primarily on the Lincoln Ranger District, which require recreationalists to do the following:
o Store human, pet and lifestock food and garbage in a bear-resistant manner;
o Store wildlife carcasses that are within a ½-mile of any camp or sleeping area in a bear-resistant manner during nighttime hours;
o Burnable attractants must not be buried, discarded or burned in an open campfire.
· Due to a variety of projects occurring on or adjacent to Forest Service lands, temporary road, trail and/or area closures may be in-place.
“As I’ve said, a majority of forest recreationalists are looking for a quality and memorable experience, they aren’t looking to damage the land or bother other folks,” Avey said. “And I personally thank all of those people who enjoy their public lands in a respectful way that allows for others, including future generations, to enjoy these areas in years to come.”
For more information about the Helena National Forest, visit our website at www.fs.usda.gov/helena/ or call our Helena office at 406-449-5201.