WYOMING

A U.S. magistrate dealt fines to 20 Sheridan, Wyo., four-wheelers for destroying national forest land last June.

The incident happened during an annual "Spring Run" across the Bighorn National Forest, says Tongue District Ranger Craig Yancey. "Normally they do it on gravel roads, so it's not a problem," says Yancey, "but for some reason they decided to go on dirt roads, and then they proceeded to drive in and out of a riparian zone." He says the drivers damaged roads, riparian areas and high country parks in six areas across the forest.

A Forest Service volunteer documenting campground vandalism caught the four-wheelers on videotape. "In the video," says Yancey, "you can actually hear them cheering in the background."

The Sheridan residents pled guilty this March. The 20 people were fined almost $8,000 and ordered to pay slightly over $13,000 in restitution. That money will be used to restore the damage this summer.

A similar incident happened on private land near Boulder, Colo., last September (HCN, 10/23/00: Mudfest debacle muddies off-roaders' future). Yancey says such instances have been rare on the Bighorn, but notes that advances in off-road vehicle technology put more and more land within recreationists' reach. "We're just hoping that public awareness has increased, too."