NEVADA CITY, CALIF. (Dec. 5, 2022) — After an investigation by Tahoe National Forest law enforcement officers, U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Barnes found a Nevada City resident guilty of driving a motorized vehicle off designated routes determined by the federal government. The driver was operating a vehicle in a protected riparian area along Greenhorn Creek that serves as vital habitat for the Foothill yellow-legged frog, a federal species of concern and California endangered species. 

On March 27, 2022, Forest Service officers encountered an individual approximately one-half mile south of the designated route in an area where motor vehicles are prohibited. The individual was educated and ticketed on site, later receiving additional fines in court. 

“It is the responsibility of the motor vehicle user to tread lightly and know where they are allowed to go on National Forest lands,” said Tahoe National Forest Patrol Captain Gerald Parker. “Driving off designated routes causes the degradation of resources and could potentially harm wildlife, as in this case. Tahoe National Forest takes irresponsible motor vehicle use on public lands seriously from the lens of both public safety and the protection of habitat.” 

Abandoned vehicle
Abandoned vehicle in the Greenhorn Creek area

Historically, the area of Greenhorn Creek was heavily visited by motor vehicle users and other recreationists. Illegal fires during high-fire danger, abandoned burned-out vehicles and irresponsible recreation are often reported. Tahoe National Forest has ramped up patrol of the area in order to protect environmental resources and the surrounding communities. 

Over several years, Tahoe National Forest has engaged with the community through a variety of outlets including both public and media outreach to help educate motor vehicle users on the requirements of recreating responsibly on National Forest lands. Signage along designated routes is also installed where possible, but often defaced or removed by members of the public. 

In 2010, the Tahoe National Forest completed its motorized travel management analysis and issued motor vehicle use maps (MVUM). The MVUM outlines designated roads and trails open to motorized travel including any vehicle class restrictions and seasonal allowances. The purpose of the MVUM is to strike a balance between preserving public access while limiting the disruption to rural communities and the environment.  

Motor vehicle users on National Forest System lands are required by law to only operate vehicles on designated routes identified on the MVUM. The MVUM for the Tahoe and neighboring forests can be found at district offices and on the Tahoe National Forest website at