Forest Service officials concerned about damage to grasslands from mud bogging

2013-11-08T06:30:00Z Forest Service officials concerned about damage to grasslands from mud boggingAndrea J. Cook Journal staff Rapid City Journal
November 08, 2013 6:30 am  • 

Taking off across the prairie with your off-road outfit can be fun, but it can also damage sensitive grasslands left waterlogged by recent snow and rain.

And that has U.S. Forest Service officials concerned.

Off-roaders are welcome in the Railroad Buttes area of the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands about 15 miles east of Rapid City on South Dakota Highway 44, but some people are abusing the privilege, officials say. 

For instance, Forest Service officials recently found a pickup mired to the floorboards in a Railroad Buttes mud hole. Tire tracks from various vehicles have sliced deep gouges in the landscape.

"It's an area where we, in our forest plan, in our travel management, designated as an area where we would allow some of the off-road riding," said Fall River District Ranger Mike McNeill.

The travel management plan was intended to reduce some of the damage done by off-roading by giving off-roaders a place to go, but not when the soil is saturated.

"Mud-bogging is not compatible with that objective," McNeill said. It's also illegal. Anyone caught mudding on federal lands can face fines of up to $5,000 and six months in jail. Restitution fees to repair damage can also be assessed.

Signs advising off-road vehicles not to use the area when it is wet are posted, but some people ignore those signs, McNeill said.

"It's not widespread," McNeill said. 

Robin Robertson has owned the Country Corner convenience store for 15 years. Her family runs cattle in the area and notices off-road vehicles chasing cattle away and damaging the landscape.

Robertson said, however, that 99 percent of the recreationists follow the rules. It’s the one percent that cause issues. She understands both sides of the argument, as “they need a place to ride.”

Grassland visitors typically stop at her business for refreshments and gas.

Roberston said off-roaders are not the only ones causing problems on the grasslands. Game hunters and rock hunters will cut across trails or drive if they don’t feel like walking, which contributes to the damage.

She added that people have been riding out that way for years, but more people are visiting the area, which makes a seemingly small problem grow exponentially.

A Baja off-road area about 7 miles west of Interior on Hwy. 44 is also designated for off-road use. So far, off-road enthusiasts have not caused any significant problems in the area, according to Alan Anderson, Wall district ranger.

Railroad Buttes receives more use because it is closer to Rapid City, but the area has fragile soils that can be damaged by off-road vehicles when it's wet, Anderson said.

"They can make a mess if they want to," he said.

Repeated misuse of those areas can create open ruts and tear up the grasslands, Anderson said. 

"If it's muddy, we would like people to not go out there. That's the bottom line," McNeill said.

There are roads and tracks designated for travel on the grasslands, but travelers should consider the conditions before they use those routes this fall, Anderson said. 

Anderson also reminded hunters and recreational off-roaders that when they venture off those designated routes, "they are not only breaking the rules, but they have a good chance of getting stuck."

Contact Andrea J. Cook at 394-8423 or

Copyright 2015 Rapid City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(9) Comments

  1. Born2fish
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    Born2fish - November 10, 2013 2:16 pm
    City folk? A 4 inch rut a crime? Really? I make 4 inch ruts with my boots while hunting deer. Should I be arrested? OH, I made several of them too. P.S. What part of PUBLIC LAND is confusing?
  2. Erudite
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    Erudite - November 09, 2013 6:09 am
    Motto of the Forest Service " keeping the public off public land anyway we can."
  3. Jonnnnn
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    Jonnnnn - November 08, 2013 9:39 pm
    Folks who want to mud bog should do it on their own land. Making ruts deeper than four inches on public land should be a crime.
  4. JackKnob
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    JackKnob - November 08, 2013 6:47 pm
    Last time I checked F 250 with lift kits and mud tires haven't been around for 100 years. There are also a lot more people in the hills now than there were 50 years ago. If open travel policy from back then was allowed today, with all the people in the area, there would be a lot more damage. Stagecoaches traveling 5 mph pulled by a team of oxen wont tear up the land nearly as much as a dirt bike, four wheeler, side by side, or truck.
  5. Calvin
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    Calvin - November 08, 2013 5:32 pm
    Mud bogging on ground that is wet and muddy? What are these people thinking.
    Mud bogging should only be allowed on dry, hard-packed ground where there is no vegetation.
  6. Report Abuse
    - November 08, 2013 10:41 am
    Some ruts I can understand.

    It's the jerks that rip the Dickens out the area that irk me. Intentional destruction of a natural area really frosts me. I agree with tracking down whoever does that type of thing and then throw the book at them.

    I feel similarly to those jerks that haul junk out to the shooting areas, shoot it up, then leave it there. I catch someone doing that, I'm taking pictures - (with Lisc Plate info if possible), then emailing them to the police.
  7. snowflake
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    snowflake - November 08, 2013 10:01 am
    actually, ruts were created by wagons and stagecoaches long before now and the land survived. The Forest Service is just looking for excuses to close off more land. Of course it gets rutted, even when it's not wet, but it is not hurting anything.
  8. just spitballin here
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    just spitballin here - November 08, 2013 8:35 am
    Let's not over react here. Please do not change all the rules again because of you see a rut in the ground. I have been hunting in the railroad buttes area for over 50 years. You have some wet years, you get ruts. Then you have dry years where they fill in and close up. Thats what that shale gumbo stuff does well. There is no better place for this type of off road area. You should be able to drive any roads in the grasslands or black hills like that has been done for the last 100 years. All of a sudden now ruts are a problem???? There have been ruts since cars were invented. Lets not ruin the area by over reacting with mandates like has been done in the hills with the so called off road trail system "stupid idea" I am tired of having the 99% of people penalized because of the 1% that go too far. Get out there and enforce the rules with the 1%.
  9. pirate21
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    pirate21 - November 08, 2013 8:32 am
    I don't understand why these people are not arrested? Like the people in the pickup were they arrested? From the looks of the picture they do a great deal of damage.
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