Maroon Bells Wilderness to limit camping due to overuse

On Thursday, after releasing a report detailing the conditions of Wilderness areas in Colorado’s Aspen Sopris Ranger District, officials with the United States Forest Service announced they would be introducing a reservation and fee system for campers in the popular Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness to limit human traffic in the area, per Fox 31.

According to the report, the population boom in Colorado has negatively affected the upkeep of Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness as unprecedented numbers of campers are flocking to the backcountry, many of whom fail to adhere to the Forest Service’s guidelines for wilderness exploration.

maroon bells camping
Maroon Bells is picturesque, and the Forest Service would like it to remain that way. Photo: Courtesy of Geoff Llerena/Flickr

Per the report, in the past year alone, the two rangers and four volunteer interns in charge of maintaining Maroon Bells cleaned up over 438 pounds of trash left behind by campers and — more disturbingly — cited 273 instances of unburied human waste in the wilderness area. They also noted 323 illegal campfires and reported that only 42 percent of visitors complied with dog leash laws.

“The reservation system used to allocate overnight camping capacity per zone would include a fee for the reservation transaction,” Fox 31 quoted the Forest Service as saying about the new restrictions to camping in Maroon Bells. “Upon this decision, the Forest Service will likely pursue authorization through the Federal Land Recreation Enhancement Act to charge an additional fee for overnight permits.”

maroon bells camping
The wilderness area has been greatly affected in recent years by increasing numbers of campers. Photo: Courtesy of Max and Dee Bernt/Flickr

“The decision is based on the years of monitoring data, public input, extensive inventories and the environmental analysis findings that demonstrated the need for action to protect the natural resources from increasing degradation resulting from overnight use,” Karen Schroyer, an Aspen-Sopris District ranger, told The Denver Channel about the decision.

According to Fox 31, the permit fees — which have yet to be specified — will be reinvested into restoration projects dedicated to the upkeep of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness area, and the system will go into place following a 45-day objection period.

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