National forest creates new trail ranger jobs

The Black Hills National Forest is creating its first trail ranger positions as recreational all-terrain vehicle use gains popularity on the trail system.

Deputy Forest Supervisor Jerry Krueger told the Rapid City Journal that forest officials will begin accepting applications for the five trail-ranger jobs soon. The trail rangers will be spread out between Spearfish, Rapid City and Custer.

“I think it’s a function of increased use, and a realization that we need to do a better job of engagement with the public, both in terms of public education and compliance,” Krueger said.

Motorized recreation was loosely regulated in the forest until 2010, when officials adopted a plan restricting vehicles to approved trails and requiring trail users to buy permits. The popularity of the motorized trail system is reflected in permit sales which have grown from about 11,200 permits in 2013 to about 21,500 last year.

The forest has about 688 miles of motorized trails covered by the permit requirement.

Forest officials have received complaints about motorized users who damage the area, fail to buy permits or drive on trails designated only for hiking, biking or horseback riding.

The trail rangers will be tasked with responding to complaints and enforcing the motorized trail system’s rules.

Krueger said that the new rangers will be funded through revenue from motorized-trail permit fees.

The new positions are part of the forest’s broader effort to update strategy for non-motorized trails. Krueger expects to assess the trail system, examine potential new trails and discuss compliance and permitting in the coming months.

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