ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - New Mexico campers heading out for Memorial Day weekend will notice some major changes on U.S. Forest Service land since this time last year.
Burn scars, federal funding cuts and new mandates are all factors in changes that could affect where campers plan to go and what they plan to do.
The newly released 2013 Motor Vehicle Use Map from the Santa Fe National Forest is a big part of the changes, and it's raising a lot of questions.
A federal mandate required all national forests to develop a motorized use program clarifying which roads are open to the public and what kinds of vehicles can be driven on those roads.
In the past anyone could drive pretty much anywhere they wanted across forest land. However, officials said years of doing that has taken a big toll on the land.
Santa Fe National Forest officials said they've had people stuck in wet meadows, visitors have destroyed habitats, soils and disrupted the watershed.
Analysis by the Forest Service along with public input resulted in the new map. Currently roads are closed near places like the Las Conchas Fire area, where officials said burn scars have taken a toll on the land. Officials predict some areas near there will take 300-400 years to recover.
Other popular areas are affected, too, where officials say years of travel have damaged the land and hurt resources.
Plus federal budget cuts have led to reduced service at some campsites, meaning no trash pickup, restrooms or drinking water and fewer patrols.
It may be an inconvenience for campers, but officials say it's all in an effort to preserve the land long-term.
"A lot of the travel management is how we can better manage our forest to protect the various resources there for future generations and the public," said Jeff Harris of the Santa Fe National Forest Service. "And that's really where it's at."
Forest officials plan on updating the traffic map each year, so more roads in the future could once again open up.
Harris added Forest Service officials will be out in full force this weekend patrolling areas and passing out the new maps to the public and answering questions, Harris added.
Law enforcement will also be out to enforce the new road rules.
Additional information is posted on the Santa Fe National Forest website.
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