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Forest Service going on a map quest

Press Photo by John Odermann U.S. Forest Service District Ranger Ron Jablonski explains the new mapping process they are conducting throughout the Little Missouri National Grasslands in western North Dakota to landowners, Sandy and Joe Frenzel, at the travel management public comment meeting held at the Dickinson Research and Extension Center on Tuesday.

There are several roads that wind through the Badlands of western North Dakota where people can get lost. It can also be unclear which are private and public. The U.S. Forest Service hopes to solve these problems by mapping the 1.1 million acres of Forest Service land located in the Little Missouri National Grasslands.

The Forest Service held the second of three public comment and review meetings in Dickinson at the Dickinson Research and Extension Center Tuesday afternoon. Interested residents lingered in to see preliminary plans the Service created.

"There's so many roads. And that's part of what we're trying to clean up," said Ron Jablonski, Dickinson District ranger with the U.S. Forest Service. "It's developing a road system, a travel system that actually works."

Jablonsky stressed the maps are first drafts and there could be changes.

"We need to look at this and you need to look at this and tell us what did we miss, what did we catch, are there changes that you would like to see," he said.

The Forest Service traveled the roads and used GPS to create the maps.

Jablonski said they tended to stick to roads the Forest Service has established, identified or have maintenance requirements on.

Local counties have also been contacted in order to map roads they consider "open," Jablonski said.

"We're trying to mesh all of that together to give the public a clear understanding of the roads that are available to them on public land -- on the National Forest System land -- and on the private land coming out to the grasslands," Jablonski said.

Jablonski said the grasslands are loaded with two-track road following the hunting season that are not roads in the traditional sense.

"At the end of hunting season we end up with probably 100 miles of road or more of new two-track road on the prairie," Jablonski said, adding hunters are sometimes too lazy to walk "so they drive the F-350 out there."

"We end up with a bunch of those at the end of hunting season," he said of the two-tracks. "Those are not roads, we don't want those out there."

Jablonski said the Forest Service has received a pretty good response so far on an issue that can tend to be emotional. After all, he said, everyone has their favorite roads.

There have been legitimate issues raised though, including whether or not landowners can prevent access.

"We've got some issues of course where you're got a section of green land and then you're got a section of private and then a section of green land and no body has a right of way across that private land," Jablonski said.

Jablonski said it is a valid landowner argument to prevent access on their private land and arrangements may need to be made to solve those issues.

Landowners, Joe and Sandy Frenzel, who own land near Medora, said it is good to know that roads located on private land will not be included in the maps if the landowners do not want to allow access.

"If there's some that crosses private land they're not going to put it on their map," Sandy said. "I think if they're map comes out right I think it should clear it up where you can drive and where you can't drive."

Jablonski said they hope to have an accurate map of the Little Missouri National Grasslands.

"When we're all done it'll be a free map that'll be available to the public that they can open up and say, 'All of these roads on this map are open to me,'" Jablonski said.

To view and comment on the maps, contact the Forest Service at 701-227-7800 or visit