Grassland road use still up in the airDakota Prairie Grassland officials said Friday they have yet to pinpoint roads off-limits to the general public, leaving travelers to guess which roads are public and which are private.
Dakota Prairie Grassland officials said Friday they have yet to pinpoint roads off-limits to the general public, leaving travelers to guess which roads are public and which are private.
Dakota Prairie Grasslands Recreation Manager Paula Johnston said she leads the team that is supposed to complete the Travel Management program, which would produce a motor vehicle use map used to “identify and designate a system of motorized roads and trails that the public is invited to use.”
Johnston said the project was launched in November of 2005 and set for completion Jan. 1, but admits there has not been much progress.
“By regulation, we are required to complete this,” Johnston said Friday. “At some point in time, we’ll be doing it. But when, I have no idea.”
In the meantime, people cannot distinguish public and private roads in the grasslands, she said.
“I think our process is so confusing to people that folks got hung up on our proposed action,” Johnston said. “We never got to making a decision.”
Ron Jablonski, Medora district ranger with the Dakota Prairie Grasslands, said the Travel Management program is nowhere near completion because of the oil industry.
“It’s gone nowhere,” Jablonski said. “It got moved aside for some other things called an oil boom.”
Jablonski added that he knows some people are “territorial” about what roads they want to use and understands they get nervous waiting to hear if they will be denied access to those roads. He said Dakota Prairie Grasslands is not out to step on any toes in the process.
“We’re not trying to make anybody mad,” he said. “We’re trying to clean up our travel system and make it as efficient as we possibly can.”
Certain roads around the Grasslands are permitted for use by oil companies, Jablonski said, adding that some of those roads may no longer be accessible for people who have traveled them for years.
“A lot of these roads historically have been used by folks for many, many years,” he said. They are “roads that people feel very strongly about, personally.”
But as the oil industry grows in the Grasslands, Jablonski said he and other officials are waiting to map out accessible roads because they are unsure how many more roads will be designated for oil workers. Officials are also unsure of how long those workers plan on sticking around.
“Some of those roads to those wells could be in there for 30 years, depending on how long that well actually produces,” he said.
Jablonski expects the Travel Management program to continue in late spring or early summer, at which time he encourages people to speak up if they want certain roads to remain open to the public.
“We’re always open to comments,” he said.
Written comments regarding public road access in the Grasslands can be sent to Jablonski at firstname.lastname@example.org.