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  • Sarah Walker

Travel Planning: What is it & Why is it Important?

Updated: Jan 13, 2023

Unlike a Forest Plan, which says what can happen, a Travel Plan says what will happen and shapes the use of public lands for decades to come.

Already familiar with Travel Planning and interested in WWA's current engagement with Wyoming Travel Plans? Click Here


Travel management planning for public lands is generally described as the process of designating a sustainable system of roads, trails, and areas that are open for motor vehicle use. Travel planning might not sound exciting, but these public planning processes are critical opportunities to safeguard our vulnerable frontcountry wildlands and designate user-friendly, fiscally-responsible road and trail systems on our public lands.

Travel planning centers on off-road vehicle use


In the 1970s, Executive Orders 11644 and 11989 from Presidents Nixon and Carter directed federal agencies to designate systems open for motor vehicle use and to manage off-road vehicle (ORV) use to protect natural resources, minimize conflict and promote public safety. The “minimization criteria” in these executive orders must be applied whenever agencies designate off-road vehicle areas and trails on federal lands, and each agency has adopted the minimization criteria into their own travel guidelines and regulations. The 2005 Travel Management Rule from the US Forest Service (USFS) marked a fundamental shift in how the USFS manages motorized travel by clarifying the requirements for designation of roads, trails, and areas open to motor vehicle use, prohibiting motor vehicle use off the designated system, and requiring each unit to identify a minimum road system. The “travel rule” has three equally important subparts:

Subpart A directs each unit to identify a minimum road system with the goal of maintaining an appropriately sized and environmentally sustainable road system that is responsive to ecological, economic, and social concerns.

Subpart B codifies the minimization criteria and offers clear guidance on how the agency must locate off-road vehicle trails with the goal of minimizing conflict and impact. It also requires a motor-vehicle use map (MVUM) to enforce the designated motorized route system.

Subpart C, and the subsequent 2015 Winter Travel Rule, requires the agency to conduct over-snow vehicle travel planning with the same “closed unless designated open” approach required for wheeled vehicle travel planning, and produce an over-snow-vehicle use map for winter travel.


Why does it matter?

Resource Management Plans (RMPs, for the BLM) and Forest Land Management Plans (LMPs, for USFS) identify what uses are allowed where, including motorized and recreational vehicles. These guiding plans say what can happen on our public lands, but travel management planning determines what will happen. Because travel planning centers on off-road vehicle use, the public comment opportunity can generate significant pressure for new ORV opportunities. Engaging in the travel planning process is essential to protect Wyoming’s public wildlands from the well-documented impacts of increasing off-road vehicle recreation in inappropriate places.

Signs of illegal motorized travel in a roadless area

Motorized and mechanized vehicles are prohibited in designated wilderness areas, but those wilderness areas can still be impacted by adjacent off-road vehicle proposals in the travel planning process. Much of Wyoming’s designated wilderness areas can be termed “rock and ice”, while most of Wyoming’s easily-accessible frontcountry unprotected roadless areas remain especially vulnerable to increasing off-road vehicle and recreation pressure. These frontcountry wildlands offer critical migration, parturition and winter range habitat that require extra safeguarding.

Travel planning presents important opportunities for sustainable, user-friendly, fiscally responsible travel systems on our public lands. Designated dispersed campsites, road decommissioning, seasonal closures, resource concerns, trailhead parking and access, non-motorized winter recreation opportunities, and known user conflicts should all be addressed through travel planning. Informed, knowledgeable, site-specific comments from users familiar with these roads, trails and landscapes is especially critical to any successful travel planning process.

Photo taken by a horse rider of illegal off-road vehicle tracks causing resource damage
More instances of illegal off-roading in Shoshone National Forest

Current Management Plans

Shoshone National Forest Travel management Plan

The Shoshone National Forest is currently revising their travel plan, which has been in the process since 2015. Wyoming Wilderness Association has been closely involved in this process since its start and has worked to keep you, the public, informed on actions you can take to be a part of the process as well.

Interested in getting up to speed on the current state of the SNF Travel Plan? Click here ->

Rock Springs Resource Management Plan

The Bureau of Land Management’s Rock Springs Field Office is revising its resource management plan. This land-use plan will direct the management for the next 15-20 years for 3.6 million acres for what is called the Rock Springs Planning Area.

WWA has been an engaged partner in a coalition dedicated to ensuring strong conservation outcomes in the Rock Springs RMP since the process began in 2011. Learn More Here


Ready to be a voice for your public wildlands?

How to have an impact

  1. Stay educated on the various federal management processes impacting Wyoming public wildlands by checking out our resource page

  2. Learn about current travel planning efforts from organizations like WWA and your local Forest Service and BLM offices

  3. Attend public meetings & make your voice heard through public commenting -> Sign up for our email list to be alerted

Stay Updated - Join Our Email List

When you sign up for our online email list, you will receive:

  • Up-to-date information on Travel Management Plan progress

  • 'Action Alerts' for public engagement and comment periods with projects affecting Wyoming public wildlands

  • Updates on WWA's work across all our priority landscapes

  • Invites to local educational outings and events

Contact Sarah Walker, our Policy Coordinator, with questions:

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