The National Forest Service has been seeing an issue that keeps getting bigger every year...camping squatters.

RV says the squatter problem is especially an issue in the Bighorn National Forest and has been for years.

When you read the words 'squatter', you automatically think of someone living in a home they're without the permission of the owner.

Squatter house
Drew Kirby/CANVA

In this case, it's pretty much the same.

What the Forest Service is seeing is people bringing their camper trailers or larger RV's into dispersed camping areas and leaving them there all summer. Many are used as summer vacation homes and that's not ok with the Forest Service.

Dispersed Camper
Drew Kirby/CANVA

Recreation staff officer Andrea Maichak told the Buffalo Bulletin, that there are two main issues these 'long term' squatters are causing.

resource damage — wetlands, riparian areas, streambanks, erosion, road concerns — and social struggles — campers left unattended, not enough camping spaces, people overstaying the 14-day limit. 

The issue is such a concern, there's actually a Bighorn Mountain Coalition: Dispersed Camping task force. The task force is made up of folks with the interests of the local community in mind.

There have even been public forums in communities around the forest getting input and ideas of how to resolve the situation.

The forums have generated some interesting suggestions.

  • Assign the dispersed camping sites - keeping rv's in designated areas
  • Begin a sticker program - like ORV stickers and make rv's purchase an annual pass
  • Change the 14 day rule - now, you can stay in one spot for 14 days. Then you can move 5 miles away and stay for another 14. The suggestion was to limit your stay in the park to 14 total.
  • Increase the cost of ticket for someone that's overstayed their limit - violation cost go to $100 for going over the 14 day limit and $20 per day after.

Another issue is the enforcement staff, it would be hard to enforce these new rules if you don't have the proper amount of staff to enforce them.

What are your thoughts? You can let us know by sending us a message in our app.

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