Forest Service guidance for the operation of recreational sites

Your Government counsel.™

The latest guidance from the US Forest Service for recreational services was issued in a memorandum dated March 24, 2020.  The agency stated that “Forest Service risk management assessments require recreational services to adhere to public health recommendations concerning ‘social distancing.’”  The memorandum advises Forests to make determinations as to whether this guidance can be followed with the involvement of the agency’s partner organizations “as practicable.”  The agency also noted that its goal is to not unnecessarily restrict access to National Forest Systems lands as it takes actions to mitigate risks of exposure to COVID-19 to both its employees and the public.  The memorandum states that:

“In forested areas and facilities that foster dispersed recreational access such as campgrounds, day use sites, and the NFS trail system, person-to-person contact can be minimized with risk mitigations.  Access by the public to those sites need not be restricted so long as sanitation measures and staffing capacity [] are adequate to minimize risks to public health and damage to resources.  If a unit cannot meet either of these standards, consider suspending services or closing the site.  When site closures alone do not mitigate public health and safety risk or align with state, regional, or local health and safety guidance/orders/requests, consider geographic defined closure areas.”

Specific guidance as to campgrounds, day use sites and dispersed recreation included:

-do not allow activities that congregate large groups.  Close group camping sites and large visitor congregations until further notice and implement administrative access restrictions

-consider closure if operations of campgrounds conflict with local guidance or if a risk assessment deems a closure necessary to protect employees or the community

-single bathrooms may remain open but are to be posted with cleaning schedules

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