AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Forest Rangers urge motor vehicle operators to exercise caution and common sense when traveling on any unpaved areas whether it is on dirt roads, fields, public areas or other open spaces during “mud season.”
“Unauthorized mudding on roads or private property is not good, clean fun,” said Walt Whitcomb, Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF). “Making the mud fly is more than likely causing a significant amount of private property, crop or environmental damage.”
Maine’s Forest Rangers are a part of the Forest Protection Program within the DACF Division of Forestry. The Rangers also warned that causing mudding damage could be a Class E crime, and they are on the alert to stop damage and catch violators. Widespread public education is the preferred method of Maine Forest Rangers to minimize that damage and protect property owners.
Every spring across Maine, forest and agricultural owners have their roads damaged by motor vehicles. The operators of these motor vehicles, usually in four-wheel-drive pickups, look for roads that are muddy and wet in order to slip, slide and spin in mud. As these landowners know, these activities are very costly to repair, can be highly unsightly and can cause lost productivity.
Maine’s Forest Rangers investigate numerous complaints of damage to forest lands, crop lands, ATV trails and roads each year and have worked successfully with District Attorneys across the state in numerous prosecutions.
As a unit of Maine government charged with protecting the Maine, forest, Rangers urge the pickup drivers to understand that in a very short amount of time, a vehicle operating on wet forest roads or soft crop lands can cause thousands of dollars in damage and can also harm fish habitat with uncontrolled mud runoff.
“Maine’s Forest Rangers are vigilant in protecting our resources,” said Gov. Paul R. LePage in a press release. “I commend them not only for serving as stewards of our environment, but also for keeping Mainers safe. I encourage everyone to enjoy Maine’s outdoors, but ask that they act responsibly and respect private and public property at all times. ”
As stated in Maine law, a person who, as a result of operating a motor vehicle on farmland or forest land, damages or destroys crops, forest products, personal property or roads on that farmland or forest land, commits a Class E crime. Further, a “motor vehicle” means any self-propelled vehicle not operated exclusively on tracks, including all-terrain vehicles as defined in Title 12, section 13001, but not including snowmobiles.
Recently, a driver from Eddington was convicted in Bangor District Court for damaging a road owned by the Bureau of Parks and Lands in Bradley, after he drove on the closed road creating ruts and other damage. The driver was fined $250 for the offense. Along with fines, permanent trespass warnings are sometimes issued to violators, resulting in them being barred from returning to the property.
Forest Rangers will be joining all law enforcement over the next few weeks looking for people causing mud season damage with their motor vehicles. Rangers are often in close contact with landowners who have had past problems, in an effort to identify trouble spots and to concentrate patrol efforts. People witnessing roads and crop lands being damaged are asked to call their local law enforcement or the Maine Forest Service at 1-800-750-9777.
For more information about the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry and the Maine Forest Service, go to: <http://www.maine.gov/acf>