Nevada City man guilty of driving in protected forest area

The Union Report

A U.S. judge found a Nevada City man guilty for operating a vehicle in a protected area of the Tahoe National Forest, officials said Monday.

According to Lauren Faulkenberry of Tahoe National Forest, U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Barnes found 36-year-old Ross McKnight guilty of driving a motorized vehicle off designated routes determined by the federal government.

Officials said McKnight was operating a vehicle in a protected riparian area along Greenhorn Creek. That area serves as “vital habitat” for the Foothill yellow-legged frog, a species that officials said was a federal concern and is considered an endangered species in California.

On March 27, U.S. Forest Service officers encountered McKnight about .5 miles south of the designated route in an area where motor vehicles are not allowed, Faulkenberry said. He was educated and ticketed on site. He later received additional fines in court.

“It is the responsibility of the motor vehicle user to tread lightly and know where they are allowed to go on National Forest lands,” Tahoe National Forest Patrol Captain Gerald Parker said in a statement. “Driving off designated routes causes the degradation of resources and could potentially harm wildlife, as in this case. Tahoe National Forest takes irresponsible motor vehicle use on public lands seriously from the lens of both public safety and the protection of habitat.”

The forest service said the Greenhorn Creek area has historically been heavily visited by motor vehicle users and other recreationists.

“Illegal fires during high-fire danger, abandoned burned-out vehicles and irresponsible recreation are often reported. Tahoe National Forest has ramped up patrol of the area in order to protect environmental resources and the surrounding communities,” officials said. “Over several years, Tahoe National Forest has engaged with the community through a variety of outlets including both public and media outreach to help educate motor vehicle users on the requirements of recreating responsibly on National Forest lands. Signage along designated routes is also installed where possible, but often defaced or removed by members of the public.”

For those unsure about where to travel, Tahoe National Forest issued motor vehicle use maps in 2010. Those maps outline designated roads and trails that are open to motorized travel, including any vehicle class restrictions and seasonal allowances in place. By law, motor vehicle users on National Forest System lands are required to only operate on designated routes identified in those maps.

Motor vehicle use maps for the Tahoe National Forest and other neighboring forests can be found at district offices and on the Tahoe National Forest website at

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