Utah division blames land ‘misuse’ for brand new Cache County tenting space closure

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The entrance to the East Fork Little Bear Wildlife Management Area Friday morning. The area is now closed to overnight camping due to continued abuse of the property, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. (Utah Department of Wildlife Resources)

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PARADISE — The East Fork Little Bear River Wildlife Refuge is literally in paradise, but state wildlife officials say conditions are far from there due to ongoing “abuse” by campers.

Daniel Olson, the northern region’s habitat manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, says campers routinely leave trash and feces over the mile-long stretch of the East Fork Little Bear River west of the Porcupine Reservoir. Visitors have also damaged protective wooden fences on the land to use as firewood; They’ve left campfires unattended and even lit them when fires weren’t allowed due to wildlife risks, he adds.

Department officials say they’ve had enough. They announced Friday that they are banning overnight stays on Cache County’s property, effective immediately.

“We will reclaim and improve the area and make it a great place to fish again,” Olson said in a statement Friday.

The Division acquired the land from a private owner in the 1980s and turned it into one of nearly 200 wildlife management areas in the Division’s portfolio. State wildlife biologists also modified the course of the river prior to the acquisition, adding bends to allow it to create congestion areas where fish could thrive.

It’s a popular spot for catching brown trout in the fall, although there are some cutthroat trout as well. In addition, division officials say the 1-mile stretch provides “critical habitats” for wildlife outside of the water.

Although division officials say it was not acquired as a campground, until now it eventually began offering overnight camping facilities. They say most campers have followed the rules, but too many in recent years have not, leading to the decision to ban it.

Trash found at a campground in the East Fork Little Bear River Wildlife Refuge in August 2021.Trash found at a campground in the East Fork Little Bear River Wildlife Refuge in August 2021. (Photo: Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

They said the area will remain open for day use and fishing access.

“We encourage anglers to come… and enjoy a day of fishing,” Olson said. “We have worked hard to improve the river and make it a great place for fishing and anglers.”

Just don’t plan to stay overnight.

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Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter covering general news, nature, history and sports for KSL.com. He previously worked for the Deseret News. He is a Utah transplant next to Rochester, New York.

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