A decision from the U.S. Forest Service will place additional restrictions on motorized travel on part of the Medicine Bow National Forest in order to improve crucial big game habitat.

Existing seasonal road closures will be extended, sections of roads will be placed under new seasonal closures, and new gates will be installed to enforce the closures. The changes will be implemented this fall.

Laramie District Ranger Frank Romero says the goal is to help herds and hunters alike. The additional protections aim to bolster big game populations while encouraging the animals to stay on public land, rather than seek refuge on private land where hunters cannot pursue without permission.

“By working closely with the Wyoming Game & Fish Department, I think this decision presents a win-win situation," said Romero. "Big game herds win because they get the habitat and protection they need to prosper, and hunters win because the game they seek is more likely to stay on public land and be more available during hunting season."

Roughly 37 miles of roads currently closed from Nov. 15 -- April 30 annually will be closed another six weeks on either side, from Oct. 1 -- June 15 annually. The roads in question are on a narrow section of forest running south from near Lake Owen along the foothills to the Colorado state line.

Another 10 sections of road totaling 8.6 miles running directly adjacent to crucial big game habitat will see new seasonal closures. The new closures will allow the Forest Service to install gates at practical traffic pinch points. Five new gates will be installed to better enforce the closures.

“I appreciate all of the people who took time to speak with me in person or send in their comments about this project,” said Romero. “I did a lot of reading and listening, and feel that I heard those both for and against our proposal."

The Forest Service developed the project specifically for the Sheep Mountain Mule Deer Initiative in collaboration with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

“I want to stress that we are not closing the area to the public. The public may still use the area and even drive relatively close to the Forest boundary in most places. Specific to hunting, this decision just changes the location where the walking portion of the hunt starts,” said Romero.