Forest Service to Implement Food and Refuse Storage Requirements

Release Date: 

Contact(s): Ethan M. Ready, Public Affairs Officer (802) 747‐6760

RUTLAND VT (July 24, 2019) – Forest Service officials announced today that they are  implementing a Forest Order for the entire Green Mountain National Forest (GMNF) geared toward minimizing black bear and human encounters and interactions. The order specifies proper food storage and prohibits leaving food, or refuse on National Forest system lands in Vermont. The Order was issued to provide for visitor safety and the conservation of bears. 

Similar Forest Orders have been implemented on other National Forests throughout the country including one on the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire. The result has been a reduction in the number of reported encounters between humans and bears. The new Forest Order applies to the entire GMNF, including the Rochester / Middlebury and Manchester Ranger Districts.

Recently, Forest Service officials in Vermont have had several reports of bear sightings, bears approaching shelters and even a bear entering a tent where campers have been present. The agency has been working to post alert notices at trail heads and at other developed campsites to notify recreation users about the recent spike in bear activity and to educate the public about proper food storage. Agency employees are also working to provide suitable food storage containers at sites where improper food storage has become problematic.

GMNF visitors are now required to store unattended food in bear-resistant containers, in a vehicle, in solid non-pliable material or suspend food at least twelve (12) feet off the ground and not less than six (6) feet horizontally from any object. In addition, all refuse containing food materials or containers shall be deposited in receptacles provided for that purpose, removed from the Green Mountain National Forest to be disposed of properly, or stored in the manner prescribed for food.

The black bear symbolizes the wild qualities of the Green Mountain State and its recovery from greatly reduced numbers throughout the region to its present thriving population is a result of sound management of bears and their habitat. Yet, humans, who often times mean well, are impacting bears unnecessarily by improperly disposing of garbage and leaving food unattended or improperly stored.

Bears are opportunists by nature. They feed on whatever is readily available in the wild, from berries to insects. Bears have a remarkable sense of smell that can lead them to unnatural foods. Garbage and food odors attract bears to residential areas, dump sites, trails, campsites, and picnic areas. Once a bear develops a pattern of relying on human food sources it begins to lose its fear of people and may become aggressive. This behavior creates safety concerns for humans and can be fatal for the bear. 

Brian Austin, Acting Forest Supervisor for the GMNF said, “With the increasing potential for human and bear interaction and the success we’ve seen with food storage requirements in other parts of the country, we believe it necessary to implement this Forest Order on the GMNF in Vermont. The goal of this Order is to keep people safe and to provide for the conservation of bears. We feel that managing the disposal of garbage and the storage of food can only make a positive difference for the bears and the visiting public on the National Forest, Austin concluded.”

Some helpful tips include:

  • Always keep a clean camp.
  • Don’t leave any food (including condiments) out when not in use.
  • Store food in bear-resistant units, hard-shelled vehicles or car trunks.
  • Keep sleeping areas, tents, and sleeping bags free of food and odor (like toothpaste or deodorant).
  • Don’t sleep in clothes you cooked or handled fish or game in.
  • Never bury or burn food waste.
  • If camping in the backcountry, hang your food bag at least twelve (12) feet off the ground and not less than six (6) feet horizontally from any object -- or better yet, pack and use bear resistant containers.
  • If possible, in backcountry areas, place sleeping tents at least 100 yards away from food storage and cooking areas.
  • If hiking with a dog keep it on a leash or leave it home.

Persons should report bear problems or damage caused by bears to a game warden by calling the nearest State Police office, and by reporting any incidents on the Vermont Fish and Wildlife website at: