Know Before You Go, Staying Safe in the Forest

As a visitor to National Forest System Lands, you are asked to follow certain rules designed to protect the natural environment, to ensure the health and safety of visitors, and to promote a pleasant and rewarding outdoor recreation experience for all visitors. Regional Foresters and Forest Supervisors may issue orders that will close or restrict the use of certain areas if the need arises. Such orders will be posted so that visitors to the National Forest can reasonably be expected to be familiar with them. Copies of the orders will be available in the offices of Forest Supervisors and District Rangers. If you have any questions or need help, please contact your nearest Forest Officer or visit the nearest Forest Service Office.

Please remember to be careful! You are responsible for your own safety. Be alert for natural hazards and dangers.

Potable Water

There is no potable water on the Buffalo Gap National Grassland. What water is found is not safe for human consumption. Due to high summer temperatures and lack of shade, care must be taken to avoid heat related injuries.

Domestic and Wild Animals

Rattlesnakes are part of the local environment. Be alert and watch your step.

Though most grazing is under permit with commercial operators that raise domestic cattle or sheep, there are some private bison herds. Please remember that bison can be dangerous. Keep your distance from all livestock. "Open range" is a term indicating an area with livestock roaming free, unrestricted by fences. Drive carefully as animals are often found on roads.



Throw all garbage and litter in containers provided for this purpose, or take it with you. Garbage containers, when provided, are reserved for the use of visitors to the National Forest, not visitors to or owners of private lands or lands under permit. Wash food and personal items away from drinking water supplies. Use faucets only for drawing water. Prevent pollution - keep garbage, litter, and foreign substances out of lakes, streams, and other water. Use toilets properly. Do not throw garbage, litter, fish cleanings, or other foreign substances in toilets and plumbing fixtures.


Obey all traffic signs. State traffic laws apply to National Forest unless otherwise specified. License tags, insurance and DUI violations are strictly enforced. When operating vehicles of any kind, do not damage the land or vegetation or disturb the wildlife. Avoid riding or driving on unpaved roads or trails when they are wet or muddy. Within campgrounds and other recreation sites, use cars, motorbikes, motorcycles, or other motor vehicles only for entering or leaving, unless areas or trails are specifically marked for them. A maximum of two (2) vehicles per campsite is allowed. Do not block, restrict, or interfere with the use of roads or trails, especially gated roads. Obey area and trail restrictions on use of trail bikes and other off-the-road vehicles.


Preserve and protect your National Forests. Do not carve, chop, cut, or damage any live trees. Leave natural areas the way you find them. Enter buildings, structures, or enclosed areas in Natural Forest only when they are expressly opened to the public. Indian sites, old cabins, and other structures, along with objects and artifacts associated with them, have historic or archeological value. Do not damage or remove any such historic or archeological resource or other property of the United States.

Fish and Wildlife

State law applies to activities within the national forests. Refer to Nebraska Game and Parks or South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks


Obey restrictions on fires. Fires may be limited or prohibited at certain times. Within campgrounds and other recreation sites, build fires only in fire rings, stoves, grills, or fireplaces provided for that purpose. For more information visit Fire  Prevention Resources

Be sure your fire is completely extinguished before leaving. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR KEEPING FIRES UNDER CONTROL.


Campgrounds and other recreation sites can be used only for recreation purposes. Permanent use or use as a principal residence without authorization is not allowed. In campgrounds, camp only in those places specifically marked or provided. At least one person must occupy a camping area during the first night after camping equipment has been set up, unless permission has otherwise has been granted by the Forest Ranger.

Do not leave camping equipment unattended for more than 24 hours without permission from a District Ranger. The Federal Government is not responsible any loss or damage to personal property.

Remove all personal property and trash when leaving.

Fee Areas

A fee may be required to use certain developed sites and facilities. Such areas are clearly signed or posted as requiring a fee. Where fees are required, you must pay them before using the site, facility, equipment, or service furnished.

Public Behavior

No fighting or boisterous behavior. Keep noise at a reasonable level. Please be considerate of fellow visitors. Threatening, intimidating, or interfering with any forest employee is a federal offense.

Pets and Animals

Pets must be always restrained or on a leash while in developed recreation sites. Pets (except guide dogs) are not allowed in swimming areas. Saddle or pack animals are allowed in recreation sites only where authorized by posted instructions. Hitching, tethering or hobbling a horse that causes damage to live trees, soil, or water is prohibited.

Passes and Permits

Most national forests and grasslands are open, free of charge, for your use and enjoyment. Fees may be charged and passes or permits may be required for some activities and locations. Business permitees, such as campground concessionaires and outfitter guides, may provide services to public land users with proper permits.

Audio Devices

Operate any audio device, such as a radio or musical instrument, so that it does not disturb other visitors. A permit is required for operating a public address system in or near a campsite, developed recreation site, or over a body of water.

All visitors and users of the National Forests are subject to Federal Regulations. The points of conduct listed here are generally included in and enforceable through Federal Regulations. All of the regulations are published in Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations (link) and are on file at all Forest Supervisor and District Ranger offices. Violation of orders and regulations is subject to punishment by a fine or imprisonment. Authority: 16 USC 551, 7 USC 1011(f). Search the United States Code.

State traffic and game laws apply to National Forests and Grasslands.