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North Dakota Game and Fish imposes camping restrictions on the state's western wilderness areas

In an effort to cut down on long-term camping, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department is implementing camping restrictions effective immediately on some wildlife management areas in western North Dakota and along Lake Sakakawea.

The department Thursday said overnight camping now prohibited on the following WMAs: Antelope Creek, Big Oxbow, Lewis and Clark, Neu's Point, Ochs Point, Overlook, Sullivan and Tobacco Garden in McKenzie County; Van Hook in Mountrail County; and Hofflund and Trenton in Williams County.

Meanwhile, the following WMAs are closed to camping on Tuesdays and Wednesdays but open to camping Thursdays through Mondays: Audubon, Custer Mine, Deepwater Creek, deTrobriand, Douglas Creek and Wolf Creek in McLean County; and Beaver Creek and Hille in Mercer County.

Game and Fish does not operate any official campgrounds, but most WMAs are open to primitive camping for 10 consecutive days. The agency does not have staff manning the areas where people like to camp, and there is no registration system to keep track of when people come and go.

"In the past, we have always had people who would try to work around the 10-day limit," said Jeb Williams, assistant wildlife chief for Game and Fish in Bismarck. "But in recent years, we have seen a significant increase in the number of people who are residing on our WMAs for extended periods of time."

Game and Fish didn't specifically cite issues related to the influx of workers in the state's Oil Patch, where many people live in campers anywhere they can find a place to park. Because of the volume of campers, though, Williams said it's difficult for the department to keep track of who is abiding by the 10-day limit.

"The new rules are enforceable and are intended to ensure these areas are available for hunters and anglers," he said. "In some cases, we determined it was best to not allow any camping, and in other areas, the two-day per week restriction allows people to stay in areas where elimination of camping is not yet necessary."

On WMAs where camping is allowed Thursday through Monday, all equipment must be removed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays when camping is not allowed.

"This may be an inconvenience for some, but the vast majority of camping on WMAs is on weekends and we want to make sure they are available for recreationists," Williams said. "There are a number of managed campgrounds along Lake Sakakawea that are available for people to use any day of the week and for extended periods of time."

Camping restrictions at all WMAs are posted at entry points.

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