PUBLIC LANDS -- Officials from the Clearwater National Forest released a photo this morning showing the damage University of Idaho fraternity members caused to public land last year. The fraternity recently paid the U.S. Forest Service $4,382 in a court case over damages they caused by building an illegal road into a meadow.
The photo leaves little doubt that forest officals weren't overreacting.
On May 5, 2010, several members of the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity were charged with creating a road into Vassar Meadows on the Palouse Ranger District.
“Suspects admitted they knew it was wrong to drive in the meadow, but once the rough road was created, others arriving followed suit creating more damage,” said Laura Smith, forest spokeswoman. “At least one vehicle was stuck creating deep ruts in the meadow.”
The U.S. District Court in Moscow and a federal prosecutor agreed to have the fraternity to pay full restitution for the resource damage.
Smith said the Forest Service will use the money to restore the meadow and block further access to the area.
"We are vigorously going after violators who are going off roads and we want them to know that if they're caught there's a legal issue to deal with as well as restitution for the damage," said Stephen Bryant, Forest Service enforcement investigator.
The damage caused by illegal off-road riding isn't just ugly, he said. "It spreads noxious weeds, creates roads others will follow, damages plant communities and takes away the beauty of North Idaho meadows."