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Reward offered for reporting illegal off-road drivers

PUBLIC LANDS — I'm still hearing some positive and some disturbing responses to my recent stories dealing off-road vehicle driving.  But the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers have step up with some reasonable step toward accountability.

Small-town OHVers detour from mainstream of public land users

PUBLIC LANDS —Apparently my name is mud in Ione this week.

Last week, I reported that Colville National Forest officials were investigating a May gathering of four-wheel drive enthusiasts who illegally drove off designated roads open to motor vehicles and ripped up a seasonal wetland area in a powerline easement near the Pend Oreille County town.

I posted on my blog a link to a Facebook video someone shot of the mudding event and used a Forest Service photo of the aftermath to publicize that agency officials were investigating the case.

“It is against the law to tear up forest roads and meadows, and the legal and financial consequences can be steep,” said Franklin Pemberton, forest spokesman in Colville. 

  • See today's Outdoors column on Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers' bill to overturn the Travel Management Rule governing motor vehicle use on national forests.

Comments to my stories have ranged from “Thanks for bringing this sort of activity to the public’s attention,” to “I’m suing you for everything you’ve got!”

This is roughly the range of comments also being received by Forest Service officials who are trying to enforce laws that protect public lands.

In this May incident, the off-road travel and mudding was part of a popular annual charity ride. That doesn’t make it legal, but as one emailer pointed out, “What are you going to do, cite the whole town of Ione?”

I received several emails berating me for being an environmentalist who's interfering with their manner of enjoying public lands.

For the record, I'm not the only person who recognizes that some rules need to govern motorized vehicle use on national forests. Following the posting of my stories on the Cedar Creek mudding incident, I received a letter to the editor.

“As motorized users and sportsmen, we cannot tolerate the ATV and 4x4 mudding incident that took place near Ione, Wash., in May,” the letter begins. “Driving an ATV or 4x4 on our public lands is a privilege and our access is threatened by those who cause resource damage.

“We understand that access to public lands comes with responsibility, and like the vast majority of motorized users, we follow the rules. When senseless damage like this happens it leads to loss of access and trail closures and loss of trust.”

The letter was signed by 11 groups including five regional ATV clubs and one ATV dealer.

Here's a link to the entire letter and the groups that signed on to it.

QUESTION:

Why don't more northeastern Washington OHV enthusiasts partner with landowners for a place to stage OHV events on private land? Charge an entrance fee and make it a festival like they'll do this weekend at the St. John sprint boat races or as they do on private land near Odessa each spring for the Desert 100 dirt bike race.


Documents:

Colville Forest starts planning ORV trail system

PUBLIC LANDS — The Colville National Forest is moving ahead with a 10- to 15-year project to plan off-road vehicle trails and relocate camping areas to serve the motorized trail groups while rehabilitating the impacts illegal OHV use has had on streams, meadows and wildlife habitat.

  • A timeline of documents regarding the South End Project has been posted on the forest website.

The Decision Notice describes the selected alternative (Alternative 3) and provides the rationale of why the Forest Service selected this alternative. The chosen alternative includes designation of new off-highway vehicle (OHV) routes, restoration of campsites currently causing resource damage, development of parking areas, and an adjustment of the boundaries of management areas in the Colville National Forest Plan. 

“This decision will designate a system of roads and trails that create quality loops, connects communities, and provides for better access and increased opportunities for off-highway vehicles, while protecting natural and cultural resources,”  said Laura Jo West, Colville National Forest Supervisor.  “Once the new routes are added to the Colville National Forest Motor Vehicle Use Map they will be a great addition to ride and enjoy.”

The project area includes all or parts of Ruby, Cusick, Tacoma, Twelvemile, Monaghan, Indian, Addy, Leslie, Bayley, Chewelah, Thomason, Cottonwood, Smalle, Winchester and Calispell creek drainages on the Colville National Forest northwest of Newport. 

 “With such a large project area and a number of restoration efforts needed this project will be phased in over the next 15 years,” said Franklin Pemberton, forest spokesman. “Each potential route requires a safety analysis and a one year monitoring period to ensure there is no unauthorized use before being officially designated as open on the Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM).

  • Go here to see details of the forests travel management plan and view the MVUM and maps.

It is important to understand that until some important restoration and safety analysis work can be completed, the new routes will not be open to the public.  

An implementation team will meet twice each year.  In the spring, they will determine the roads to be added in the following year.  During the summer, each new route will undergo a safety evaluation and be surveyed for user created OHV routes.  In the fall, they will review monitoring, and roads that meet the criteria will be put on the MVUM for the following year.  To be put on the MVUM, a route must not have any new user-created OHV routes.  The first group of routes to be designated will connect the communities of Chewelah, Cusick, and Usk.  

 In addition to the new routes, an important restoration effort at Phillips Lake will help restore some previous damage.  During the restoration of Phillips Lake, there will be walk-in access only.  A gate will be placed on the road into the lake and limited parking available.  The restoration includes blocking all user created OHV trails, blocking the wetland areas with rocks, and defining parking and camping areas. 

 The Forest is working towards restoration of campsites to define parking and reduce compacted areas.  Work in Ruby, Tacoma, Cusick, and Calispell is expected to occur next summer with the goal of designated camping along high use areas.

 The OHV Ambassador program is being developed with interested parties.  Formal agreements are being developed.  The OHV Ambassador program involves volunteers riding through the area and interacting with visitors to keep the OHV experience enjoyable. 


Documents:

ATV protesters leave ruts in public opinion

PUBLIC LANDS — The recent Nevada ATV armed protest onto U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands closed to motor vehicle travel is a sham and a shame.

It's no more worthy of public sympathy than the related gun and flag-waving protest over a deadbeat Nevada rancher's claim that he should be able to graze cattle on public lands without paying a fee, despite what the courts say.

Imagine how history might have turned out if Rosa Parks had been brandishing an automatic weapon when she boarded that bus in Montgomery, Ala., all those years ago,” starts a Salt Lake Tribune editorial.  The piece is headlined, “ATV riders do damage to a bad cause.”

“The cause of those who carried automatic weapons, protest signs, Don’t Tread On Me flags and, worst of all, their own children Saturday on a clearly illegal ATV ride through Recapture Canyon near Blanding does not deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the Civil Rights Movement.

“Except to point out how the tactics of those who demand the right to play with their expensive toys on land that they have absolutely no legal right to traverse are clearly destructive of a goal that was utterly without merit to begin with….

“In the eyes of most of the American people — and their members of Congress — who really own all that land, Saturday’s ride was accurately discerned as a childish snit fit that should only confirm BLM policy to keep such folks out of environmentally or historically sensitive lands.”

See a detailed story on the ATV rebellion by High Country News.

Riverside State Park opens novice ORV area today

POWERSPORTS – A 20-acre site for novice ATV and motorcycle riders will be dedicated today, 11 a.m., at Riverside State Park’s ORV Park.

Dirt bikes and ATVs will be available for new riders, youths and adults, to try out, park officials say.

The novice area, for riders with less than a year of experience, is fenced off from the rest of the 600-acre site that’s open to all riders.

From SR 291, turn south on Seven Mile Road. Go to Inland Road and turn left to the ORV area.

Today is a free day in Washington State Parks. No Discover Pass is required on vehicles. 

Clearwater Forest releases motorized vehicle use map

PUBLIC LANDS — The Clearwater National Forest Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) has been released to guide where motor vehicles can be used on the forest.  

The published maps, which answer frequently asked questions about roads and trails open to motorized traffic, are available online and free at the forest headquarters in Orofino and at other offices.

In 2005 the U.S. Forest Service published a new rule requiring each national forest and grassland to designate those national forest system roads, trails and areas open to motor vehicle use.  It further required designated routes and areas to be identified on an MVUM that is available to the public free-of-charge.

On January 12, 2012, after nearly four years of public involvement and analysis, the Clearwater National Forest issued a Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision that designated roads, trails and areas where motorized uses are allowed.

Read on for more details from the Forest Service.

State considers motorized use on John Wayne Trail

TRAILS — Farmers and disabled visitors could be allowed to used motorized vehicles on portions of two major state rail-trails under a proposal being considered by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.

A public meeting is set for Nov. 1 in Ellensburg to discuss the proposed regulation changes on Iron Horse State Park’s John Wayne Pioneer Trail (JWPT).  The trail is the former Milwaukee railroad corridor that runs from North Bend east to the Idaho border near Tekoa.

The meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1, in the Teanaway Room at the Hal Holmes Community Center, 209 N. Ruby St. in Ellensburg.

The Washington State Legislature directed that the JWPT be managed for non-motorized uses, and various grants over the years also have limited trail use to non-motorized recreation. A state law restricts motor vehicle use of the JWPT.

However, farmers with property adjacent to the trail and State Parks concessionaires have requested that the agency allow them motorized use.

The proposal would allow motorized use by special permit through the agency for farmers s well as a new class of motor vehicles  defined by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as “Other Power-Driven Mobility Devices.” 

The proposed changes are not intended to alter the primary non-motorized recreation focus of State Parks’ trail management, officials say.

Washington State Parks manages five long-distance rail trails for non-motorized recreation, including hiking, bicycling, horseback riding and winter activities such as cross-country skiing and dog-sledding. The trails include the JWPT, managed as part of Iron Horse State Park and comprising most of the old Milwaukee Railroad corridor between Cedar Falls/North Bend and the Idaho border; the Centennial Trail near Spokane; Columbia Hills Plateau Trail from East Pasco to Fish Lake/Spokane; the Willapa Hills Trail from Chehalis to Raymond; and the Klickitat Trail, with a trailhead in Lyle near the Columbia River.

Info:  Susan Koch at susan.koch@parks.wa.gov.

Campaign urges hunters on OHVs to stay on trails

HUNTING – The Idaho Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Public Outreach Campaign is urging people who use ATVs or motorbikes during hunting season to stay on designated trails and do their homework to ensure that the trails they plan to ride are open.

New resources are available to help OHVers learn which routes on public lands are open and closed.

About 70 percent of the 240,000 people who hunt in Idaho (residents and non-residents) during the fall months are using motorbikes or ATVs to access their hunting areas, according to the latest survey cited by campaign officials. 

Here are five ways that hunters can research what trails and hunting units are open to OHV use:

1. National Forest Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM's) from the national forest where you plan to hunt. Hard-copy maps are available from national forest ranger district offices (that is, when they reopen from the current federal shutdown), IDFG offices, and in many cases, the MVUMs are online. The OHV Campaign's stayontrails.com web site has a link to all of the current online MVUMs: http://stayontrails.com/mvum/.

2. BLM travel maps defined route open to motorized use. See a comprehensive list of BLM travel maps statewide online at http://stayontrails.com/blmTravel/ and on BLM web sites. Hard-copy maps are available at BLM district offices and field offices (but, again, remember the shutdown).

3. Idaho Department of Fish and Game's website Hunting page has a big game unit map that lists restrictions on OHV use in specific hunting units. The IDFG Motorized Hunting Rule affects 30 units statewide. Here's a link to the big game unit map of the units affected by the rule.

4. Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation has an online map resource that's great for researching new OHV trails and for checking on whether OHV trails are open during hunting season, and when. The web site is: http://trails.idaho.gov. The maps break down trail restrictions by OHVs, Utility Terrain Vehicles, ATVs and motorbikes. 

5. YouTube hunting tips video walks hunters through the multi-step process of researching whether trails are open or closed. Here's the link: http://www.youtube.com/edit?ns=1&video_id=dTgL0ZH41i8&o=U

Officials with the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Idaho Department of Fish and Game say that hunters riding off-trail on ATVs or motorbikes continues to be a problem on public lands during hunting season.

“We are most concerned with instances where a hunter drives off-trail to scout for game or retrieve game,” said Andy Brunelle, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service. “One set of tracks through the brush or in a meadow can invite others to do the same, and the impacts add up, damaging vegetation and causing soil erosion into streams.”

Under the Forest Service's National Travel Rule, “it's incumbent on the user to know if the trail is open or closed” regardless if the trail is signed appropriately, forest officials said. That's because people have been known to shoot signs full of bullet holes, remove signs or vandalize them.

Jon Heggen, enforcement chief for the Idaho Department of Fish and game, encouraged motorbike and ATV riders to be sensitive to the fact that some people may be hunting on foot in the same area where they are riding their trail machine.

“We want to remind hunters to stay on trails and be courteous to other users,” Heggen said.

A new Idaho state law requires youths who do not have a driver's license to take a free safety course before they ride OHVs on forest roads. The law also stipulates that youths under the age of 18 are required to wear a helmet when riding on an OHV or driving one. 

Idaho mine claim owners sue over forest access

PUBLIC LANDS — Several Idaho mining claim owners have sued the federal government, joining a push to expand motorized access in the West’s backcountry using a Civil War-era law governing travel across public lands, according to the Associated Press.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Boise, argues the U.S. Forest Service illegally restricted use of four roads in Idaho County.

It’s similar to Utah lawsuits that were partially resolved this year when the federal government unlocked three gates, allowed all-terrain vehicles into the state’s western desert.

The Idaho County case was brought by 13 people with mining claims reached via roads extending deep into the Nez Perce National Forest.

The lawsuit contends federal Forest Service officials outstripped their authority by barring motorized access on roads used for more than a century for mining and recreation. 

Click “continue reading” for the expanded version of the AP story with more details and context.

Idaho restricts motorized vehicle use for hunting

HUNTING — While public land managers have restrictions on where motor vehicles can be driven, Idaho also restricts some hunters from using vehicles such as ATVs in some areas to curb conflicts between motorized hunting and other sportsmen and landowners.

The restrictions are south of the Idaho Panhandle.

The Idaho Fish and Game’s motorized hunting rules apply to big game animals, including moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goats, in designated units from Aug. 30 through Dec. 31.

Between these dates and in the designated units, specific to all big game hunting, hunters may use motorized vehicles only on established roadways that are open to motorized traffic and capable of being traveled by full-sized automobiles.

Motorized hunting use restrictions apply to units 29, 30, 30A, 32, 32A, 36A, 37, 37A, , 45, 47, 49, 50, 51, 52, 52A, 53, 56, 58, 59, 59A, 66, 66A, 69, 70, 72, 73, 75, 76, 77 and 78.

The rule does not apply to upland game animals or birds in hunts within the designated units.

Okanogan County sued for opening roads to ATVs

OHVs — Two conservation groups have sued to block the opening of nearly all of Okanogan County’s roads to ATVs, according to the Wenatchee World.

Conservation Northwest and the Methow Valley Citizens Council sued Wednesday in Okanogan County Superior Court seeking an injunction prohibiting the ordinances from taking effect, and an order declaring that they violate state law.

Mud boggers leave mark of shame on forest meadows

PUBLIC LANDS — I don't care much if you drive onto your own land and rip it to shreds with your four-wheel drive vehicle as long as you're not polluting public waters downstream.

But the chronic spring problem of mudboggers ripping public lands to shreds is disgusting to the core.

Photos here show two recent abuses from the Colville National Forest and the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests.  Memorial Day weekend was a free-for-all on portions of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests, where Forest Service officers wrote ticket after ticket and never scratched the surface of the off-road riding abuse.

  • The Backcountry Hunters and Anglers group offers rewards for people who pass on information that leads to the arrest of these off-roading criminals who desecrate public lands.

Here's an observation from Franklin Pemberton, spokesman for the Colville:

Most of the truly obvious abuse (torn up meadows and giant mud holes next to or on roads) are from individuals in 4X4 vehicles that actively seek out a “mudding” experience in meadows or on fragile spring roads. In one instance we had a “mudder” completely destroy a beautiful meadow that once had a crystal clear small stream running through it by driving a circuit through the meadow and spinning their tires in order to create deeper mud.  They did this over and over again all the while digging deep ruts that diverted a once clear stream into a muddy series of pools and puddles.  (Pictures attached)  This was near Big Meadow Lake.

The sad thing is, many of these mudders have no idea that the stream they damage was feeding Big Meadow Lake and will degrade the water quality and reduce the number of fish the lake can support.  A few of the people we have caught in the past claimed to be avid hunters and anglers and were shocked at how this activity can impact fish and wildlife aside from water quality and the spread of noxious and invasive weeds.

Here's today's report about recent damage on the Nez Perce-Clearwater:

Forest Service officials have discovered evidence of extensive resource damage near Camp 60, a popular site for camping and off-highway vehicle use, on the North Fork Ranger District of the Nez-Perce Clearwater National Forests.

An area that was, until recently, a beautiful meadow, has now been transformed into a giant mud bog, covering approximately .25 acre of National Forest System Lands.  In addition, new illegal routes have been developed, crossing through area streams.

While an exact date of when the resource damage occurred has yet to be determined, Forest Service officials believe that the activity took place very recently, perhaps within the past two weeks.

If anyone has information pertaining to this incident, please contact Law Enforcement Officer Steve Bryant at (208) 875-1131.

Woman injured in ATV crash sues Forest Service

PUBLIC LANDS — Here's a possible precedent setter that could be costly in the long run…

An eastern Idaho woman is suing the federal government for an injury she sustained in 2011 when her all-terrain vehicle rolled down a hill located in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest.

Accoding to the Associated Press, Karleen Linford, of Inkom, filed a complaint Thursday seeking almost $800,000 in damages for serious injuries related to her ATV crash on federal land.
 
Linford says she drove her ATV up a fence crossing ramp on the Inman Canyon Trail, and then fell four feet as the ATV rolled off the hillside and landed on top of her.
 
She alleges the U.S. Forest Service was negligent in its construction and care of the fence crossing, and hopes to secure compensation for her own injuries.
 
She's also asking for about $1,300 to pay for damage to her ATV.

Spirit Lake Now More ATV Friendly

Why did the ATV cross Highway 41 in Spirit Lake? Because it's legal. Utility and all-terrain vehicles can now cross Highway 41 in Spirit Lake without being ticketed. State law prohibits the ATVs and UTVs from crossing state highways in cities without an encroachment permit - a practice that has been commonplace in small, outdoorsy Spirit Lake nonetheless - but the city obtained a permit from the Idaho Transportation Department to legally allow the passage. “It's been done for years, but the issue started to come up,” said Spirit Lake Police Chief Pat Lawless, adding that he was unaware of the state law until last year. His department didn't issue any tickets as a result. But apparently Idaho State Police, which patrols Highway 41, took notice/Brian Walker, Coeur d'Alene Press. More here. (SR file photo for illustrative purposes)

Question: Do you ride an ATV?

Antoine Peak being damaged

SR outdoors writer Rich Landers has a blog post today railing against the “land carnage” being caused by ATV's on Antoine Peak, which is behind East Valley High School. Much of the land is Spokane County Conservation Futures land, bought to preserve wildlife habitat and protect the land from development. ATV's are not allowed there. Rich has also posted some pictures of the damage.

GOP plan would open more public land to off-road vehicles

PUBLIC LANDS — Congressman Doc Hastings, R-WA, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, is promoting a Republican plan that would remove restrictions on motorized access to 43 million acres of public land nationwide.

A tip of the hat to the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers organization for trekking to Washington, D.C., to let Congress know that's a lame idea.

Read the story from McClatchy Newspapers.

Parks dept urges young off-roaders to sign up now for newly required classes

Under much-debated legislation passed by the Idaho Legislature this year, youngsters 15 and younger who ride off-highway vehicles on U.S. Forest Service roads are required to be supervised by an adult who is riding within 300 fee; also, all riders who lack driver's licenses, including youngsters, must take an approved off-highway vehicle safety course. The new law, SB 1001, takes effect July 1, but the state Department of Parks and Recreation is urging young off-road enthusiasts to sign up for the required classes now. “Our agency would like to encourage people to take classes early, so that we can accurately gauge what demand is going to be for the classes and do our best through the summer to help accommodate that demand,” said Jennifer Blazek, state parks spokeswoman. You can find out about available classes here, and get more info here.

State to dedicate Lombard ATV Trail

Idaho’s state Department of Parks & Recreation will dedicate a new ATV/motorbike trail on Sept. 11 from the Land of the Yankee Fork State Park Interpretive Center to Bayhorse. The new 9-mile trail is named in honor of Ernie Lombard, a Boise architect and longtime state Parks Board member, and its current vice-chairman, who worked for more than 20 years to establish the trail. A group ride and BBQ lunch are planned; click below for full info.

Post Falls Man Dies In Forest ATV Crash

A 29-year-old Post Falls man was killed this afternoon when he failed to negotiate a left curve on Forest Service Road No. 413 in the woods bordering the Kootenai-Shoshone County line. According to a Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department report, Vito E. Pistone was dead by the time responders arrived. The crash, which occurred at approximately 4:50 p.m., was located on Forest Service Road No. 413, about 8/10ths of a mile east of FS Road No. 209.  Preliminary investigation by the Kootenai County Traffic Team indicates that Pistone failed to negotiate a left curve while travelling eastbound on FSR No. 413, left the roadway and struck at least two trees.  Pistone was not wearing a helmet.  It is also believed that Pistone was inexperienced in ATV operation. It does not appear that alcohol was a factor in the crash.

CdA Man ID’d As ATV Crash Victim

The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department is able to release more details and the name of the victim in the fatality accident yesterday near the top of Fourth of July Pass. Killed in the single ATV crash was Cleo B. “Bud” Dodge, 74, of Coeur d’Alene. Dodge and three of his friends were in route back to the recreational parking area at the Fourth of July Pass Summit on Trail 800 when Dodge, who was the second of the four ATV’s, failed to negotiate the route around the Forest Service gate and crashed into the gate post.  Dodge was pronounced dead at Kootenai Medical Center from massive chest injuries. It is believed that due to dust in the air from the first machine as well as Dodge’s speed, he was unable to see the gate in time to make the course adjustment that led to the crash/Major Ben Wolfinger, KCSD.

74YO Man Killed In ATV Wreck

As reported on Scanner Traffic earlier today, a 74YO male was fatally injured in an ATV crash, near the Fourth of July Pass summit. He was riding with three others when he failed to make a turn, crashing into a gate, according to a Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department press release. He was unconscious when medical help arrived. But he quit breathing shortly afterward and was later pronounced dead at Kootenai Medical Center. The identity of the victim is being withheld until next of kin have been notified. You can read Ben Wolfinger’s new release here.