Latest from The Spokesman-Review
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.
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.
PUBLIC LANDS — A week after conservation groups filed a federal lawsuit against the new Clearwater National Forest Travel Management Plan, two Idaho counties have filed suit against the plan that closes 200 miles of national forest trails to motorized vehicles.
Idaho and Clearwater counties charge that forest officials failed to adequately consult with local authorities while drafting the travel plan enacted last year.
County officials also claim forest planners didn’t properly analyze the plan’s local economic impact and allege the forest created de facto wilderness areas by banning motorcycles and mountain bikes from areas previously recommended for wilderness.
“We thought we better take a stand,” Clearwater County Commissioner Don Ebert told The Lewiston Tribune. “We get ran over all the time by the Forest Service. We picked a battle where we think we are on solid ground and hope we will prevail.”
Forest officials did not offer an immediate response sought by The Associated Press today on the new legal challenge.
Commissioners from both counties say they were compelled to file a lawsuit after their administrative appeal of the travel plan was denied by the agency.
The lawsuit is the latest filed against the forest and its 2012 travel policy.
Last week, three environmental groups sued in federal court, contending the forest plan allows too much access for motorized vehicles, a policy they say will ultimately harm wildlife habitat. The environmental groups allege the travel plan violates a 1987 plan by allowing motorized vehicle use in areas the agency had pledged to protect as prime habitat for elk.
Federal laws require agencies like the Forest Service to coordinate their actions and plans with state and local governments.
The case brought by the counties alleges agency officials made little effort to coordinate the travel plan with the counties, who favor more motorized access when possible.
“We didn’t really see any attempt to do that,” Ebert told the Morning Tribune. “They just sort of disregarded us.”
PUBLIC LANDS — Three conservation groups say they filed a lawsuit on Dec. 5th in Idaho Federal District Court challenging the Clearwater National Forest Travel Plan. The recently released plan determines which trails and roads will be open to motorized vehicles and which areas of the national forest will be open to snowmobiles.
The plan defers the decision on the ultimate size and extent of the road system.
OFF-ROADING — While turkey hunting on private timber company land last week I was appalled, again, at how many illigal ATV trails were pioneered by goons who think they have a right to have their way with someone else's property.
Washington Fish and Wildlife police say the practice is all to common, and law-abiding off-roaders are losing access to public and private lands because of these law breakers who go off roads without permisson.
Here's a sad report posted Monday by the WDFW enforcementd division regarding officers patroling Department of Natural Resources land in Western Washington near Amboy.
…Illegal ATV trails that eventually become wide enough for a full-size truck are popping up all over DNR and PacifiCorp lands. Due to the increase in this illegal and destructive activity, Officers Chamberlin and Moats planned an emphasis patrol recently to address the problem. So when they drove past five jacked-up trucks parked at the Chelatchie Prairie store, the Officers made deliberate eye contact with the group, hoping to dissuade them from using any nearby land as their own personal 4x4 playground…. so much for that tactic.
Officers Moats and Chamberlin retrieved their own ATVs and headed into the area shortly after. And who did they find? You guessed it – the same five vehicles deep in DNR land, and deep in the mud, as two of the trucks were nearly stuck in one area of the unauthorized ‘trail.’
Seven subjects were cited for trespass and ORV violations in this one incident.
WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — An Idaho Fish and Game employee was injured Thursday in an ATV accident along the lower Salmon River below Eagle Creek.
Mark Parks, 57, of Lewiston, was working by himself spraying weeds with an ATV-mounted tank sprayer when the ATV rolled over on him, reports Mike Demick at the agency's regional office in Lewiston.
Parks used his emergency satellite transmitter to call for help.
A Lewiston-area medical evacuation helicopter, based at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical center, was dispatched in response. Parks was transported to Lewiston and eventually flown to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center Hospital in Spokane for treatment of multiple broken bones.
He remains hospitalized in stable condition, Demick said.
PUBLIC LANDS — The Idaho Fish and Game Department is joining Framing Our Community and the Dust Devils ATV Club in applying for a grant from Idaho Parks and Recreation to build an all terrain vehicle trailhead, shelter and restroom on the edge of the Nez Perce National Forest.
Fish and Game, the Idaho, Department of Lands, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and the Nez Perce Tribe are partners of Framing Our Community, an economic development group dedicated to creating jobs, improving forest and watershed conditions and increasing educational opportunities in the Elk City area.
The economic development group and ATV club envision the trailhead to be a starting point for motorized recreation in the area and a part of the proposed Clearwater Basin Collaborative North – South motorized route between Avery and Elk City.
It will include an information kiosk that will help distribute information to trail users. The two groups are seeking the grant to fund the project and have pledged to donate their labor and funds.
Info: Joyce Dearstyne, Framing Our Community, (208-) 842-2939.
HUNTING — A national sportsman's conservation group has paid a $500 reward to an Idaho bear hunter who provided the information game wardens needed to cite hunters using all-terrain vehicles in habitat protected from motorized traffic.
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is a national group of outdoorsmen and women who value hunting and fishing in the peace and quiet of natural conditions, said Holly Endersby, BHA acting director who lives in Pollock, Idaho, in announcing the reward.
The case dates back to spring of 2011, when Ted Koch and two friends were hunting for black bears on the Nez Perce National Forest. They planned to hike into an area where roads had been closed to vehicles, but hike-in hunters were allowed.
As they hiked in, they observed hunters on ATVs driving around the locked gate. They also found bait stations the hunters had left behind.
“We planned to enjoy a quiet evening looking for bears,” Koch said. “Instead, the evening was shattered by noise and exhaust where it did not belong.”
Koch lived in Boise at the time of the hunt, but has since moved to Reno, Nev. He pointed out that he and his hunting partners own dirt bikes or all-terrain vehicles, but stay within the bounds of the law.
“Hunters and wildlife alike need some places entirely apart from the noise and disturbance of motor traffic,” Koch said. “Owning an ATV does not mean you can re-write the rule book.”
Koch noted the license plate numbers of the hunters’ vehicles, took GPS readings, recorded the date and time and wrote detailed descriptions of the riders. He reported the incident to Roy Kinner, a senior conservation officer from Idaho Department of Fish and Game in Grangeville.
“Mr. Koch gave us exactly the kind of information we needed to launch a successful investigation,” Kinner said. “I don’t usually get that kind of high quality information. It was just priceless.”
In the end, three hunters pleaded guilty to the road closure violations and were fined $500 each. Other charges of leaving bear bait too close to a stream were dismissed.
BHA has a dedicated reward fund for aiding the conviction of law-breakers who abuse public hunting and fishing areas with motorized vehicles.
PUBLIC LANDS — The Blue Ribbon Coalition and the Idaho Snowmobile Association filed a lawsuit against the Clearwater National Forest for its travel plan that bans motorcycles, off-road vehicles, snowmobiles and mountain bikes in the Great Burn wilderness study area on the Idaho-Montana border, according to a story by the Idaho Statesman.
“Only Congress can designate wilderness. We cannot stand idly by and watch them change the long-established system for managing these treasured lands.”
—Sandra Mitchell, public lands director of the Idaho State Snowmobile Association.
“I see this as full frontal assault on wilderness. They are making essentially the argument that the Forest Service doesn’t have the power to protect wilderness character as a multiple use of public lands”
—Brad Brooks, deputy regional director of the Wilderness Society in Boise.
PUBLIC LANDS — The new supervisor of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest in Oregon is touring Wallowa, Union and Baker counties this week to meet the public he will be serving in the wake of a flap over restricting motorized use on the forest.
Kevin Martin succeeds Monica Schwalbach, who has taken a new assignment with the Pacific Northwest Research Station in Portland.
She left less than 18 months after assuming responsibility for the Baker City-based forest.
The Wallowa-Whitman has been embroiled in controversy regarding its proposed travel management plan, which would have closed almost 4,000 miles of roads and trails to motor vehicle use.
Schwalbach withdrew the plan in April amid public protests, and it is being revised.
FORESTS – The Colville National Forest is seeking comments on a revised proposal to regulate dispersed camping and designate and expand roads and trails open to motorized recreation.
Comments are due by the end of August on the South End Project scoping notice and plans for the Tacoma, Chewelah and Calispell drainages).
- See the revised proposals in the document attached to this post.
The original plan was appealed last winter by conservation groups.
The project goals include designating an expanded system of routes for motor vehicle use.
- 207 ORV/User Contacts
- 21 Citations (i.e. no helmets, road closure, fishing w/o a license)
- 22 Verbal Warnings
OFF-ROADING — The popular Fish Lake Trail #419, located 15 miles south of Hoodoo Pass, near the Idaho-Montana state line, has closed temporarily to motorized traffic, Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest officials announced today.
Wet conditions forced the closure to prevent motor vehicles from causing damage to the trail and fragile high alpine meadows on the lake’s western edge.
Forest officials will reopen Trail #419 as soon as the waterlogged trail has dried out, firmed up and is once again suitable for recreational use.
For updates: Clearwater National Forest Information Desk, (208) 476-8267.
OFF-ROAD VEHICLES — Idaho recently came within an eyelash of stripping the Idaho Department of Fish and Game of the authority to regulate the use of all-terrain vehicles on public land during hunting seasons.
An editorial in the Idaho Mountain Express notes that if the state Senate had not stopped a measure that had been approved by the House, Fish and Game would have had no say on where hunters could operate ATVs during big-game hunting seasons.
That would have been a big mistake, the opinion piece suggests.
Read on for the editorial's reasoning.
Click here for the Idaho Fish and Game Department's web page on ATV issues.
PUBLIC LANDS — Passenger cars, ATVs, dirt bikes and four-wheel-drive rigs will be prohibited on on nearly 4,000 miles of roads in northeastern Oregon's Wallowa-Whitman National Forest starting in June.
The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest management plan, entered last week into the Federal Register — prohibits motorized vehicles on 3,835 miles of roads and ATV trails in a 1.3 million-acre area of the forest in Union, Baker and Wallowa counties.
Opponents based in Enterprise already are organizing. They have 45 days to appeal. However, some groups and fisheries officials support the closure.
Earlier versions of the policy triggered one of the most vocal resistance efforts in the state, with more than 6,000 people signing petitions urging the U.S. Forest Service to leave all the forest's roads open, according to a story by the Oregonian.
The changes don't affect motorized travel in Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, but they will affect some areas used by groups such asberry pickers and hunters.
There's still plenty of places to go by motor power. The 2.3 million-acre Wallowa-Whitman has a total of 9,111 miles of road.
OFF-ROADING — It's no secret that off-road vehicle riders run rampant in some areas of national forests and other public lands that are closed to motorized traffic. But even if you catch them in the act, little can be done to report the offenses because ATVs and off-road dirt bikes don't need licence plates necessary for ID.
A compromise bill is in the works in the Washington Legislature that would help open more roads for OHV riding while getting a licensing requirement promoted by environmentalists. Many OHVers support the licensing portion of the bill to help deal with the bad apples in their ranks.
See Olympia reporter Jim Camden's Spin Control column for the details.
PUBLIC LANDS – Colville National Forest Supervisor Laura Jo West has withdrawn the South End Motor Vehicle Project enacted in November after years of planning to guide off-highway vehicle use.
This decision was appealed in January by Conservation Northwest, the Lands Council, and the Kettle Range Conservation Group.
West withdrew the project after the appeal was reviewed by the Regional Forester in Missoula. No timeline has been set for rewriting the project that would allow off-road vehicle riders to establish more legal riding routes on the south half of the 1.1 million acre forest.
The conservation groups appealed primarily on the basis that the project rewarded groups who illegally pioneered new trails in national forest areas where off-road travel had been prohibited.
"The South End project is an excellent project,” West said in a written statement. “Not only does it provide a wonderful network of family-friendly OHV routes that connect communities, it provides for the rehabilitation of heavily impacted campsites, stream corridors, and illegal motorized trails.
“I withdrew the decision so that we can supplement our analysis of the project to make sure the decision to proceed is based on solid rationale that fully considers the impact to other resources."
PUBLIC LANDS — Getting no satisfaction from a letter of concern to the forest supervisor, three Washington-based conservation groups have appealed a Colville National Forest travel plan designating where ATVs, motorcycles and other off-highway vehicles can go at the south end of the 1.1 million acre forest.
The Lands Council, the Kettle Range Conservation Group and Conservation Northwest filed the appeal last week, charging among other things that the plan rewards lawbreaking OHV riders by legitimizing trails that were illegally made.
The groups sent a letter to Supervisor Laura Jo West on Dec. 22 expressing several concerns about the South End Project.
The supervisor replied that her decision would stand as is.
PUBLIC LANDS — About 200 miles of trails and more than 1 million acres of the Clearwater National Forest will close to motorized users under a new travel management plan released Wednesday.
See all the official forest documents on the travel plan here.
Meanwhile, the Idaho Panhandle National Forests also is revisiting its forest management plan. See today's S-R story.
Read on for the report on the Clearwater forest plan proposal from the Lewiston Tribune.
PUBLIC LANDS — Off-road vehicle riders have more routes for legally riding their ATVs and motorcycles on the Colville National Forest, according to a plan approved this month.
Forest Supervisor Laura Jo West signed the South End Motor Vehicle Management Plan, which designates roads and trails that create quality loops, connect communities and provide access, camping and parking.
The plan, two years in the making, designates motorized routes between U.S. Highway 395 and State Highway 20, including the Tacoma, Chewelah and Calispell drainages.
Read on for more details.
TRAILS — A federal judge has decided to temporarily close down trail access to off-road vehicles in sections of the Salmon-Challis National Forest pending a review of the forest's travel plan, the Idaho Statesman reports.
The order issued Tuesday follows a February ruling that the U.S. Forest Service had ignored evidence showing significant damage to trails and the landscape from off-road vehicles when it crafted its 2009 plan.
Brad Brooks of The Wilderness Society says the closure will ensure trails are protected until the forest managers can craft rules better protecting soil, water and vegetation from ATV's and other vehicles.
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.
Officials with the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Managementand Idaho Department of Fish and Game say 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."
According to several surveys, more than half of the approximately 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.
Officials with the U.S. Forest Service encourage hunters to obtain copies of Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM's) from the national forest where they plan to hunt. Hard-copy maps are available from national forest ranger district offices, and in some cases, they are online.
The Panhandle National Forests have published new MVUMs for the Coeur d'Alene River Ranger District and the Kaniksu Zone. These are available from Panhandle National Forest offices, and they are online on the forest's web site.
Panhandle National Forest officials are still working on the map for the St. Joe National Forest. The Idaho OHV Public Outreach Project's web site, www.stayontrails.com, has a link to online Forest Service MVUM's on its where to ride page.
BLM officials encourage hunters to check BLM district office web sites for info. Hard-copies are available at district offices.
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.
Hunters also should check Idaho Fish and Game regulations to check on trail or road restrictions in their hunting areas. The Idaho OHV Public Outreach Project produced a YouTube video that helps explain how to sort through MVUM maps and Fish and Game regulations to see if trails are open or closed.
A new Idaho law requires youths who do not have a driver's license to take a free safety course before they ride OHVs on forest roads, and that youths under the age of 18 are required to wear a helmet when riding on an OHV or driving one.
PUBLIC LANDS – They’re vandals on wheels, stealing the common from the wildlife and the public.
Off-road vehicle drivers have the capacity to do serious long-term and even permanent damage in minutes with the thoughtless use of their machines.
The land carnage by four-wheel drive and ATV enthusiasts is not uncommon on public lands.
I was reminded of this last night while hiking around Antoine Peak, the mountain that forms the backdrop for East Valley High School. More than 1,100 acres of the mountain have been secured over the last few years through the Spokane County Conservation Futures Program.
It’s a spectacular wildlife refuge. I saw turkey vultures, hawks and ravens soaring over Antoine’s 3,373-foot summit and wild turkeys and quail on the ground – all within minutes. I saw deer, elk and moose tracks while looking over the Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake.
But I also saw the rampant recent damage by off-road vehicles, which are prohibited in the Antoine Conservation area. These are probably the same people who disregarded the no trespassing signs on the land when it was still privately owned.
Buying one of these vehicles does not come with a license to destroy public land and wildlife habitat. The law should require visible license plates so the public has a way of reporting the vandals when we spot them in action.
There destructiveness is undefendable. It's selfishness on wheels.
CONSERVATION — Vehicles can pick up large numbers of seeds from weeds and other plants and spread them for miles, especially when the vehicles are driven off-trail and under wet conditions.
This factor in the spread of noxious weeks is documented in a story in a new Montana State University Extension publication describing field studies that measure the extent to which vehicles pick up and disperse weed seeds.
Some of the findings include:
- Wet conditions promote weed attachment to vehicles.
- ATVs picked up large numbers of seeds. In the fall, up to 5,500 seeds per mile were picked up off-trail compared to about 400 seeds per mile on-trail. The number of seeds picked up in spring was much lower.
- Tracked vehicles picked up more seeds than wheeled vehicles.
- Up to 99 percent of seeds stayed attached to a truck after traveling 160 miles under dry conditions, but seed retention was much lower after traveling long distances under wet conditions.
- However, if seeds are picked up in mud, which then dries on the vehicle, they can travel almost indefinitely until it rains or the road surface is wet, allowing for extremely long distance transport of seeds.
The researchrs say preventing the spread of weeds into non-infested areas is the most effective and efficient way to manage weeds over the long term.
To help prevent the spread of weeds, washing vehicles frequently is beneficial with particular concentration on wheel wells. Washing vehicles is especially important before and after driving on roads with high densities of weeds along the edges or after driving off-road or trail.
CONSERVATION — The Backcountry Hunters & Anglers of Washington group is meeting in the Colville National Forest Friday through Sunday for its annual summer meeting and work party.
This year's habitat projects will focus on Middle Fork of Calispell Creek, where the group plans to build split-rail fencing and repair ATV abuses in an area called Delaney Meadows.
"This area is notorious for abuse, but enforcement has been cracking down here, bettering the chances our efforts will not be dashed nights later by more outlaw riders," said Jeff Holmes, BHA member, adding that there also will be plenty of campfire discussion about fishing and big-game hunting in the area.
Sportsmen who want to engage with the group can contact Jeff Holmes email@example.com or Joe Mirasole firstname.lastname@example.org
OFF ROAD VEHICLES — After ATVers who ignored signs and violated rules spoiled an opening day hunt with his 11-year-old son, an Idaho sportsman calls for making off-road vehicle riders accountable.
TRAILS — A popular Bitterroot Mountains destination for ATVers up from the North Fork of the Clearwater River has been closed to motorized traffic temporarily because of lingering snow and wet conditions, the Clearwater National Forest says.
Fish Lake Trail 419, located 15 miles south of Hoodoo Pass near the Idaho-Montana state line, is closed to motor vehicles to prevent damage to the trail and fragile high alpine meadows on the lake’s western edge, where ATVers like to congregate.
The trail is still snow-covered in many places, said Adam McClory, the Clearwater's North Zone recreation staff officer. The dispersed campsites located near the lake are also under snow.
McClory said that Forest officials hope to reopen the trail in mid-August.
- For updates on road and trail conditions, contact the Clearwater National Forest Information Desk, (208) 476-8267.
BIG-GAME HUNTING — Idaho Fish and Game officials are asking hunters whether trophy-species tag holders should be required to abide by the same motorized vehicle restrictions other hunters must obey.
After getting feedback from hunters for years, the agency is proposing to apply motorized restrictions to trophy hunts in game management units where restrictions already apply to big game hunts in the southern half of Idaho (see map).
Motorized vehicle restrictions were adopted years ago to resolve many hunters’ concerns about off-road travel conflicting with other hunters in the field.
Typically, these rules restrict the use of any vehicle while hunting, including ATVs, ORV and motorcycles, to established road open to a full-sized automobile. Hunters may use any motorized vehicle to retrieve downed game or to set up camp, if travel in the area is allowed by the land owner or manager.
Motorized vehicle restrictions can be applied to any big game hunt, including trophy species (moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat). But the restrictions have not been applied to trophy species hunts. This has lead to situations in which other big game hunters, such as elk, deer and bear hunters, were restricted in an area while trophy hunters, at the same time, could use motorized vehicles.
Click here to register your comment by July 25 in Fish and Game's online survey.