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.
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.