State OHV trail
"Itís a nightmare. I donít know how
anyone could look at it and say itís a positive thing."
ó LAHSHA JOHNSTON, The Wilderness
Society Regional Conservation Associate
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
In an effort to better manage ATV use in
Idaho, the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation has submitted plans to
federal land management agencies to designate and regulate approximately 500
miles of existing trails and roads in the Lost River and Lemhi River Valleys as
an off-road vehicle destination.
The stateís 50-page plan, called the Lost
River Recreation Trailway Adaptive Management Proposal, indicates that a first
phase would include designation of an approximately 300-mile core loop that
would encircle the Lost River mountain range and connect the cities of Challis,
Mackay and Arco.
Up to 200 additional miles of side loops
and spurs could be added to the trail system later, according to the stateís
Further, a March 24 summary of the
project, included in the plan as part of an appendix, indicates that 12 more
communities spread throughout eastern Idaho could eventually be linked by the
ATV trail. They include: May, Patterson, Moore, Carey, Richfield, Howe, Leslie,
Darlington, Salmon, Tendoy, Leadore and Clayton.
Activists said the list of spread-out
communities was an alarming discovery, which was not presented in public
hearings on the topic in the spring.
If they were all included, the trail could
eventually grow to between 900 and 1,200 miles, said Lahsha Johnston, regional
conservation associate for The Wilderness Society.
"Itís a nightmare. I donít know how anyone
could look at it and say itís a positive thing," Johnston said. "How would you
manage something of this magnitude?
"We are making this a national priority to
not have this trail designated. We want the Bureau of Land Management and the
Forest Service to address existing use and do something about off-road vehicle
users that are out there now."
But that is what the Idaho Department of
Parks and Recreation said it is doing.
"It seems evident to the state and federal
agencies charged with the responsibility to manage the land and recreation
opportunities for the public, that OHVs are and will forever more be, a part of
the landscape of Idaho," the department wrote in its plan. "The Idaho Department
of Parks and Recreation believes the best answer is to become aggressively
invested in the improved management of the use of these machines on public
Since 1995, the number of OHVs registered
in Idaho has increased by 300 percent, and the department anticipates that
better management and fewer "pioneered routes" will result by designating the
large trail system and regulating it carefully.
Steve Willer, an Audubon Society member
from Boise, said he fears that the 300- to 500-mile-long initial projects could
only be the beginning of a much bigger scheme that could dwarf the 275-mile-long
Paiute Trail in Utah, which hosts 47,000 OHV riders each year.
"From the conservation groupsí standpoint,
the big concern is that the federal agencies get a better handle right now on
what is going on with off-road vehicles on federal lands, before state parks
jumps in, saying it can manage a destination trail on public lands," Willer
At its April meeting, the Department of
Parks and Recreationís governing board voted 5-1 to offer itself a matching
grant totaling $86,250 for use in establishing the OHV loop.
Board member and Sun Valley City
Councilman Latham Williams objected to the funding and said the proposed
project, as planned, is too big and understaffed.