Wednesday, September 15, 2004

A ?brake? for the Sawtooth Forest

Although certain to create a dustup with off-trail, cross-country bikers, the Forest Service?s proposal to restrict all-terrain vehicles and motorcycles to designated roads and trails in Sawtooth National Forest is a bold stroke for the good.

For the public?s good as well as Mother Nature?s.

In 28 years, by Forest Service estimates, motorized use of the Sawtooth National Forest (not to be confused with the Sawtooth National Recreation Area) has increased 700 percent, or 25 percent a year.

Plant life and the ecosystem have not grown that much, nor been able to replenish whatever has been destroyed by ATVs and dirt bikes roaring through the area?s dry and delicate landscapes.

Time out. A breather is needed.

Putting the brakes on this overuse, and confining the bikes to trails and roads would help restore the reputation of machine riders as good stewards of the land. It would be consistent with rules already in place in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.

It also would return some equilibrium to game hunting. Too many ATV riders are hunters who use the speed of ATVs to chase down game?and give hunting a bad name in the process.

By putting sportsmen back on their feet, the sport of game hunting will be man against game, not machine against animal.

ATVers have organized to protest the proposal at a series of hearings scheduled by the Forest Service.

Anyone?for or against the proposal?who wants to be heard should attend a hearing at 5 p.m., Monday, Sept. 20 in the Old Blaine County Courthouse in Hailey.

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