Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Nature matters

In the pristine Wood River Valley, the  critical  decisions about how we protect our lands, our wildlife and our future Earth are vastly influenced by self-interest groups who have little regard, stewardship or insight into the importance of wilderness protection. Biologists for the BLM have determined that closures are necessary to protect winter animal habitat. However, self-interest groups feel it is their right to have access to public land for their personal pleasure disregarding their environment. This is a repetitive theme in backcountry management and kudos to the attempts that BLM is making despite the oppositional short-sightedness of a few.  

As recently stated in The New York Times,  "There are over 9 million off-road vehicles (all terrain and dirt bikes) that are transforming some of America's most pristine public land into their own personal playgrounds". Unfortunately, this is happening locally as well. As recently stated by a man at one of our public meetings this fall, "I am an extreme off-road sports enthusiast and it is my right to have access to this terrain." As a society so detached from nature and nature preservation, we continue to subordinate the laws put into effect during the 1970s and 1980s that understood the importance of restrictions of recreational machines from certain fragile public lands and animal corridors. 

I, like many other locals, follow the rules of minimal impact and try not to leave prints during running, driving or biking our public lands. To avoid wet trails, not  take shortcuts, nor create new trails or enter closed areas are easy-to-follow rules that everyone can do to help preserve our unspoiled land. It has become increasingly visible that the BLM, SNRA and the Forest Service officials do not hold significant regulatory abilities to keep the ORVs to minimal impact.  The attitudes of " the steeper the climb, the more the mud, the deeper the tracks and that there is nowhere I don't belong, be it winter, spring, summer, or fall," are forever transforming a beautiful landscape into one of ruin.  

An outrageous example that occurred this fall was a pickup truck perched high up on a hillside past a rock barrier at the end of a local trail.  This barrier said no vehicles or bikes. The truck's occupants set up a hunting camp with its truck and ATVs on the banned side of the barrier (as to prove a point and in the process scar the earth). Increasingly, common examples such as this prove that this issue is at a crisis point in which we are failing to respond to.

We need to respect the recommendations of our wildlife biologists and give authority to the BLM, SNRA and Forest Service personnel to enforce laws to protect and maintain our roadless areas. BLM and Forest Service travel plans that give designation of well-managed areas for recreation that maintain minimal impact are a must.

That is if nature really matters?

Leigh Morse


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