Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Monument plan bad for motorized users


    If you ride off-highway vehicles (OHVs) or you believe in fair access to public land, then you should be wary of environmentalists’ proposed Boulder White-Clouds National Monument. The monument’s main supporters are the Wilderness Society and Idaho Conservation League (ICL), who says their 2005 survey proved a majority of Idahoans support wilderness restrictions for the Boulder-White Clouds. Yet over half of people surveyed had never heard of the Boulder-White Clouds, and only 1 percent desired to restrict OHV access there.
    The ICL says the monument would “create certainty for reasonable motorized access,” but their proposed monument map indicates otherwise. The map includes a strange category of trails called “Non-Motorized or Motorcycle Trails.” This ambiguous designation lumps together both kinds of trails, making it impossible to confirm where motorcycles would be allowed or banned. Further review of the monument map reveals troubling changes, such as existing motorized trails that are restricted to “All Human Powered Travel.” This is the result of the ICL and Wilderness Society’s deal with mountain bike groups. Mountain bikers agreed to support the monument in exchange for environmentalists’ promise of new mountain-bike trails. The deal outlines the parties’ mutual goal of achieving “solitude” and “a quiet backcountry experience for all human-powered recreation.” OHV sound levels are federally regulated, but everyone knows that “quiet” and “solitude” are code words for banning OHVs. But using code words allowed the ICL to tell public officials the deal “does not address any positions on motorized access.” ICL’s online “Fact Sheet” justifies their proposed OHV ban. It says, “Off-road vehicle use is a persistent and growing activity incompatible with the backcountry experience sought by other recreationists.” That’s not a fact. It’s an agenda.
     The fact is that motorcycle and ATV trails add up to less than six one-thousandths of one percent (.006 percent) of the monument area. Another fact is that nobody has conducted a recreational traffic count for the Boulder-White Clouds, so nobody knows how many people use the trails for any purpose. Furthermore, the issue of “incompatibility” is not factual; it’s an opinion. Incompatibility ought to be determined through reason and fairness—not by two groups forming an alliance against another group they don’t like. Supporters of the monument like to equate it to the Central Idaho
     Economic Development and Recreation Act (CIEDRA). An ICL spokesperson told public officials that a monument with CIEDRA’s motorized plan would benefit OHV users because “the Blue Ribbon Coalition worked very closely with Rep. Simpson on these agreements.” That’s false. The Blue Ribbon Coalition is a leading advocate for motorized access, and they opposed CIEDRA precisely because it lacked sufficient OHV protections. The Idaho Recreational Council opposed CIEDRA for the same reason.
    Finally, environmentalists’ attempt to equate the monument to CIEDRA is deceptive because the monument would tie up 78 percent more land than CIEDRA. The monument propaganda includes no OHV protections. That’s a problem because if the monument is approved, then federal agencies will reevaluate all prior access decisions. Of course, environmentalists have nothing to lose because they know it’s easier to ban OHVs from a monument; and many environmentalists would be happy if all access was banned.
    In contrast, OHV users have nothing to gain. Only one in five monument routes even allow OHV access; and examples of new OHV trails on public land are scarce at best. Therefore, the potential of OHV users receiving the same or increased access in a national monument is laughable.
    Please go to and sign the online petition against the monument.

    Brent Thomas lives in Ketchum.

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