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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
208.726.8060 Voice
208.726.2329 Fax

Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of February 26 - March 4, 2003


The buzz in
Copper Basin

The next time a loud buzz is heard in Copper Basin, chances are it wonít be coming from swarms of mosquitoes.

The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation has targeted Copper Basin, the petite Shangri-La on the other side of Trail Creek Summit, for development of a loop trail for all-terrain vehicles.

The spur loop would come off a proposed ATV loop route that would circle the Lost River Range, connecting Challis, Mackay and Arco.

The route is modeled after a Utah trail that attracted 60,000 ATV riders last year.

Copper Basin is no secret. It has attracted fishermen, hikers, campers and picnickers for a long time. Yet, despite the fact that the secret is out, it has retained its ruggedly remote character.

This will change dramatically if Parks and Rec creates an ATV magnet nearby.

Thereís nothing wrong with ATVs in the right place. But Copper Basin is the wrong place.

Copper Basin looks tough, but itís fragile. Its namesake hillsides are penny-colored seas of crumbled rock. It is home to antelope, deer, elk and moose. Its fragile wetlands support wily fry that grow into the Albert Einsteins of the trout world.

In the right place, ATVsóthe contraptions with seats and handlebars on four bubble tiresóare modern workhorses. They travel easily over uneven terrain and are indispensable on farms and ranches.

Off the farm, careless operation has seriously damaged public lands.

The evidence may be found anywhere ATVs gather: churned streambeds, off-trail tracks in wetlands and stretches of sage, eroded stream banks and scarred hillsides. Their noise and numbers disrupt big game herds.

The machines have changed the nature of big game hunting to the point that the Idaho Department of Fish and Game has considered banning use of the machines for hunting.

IDPR says it can prevent damage to Copper Basin and other areas near the trail by citing violators. Itís a hollow promise. Idaho canít afford enough law officers to enforce speed limits on its highways, let alone patrol miles of ATV trails.

Itís no surprise there was little opposition at hearings on the proposed trailóIDPR screened it out.

While the rest of the country was distracted with the looming war in Iraq, and the rest of the state was watching the Legislature slash and burn the budget for education, IDPR quietly held hearings in Challis, Mackay and Arco last month. It conveniently skipped all Wood River Valley communities despite the fact that residents are heavy users of Copper Basin and are as close to the loop as any community on the trail. Getting to the closest hearing would have a required a three to four hour drive for valley residents.

Anyone who wishes to weigh in on the plan will have to write fast. The window for written comment (IDPR, Box 1876, Idaho Falls, ID 83403) on the proposal will slam shut Friday.

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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.