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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of August 13 - 19, 2003


State OHV trail
proposal includes
expansion options

"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

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 proposal.

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 land."

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 said.

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.



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