Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Caribou-Targhee National Forest closes 377 illegally created trails, roads

This trail was closed with rocks

This fall, the Caribou-Targhee National Forest got serious about closing illegal roads and trails. The forest closed 377 illegally created roads and trails on seven different ranger districts spanning from Henry's Lake to Malad in eastern Idaho. The trail closures affected approximately 50 miles of unauthorized routes.

Here's a link to the story written by outdoor editor Rob Thornberry of the Idaho Falls Post-Register about the trail-closure projects.

Kris Millgate of Tightline Productions produced a video about the issue as well. Go to her video vault page and click on the "Trails Close" video dated 8/18/10 to see her piece.

The Caribou-Targhee's action is emblematic of the steps being taken by national forests in Idaho -- and elsewhere -- that have completed travel management NEPA processes and are taking the next step to close and decommission illegal trails and roads. The hard part can be finding a way to fund the heavy equipment work involved in closing roads and trails. The Caribou-Targhee received $285,000 in federal stimulus money to get the job done, the Post Register reported.

Some OHV riders have protested the closures, arguing that some of the trails have value and should be retained. Others feel that the way the Forest Service is closing the trails is ugly and unsightly.

Millgate's video quotes Alan Crockett, an Idaho Falls mountain biker, who felt that some of the grassy two-tracks that were closed should have been left open to mountain biking.

Gary Oswald, an Idaho Falls hunter, said, "It makes the forest look like hell. "Unless you dig a pit around the entire forest, people are going to go in there and break the law."

Counters Wes Stumbo of the Caribou-Targhee forest, "I can't argue that it is not butt ugly, but we can't stand by and ignore the problem."

"Illegal use of (all-terrain vehicles) is a huge problem," Stumbo told the Post-Register. "Unmanaged recreation is one of the top four threats to the health of the forests across the country, and 85 to 90 percent of the time, the problem is illegal ATV use. This work is an answer to that threat."

The Boise National Forest and the Bureau of Land Management Four Rivers Office collaborated on a fence project recently to stop OHV riders from pioneering illegal routes on top of the Boise Ridge and on North Eighth Street. These were egregious examples of people wantonly creating illegal routes, according to federal officials, and a fence was the only way to stop the activity.

Responsible OHV riders and clubs know that illegal off-trail riding gives all OHV riders a black eye, and they discourage the practice. But sometimes the only sure way to stop the creation or use of illegal trails is to put up a bullet-proof blockade.