Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Forest Service identifies "Roads of Concern" in Idaho; works to mitigate safety issues

Typical sign the Forest Service is installing along forest roads
to increase safety for OHV users and motorists (courtesy USFS)

Hi all,

The U.S. Forest Service has been busy working on its "roads of concern" program in the last year to identify the most hazardous roads, install mitigation measures such as safety signage and trimming brush to improve visibility, and in a few instances, close a few sections of highly traveled roads that were deemed too hazardous to leave open to off-highway vehicle use.

This blog provides an update on the program. Just about anybody who has driven a vehicle on narrow national forest dirt roads has probably had a close call with another motor vehicle, not to mention an OHV rider cruising around a blind corner. This is the concern with this issue -- trying to avoid collisions between motor vehicles and OHVs.

The roads-of-concern issue came to the fore when the Idaho Legislature passed a law in 2009 that allowed unlicensed drivers to operate OHVs on national forest system roads as long as they had parental supervision. Previously, a driver's license was required for OHV users to operate OHVs on national forest roads. Fearing for the safety of young, unlicensed drivers operating OHVs on national forest roads used by cars and trucks, the Forest Service began a review of roads of concern in early 2011.

In the 2011 session, the Idaho Legislature passed a new law requiring that unlicensed drivers who wish to operate an OHV on national forest roads must complete an OHV safety course first. The law also clarified that youths on OHVs with parental supervision must be riding within 300 feet of an adult. The passage of that law, which was supported by the Idaho Recreation Council, eased the Forest Service's concerns about unlicensed OHV riders on forest roads, officials said.

Statewide, there are 7,700 miles of forest roads that are used by motor vehicles and OHVs. For the roads of concern process, the Forest Service evaluated 2,500 miles of roads in all eight of our national forests in Idaho.

The Payette National Forest issued a press release last week indicating that it had completed mitigation activities on 80.4 miles of mixed-use forest roads out of 271 miles identified, including safety signage and brushing to improve sight-lines. Additional mitigation work is scheduled for 83.3 miles of roads next summer. Two roads that restrict OHV use, the paved South Fork of the Salmon River road and paved section of the Goose Creek Road, will remain closed.

Here's a map that identified roads of concern on the Payette forest's east side and west side.
  • The Boise National Forest identified 359 miles of roads of concern and carried out mitigation activities on 77.6 miles of roads so far, with 57 miles remaining for next field season. Here's a map of the Boise forest's roads of concern.
  • The Caribou-Targhee National Forest identified 334 miles of roads of concern and did mitigation work on 201 miles of roads last summer. It plans to do more mitigation work on 89 miles of roads next summer. In August, the Caribou-Targhee announced the closure of 19.5 miles of forest roads to OHV use on four road segments, two of which had been closed previously.

    "The purpose of this order is to protect the safety of the public," said Caribou-Targhee Supervisor Brent Larson. "Current use on these roads includes commercial truck traffic and passenger vehicles both operating in excess of 50 mph. This order is to restrict off-highway vehicle use where current mixed use creates unsafe or dangerous operating conditions."

  • The Salmon-Challis National Forest identified 299 miles of roads of concern, and 102 miles that were considered high-risk. Forest officials plan to install signage and cut brush on the 102 miles of roadway next summer. Here's a map of the Salmon-Challis roads of concern.
  • The Sawtooth National Forest identified two miles of roadway that needed safety signage in the Minidoka District; that work has been completed.
  • The Clearwater National Forest identified 453 miles of roads of concern, and treated some of them with mitigation measures last summer. More details are yet to come. Here's a map of the east side of the Clearwater's roads of concern, and the west side.
  • The Nez Perce National Forest identified 735 miles of roads of concern. More details are yet to come. Here's a map of the east side of the Nez Perce's roads of concern, and the west side.
  • The Panhandle National Forest identified 151 miles of roads of concern. More details are yet to come. Here are three maps of the roads identified -- north zone, central zone and south zone.
If you have questions about the roads of concern process, please follow up with any of the national forests mentioned above to get the details. Thank you.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Give thanks to IDPR Trail Rangers for keeping our trails clear on national forests in Idaho

Typical tree removal

Trail tread work

Serious downfall!

At this time of year, it's appropriate to give thanks to some unsung heroes who work hard all summer long in Idaho's back country to ensure that our multi-use trails on national forest lands are free of downfall and brush, usable and sustainable.

I'm talking about the Trail Rangers crews provided by the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. They're skilled motorbike riders who carry shovels, chainsaws and other tools into the back country and work on opening up multi-use trails for all of us to enjoy.

Last summer, IDPR's Trail Rangers cleared almost 1,500 miles of trails, removed more than 8,000 trees, improved the tread on approximately 1,530 feet of trail, and worked on 1,045 water bars/dips.

The trail work occurred on many of Idaho's national forests, including the Panhandle, Salmon-Challis, Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Caribou-Targhee, Boise and Payette. Please see a detailed accounting of the Trail Rangers work on the IDPR web site.

With the late spring and cool, wet summer, the IDPR Trail Rangers "struggled with excessive amounts of brush growth" that slowed the crews down and made it difficult to treat all of the trail miles requested by the national forests, IDPR officials said.

IDPR has four Trail Ranger crews that serves the state -- one in North Idaho, another in Eastern Idaho and a third and fourth located in SW Idaho. The fourth crew is a “roaming crew” that assists all three regions in trail maintenance.

IDPR also has a trail cat that does more heavy-duty trail work. Statewide, IDPR trail cat operators reconstructed 31.3 miles of of trail, built 3.2 miles of trail and 868 water dips, cleaned out 1,003 water dips, and removed 817 stumps.

IDPR's mini-excavator operators rebuilt 2.9 miles of trail, built 27 water dips, cleaned 28 water dips, and removed 27 stumps.

All of this work is made possible by OHV registration funds.

In the spring, IDPR invites national forest ranger districts to apply for assistance from IDPR Trail Rangers. Trail work is provided to the national forests at no cost. But the Forest Service does provide temporary housing for trail ranger crews. In 2010, 26 ranger districts in Idaho's national forests requested and received Trail Ranger services.

Thanks Trail Rangers!

Friday, October 14, 2011

New hard-copy Motor Vehicle Use Maps for Payette, Sawtooth forests available at IDFG offices

Hi all,

Here's a news release that we went out to the Idaho news media today:

BOISE - (Oct. 14, 2011) – Motor Vehicle Use Maps for the Payette National Forest and the Sawtooth National Forests are now available at Idaho Department of Fish and Game offices in McCall, Nampa, Boise and Jerome as big game hunting seasons kick into gear.

“The Forest Service and Idaho Fish and Game did a special reprint of the Motor Vehicle Use Maps because they have been in high demand,” said IDFG spokesman Mike Keckler. “The hard-copy maps are the best source of information available about what trails and roads are open to off-highway vehicles during hunting season.”

The maps are free. By referring to the Motor Vehicle Use Maps, combined with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game hunting regulations, hunters driving ATV's, 4-wheel-drive vehicles and motorbikes can research what roads and trails are open during hunting season.

“Making the maps available at the IDFG offices should be more convenient for hunters, said Andy Brunelle, a spokesman for the Forest Service. “Maps are at their highest value when in the hands of the people, not on the display rack.”

The maps also are available at national forest ranger district offices and they're available online on the Sawtooth and Payette National Forest web sites.

For specific locations of the IDFG offices, here is a link from the IDFG web site to the regional office addresses.

About the Idaho OHV Public Outreach Campaign: To help raise awareness about the importance of OHVs staying on trails, five state and federal agencies in Idaho work on a statewide campaign called the Idaho Off-Highway Vehicles (OHV) Public Outreach Campaign. The campaign encourages riders to ride safe, responsibly and reduce their impact on the land and other trail users. See for more information.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hunters on OHVs urged to stay on designated trails

The Idaho OHV Public Outreach Campaign has just issued this press release to outdoor writers/editors in Idaho ...

BOISE – Officials with the Idaho Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Public Outreach Campaign are urging people who use ATVs or motorbikes during hunting season to stay on designated trails and do their homework to ensure that the trails they plan to ride are open.

Officials with the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Idaho Department of Fish and Game say that hunters riding off-trail on ATVs or motorbikes continues to be a problem on public lands during hunting season.

"We are most concerned with instances where a hunter drives off-trail to scout for game or retrieve game," said Andy Brunelle, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service. "One set of tracks through the brush or in a meadow can invite others to do the same, and the impacts add up, damaging vegetation and causing soil erosion into streams."

According to several surveys, more than half of the approximately 240,000 people who hunt in Idaho (residents and non-residents) during the fall months are using motorbikes or ATVs to access their hunting areas.

Officials with the U.S. Forest Service encourage hunters to obtain copies of Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM's) from the national forest where they plan to hunt. Hard-copy maps are available from national forest ranger district offices, and in some cases, they are online. The Idaho OHV Public Outreach Project's web site,, has a link to online Forest Service MVUM's on its where to ride page.

OHV riders also can do research trail/road access information on the web site, which was recently created by the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. Click on a trail or road, and details about that trail/road will appear in a pop-up window. If the trail or road is restricted, the closure dates are listed.

The Panhandle National Forests have published new MVUMs for the Coeur d'Alene River Ranger District and the Kaniksu Zone. These are available from Panhandle National Forest offices, and they are online on the forest's web site. Forest officials are still working on the map for the St. Joe National Forest.

The Idaho OHV Public Outreach Project's web site,, has a link to online Forest Service MVUM's on its where to ride page.

The Boise, Payette, Sawtooth, Caribou-Targhee and Salmon-Challis national forests have completed travel management plans and have published MVUM's to indicate what trails and roads are open or closed during the fall hunting seasons. The Nez Perce and Clearwater national forests are still working on travel management plans before they can publish final MVUM's..

BLM officials encourage hunters to check BLM districts or BLM Travel Management maps to see if the trails or roads they plan to use are open or closed. The BLM maps are available online on BLM district office web sites and hard-copies are available at district offices.

Under the Forest Service's National Travel Rule, "it's incumbent on the user to know if the trail is open or closed" regardless if the trail is signed appropriately, forest officials said. That's because people have been known to shoot signs full of bullet holes, remove signs or vandalize them.

Hunters also should check Idaho Fish and Game hunting regulations to check on trail or road restrictions in their hunting areas. The Idaho OHV Public Outreach Project produced a YouTube video that helps explain how to sort through MVUM maps and Fish and Game regulations to see if trails are open or closed.

Jon Heggen, enforcement chief for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, encouraged motorbike and ATV riders to be sensitive to the fact that some people may be hunting on foot in the same area where they are riding their trail machine. "We want to remind hunters to stay on trails and be courteous to other users," Heggen said.

Hunters also should be aware that a new state law requires youths who do not have a driver's license to take a free safety course before they ride OHVs on forest roads, and that youths under the age of 18 are required to wear a helmet when riding on an OHV or driving one.

Idaho OHV campaign officials recommend that hunters check out 10 hunting tips on to make sure they have a safe and legal hunting season. Idaho Fish and Game also has a brochure that reviews motor vehicle and ATV regulations pertinent to hunting.

About the Idaho OHV Public Outreach Campaign: To help raise awareness about the importance of OHVs staying on trails, five state and federal agencies in Idaho work on a statewide campaign called the Idaho Off-Highway Vehicles (OHV) Public Outreach Campaign. The campaign encourages riders to ride safe, responsibly and reduce their impact on the land and other trail users. See for more information.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

New OHV safety classes are filling up fast

IDPR safety class in Boise
Hi all,

In case you haven't heard, the 2011 Idaho Legislature passed new education requirements for youths who ride off-highway vehicles on forest roads in Idaho. We wrote about the pending legislation proposed by the U.S. Forest Service and the Idaho Recreation Council during the legislative session, and now the education requirements have become law.

So, the upshot of the new law is that all unlicensed riders who wish to operate an OHV on national forest roads are required to take a free OHV safety course provided by the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. These courses are filling up fast, and hunting season is coming up soon, so if your kids need to get signed up, it's best to do so ASAP!

Here are the links for signing up for the IDPR OHV safety courses in all regions of Idaho. The IDPR has set up courses from early August through October. Contact the IDPR's education specialists as follows to express interest and sign up for a class:

North Idaho: Scott Hildesheim

Southwest Idaho: Jonathan Okerlund

Eastern Idaho: Patrick Carlson

IDPR officials say that public demand for the OHV safety courses is high. Based on the number of registered OHV's in Idaho, IDPR officials expect 3,500 to 4,000 youths in Idaho will need to take the courses.

IDPR policy allows for 10 students per course. The courses involve classroom and practical instruction on the dirt. The parent or legal guardian is required to attend the class with their child or children.

Topics covered by the education classes:
  • Safe riding
  • Proper machine sizing for size of rider
  • Weight distribution
  • Responsible and ethical riding
  • Proper handling and shifting
  • Riding within your ability
What to bring to class:
  • Properly registered OHV or off-highway motorcycle
  • Approved helmet, goggles or face shield, gloves, long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and boots
  • Snacks and water (optional)
The concept behind the classes is to make youth OHV riders aware of the dangers of riding OHVs on forest roads.

It's an extra step that may save a life.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Always wear a helmet when operating an OHV

Hi all,

The Idaho Off-Highway Vehicle Public Outreach Project has produced two helmet-safety videos in hopes of boosting the rate of helmet use among OHV riders.

Children under the age of 18 are required by Idaho law to wear a helmet if they are operating or riding on an off-highway vehicle on trails or roads in the state of Idaho.

"Wearing a helmet when you're riding an OHV is not only common sense and a good idea, it's the law for kids under the age of 18," says Troy Elmore, OHV Program Manager for the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation.

According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, wearing a helmet when operating or riding on an OHV can reduce the risk of death in an accident by 42 percent.

Here are two videos that address helmet safety ... one from a young teen-age rider and one from a helmet safety expert. Please feel free to share the videos with your riding partners and friends.

Ride safe!

For more information, go to

Thursday, June 30, 2011

OHV riders urged to head for low- to mid-elevation trails for the 4th of July weekend

Deep snow is keeping many high-elevation roads and trails inaccessible.

June 30, 2011

Contact: Steve Stuebner, Idaho OHV Public Outreach Campaign, 208-484-0295

Before heading out to go trail-riding and camping for the 4th of July weekend, national forest officials recommend that Idahoans call first to check on the status of their favorite trails, particularly if they are located in high-mountain elevations.

"Know before you go," forest officials said. Check for the latest trail and road conditions on national forest web sites, and call ranger districts for site-specific information. The Idaho OHV Public Outreach Campaign's web site has contact information for all of the national forest, BLM, and state park offices statewide.

As a general rule, lower-elevation and mid-elevation trails will be the best bet for OHV recreation over the 4th of July weekend until warm temperatures melt the remaining snow in the high country throughout Idaho, forest officials said. OHV users are encouraged to refrain from using wet, muddy and snowy trails to prevent long-term damage.

Although work crews continue to make progress clearing trails and roads, shady areas and high elevations still may have several feet of snow, making vehicle travel on some roadways tricky, national forest officials said. Vehicles can break through snow’s crust and leave travelers "stuck." Cell phone coverage may not be available to contact emergency responders, so it’s best to avoid the temptation to plow on through in snowy areas. It could get worse the farther you go.

As of June 28, snow levels ranged from 5,500-foot elevation in the Nez Perce, Clearwater and Panhandle national forest areas, to 6,500-foot and 7,000-foot elevation in much of Central and Southern Idaho. South slopes are open up to 8,500 feet, such as at 8,701-foot Galena Summit, north of Ketchum. North-facing slopes and shady areas will have dramatically more snow than south slopes.

Bureau of Land Management lands are typically free of snow below 7,000-foot elevation, officials said. BLM officials did not report any restrictions for the 4th of July.

Most of the OHV trails around Bayhorse in the Land of the Yankee Fork near Challis are open, including the Lombard Trail from Challis to Bayhorse. The Bayhorse Lakes are inaccessible now due to the road washing out, the Custer Motorway is still blocked by snow, and high passes are still snowed in.

"It's tough when you are above 8,500 feet and in the shade," said Dan Smith, manager of the Land of the Yankee Fork State Park in Challis. "We’re telling folks to come ride, but be ready to back-track if you hit a big snowdrift."

Statewide, some popular national forest roads that are still closed because of snow include:

  • Forest Road #486, the Magruder Road Corridor between Elk City and Darby, Mont.
  • Forest Road #222 from Dixie Guard Station to Mackay Bar on the Salmon River.
  • Forest Road #500, the Lolo Motorway along the Lewis & Clark Trail on the north side of the Lochsa River.
  • The road over Hoodoo Pass into Montana.
  • Elk Summit Road near Powell Junction.
  • Lick Creek Road near McCall.
  • Scott Mountain Road to Deadwood Reservoir.
  • The 4th of July Road in the White Cloud Mountains is partially open to 3.5 miles past Champion Creek.

Popular roads and trails that are open include:

  • South Fork Salmon River Road. Note: Chinook salmon season is now open.
  • Warren Wagon Road to Burgdorf Hot Springs and Warren.
  • Mud Flat Road, the Owyhee Uplands Backcountry Byway, in Owyhee County.
  • Forest Road #446 to the top of Snowbank Mountain near Cascade is open.
  • The Railroad Right of Way ATV trail from Warm River to West Yellowstone is open.
  • The Kirkham Ridge Trail near Lowman is open, but users should expect to encounter snow on north-facing slopes above 6,000 feet.
  • Trails in the Minidoka district of the Sawtooth National Forest (South Hills, south of Twin Falls).
  • China Peak near Pocatello.
  • Palisades Ranger District trails near Kelly Canyon Ski Area.
  • Forest Road #156 from Featherville to Rocky Bar, Phifer Creek to Atlanta.

Check out the http://www.stayontrails.comweb site and click on where to ride for other ideas on where to ride over the 4th of July weekend.

Here are links to the latest press releases and road information from Idaho's national forests:


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Reminder for OHV riders: Helmets are required for kids under 18 when operating or riding on an OHV

DOT-approved full-face helmets are recommended ...

New helmet safety poster will be distributed to 250 OHV dealers statewide. (Click on image to enlarge)

Hi all,

One of the educational initiatives for the Idaho Off-Highway Vehicle Outreach Campaign this year is to remind parents and OHV dealers that Idaho state law requires kids under the age of 18 to wear a helmet when riding or operating an OHV. The law has been on the books for six years; compliance appears to be low.

"Wearing a helmet when you're riding an OHV is not only common sense and a good idea, it's the law for kids under the age of 18," says Troy Elmore, OHV Program Manager for the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation.

According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, wearing a helmet when operating or riding on an OHV can reduce the risk of death in an accident by 42 percent.

Statewide, since 2001, there have been about 20 accidents involving kids on OHVs each year on Idaho's public roads, according to records from the Idaho Department of Transportation. In 2003 and 2004, there were 34 accidents in each of those years.

As part of an effort to increase public awareness of the helmet requirements for Idaho kids, the Idaho OHV Public Outreach Campaign and IDPR are handing out posters that include the message: "Use Your Brain - Always Wear a Helmet." The posters will be distributed to 250 OHV dealers in Idaho in early June.

Even though Idaho state law was changed six years ago to include the helmet requirements in hopes of saving lives and reducing injuries, public lands officials in the state have noticed that the law receives low compliance. They are hoping that with some increased publicity and outreach, compliance will improve.

"We want everyone to have a safe riding season in 2011," Elmore said. "You can't ever anticipate when an accident is going to occur, so the safest approach is to wear a helmet."

IDPR officials recommend that OHV riders wear DOT-approved full-face helmets for the best effectiveness, and to be sure that helmets fit properly.

"Helmets are normally comprised of four elements -- a rigid outer shell, a crushable liner, chin straps or a retaining system and fit or comfort padding," notes Richard Gummersall, OHV education coordinator. "The rigid outer shell, when present, adds a load-spreading capability, and prevents objects from penetrating the helmet. It's kind of like an additional skull.

"The liner, usually made of EPS (expanded polystyrene) or similar types of materials, absorbs the energy of an impact by crushing. The chin strap when properly buckled and adjusted along with the fit padding helps the helmet remain in position during a crash."

Here is the full text from Idaho Code 49-666: Motorcycle, motorbike, UTV and ATV safety helmets -- Requirements and standards. No person under eighteen (18) years of age shall ride upon or be permitted to operate a motorcycle, motorbike, utility type vehicle or an all-terrain vehicle unless at all times when so operating or riding upon the vehicle he is wearing, as part of his motorcycle, motorbike, UTV or ATV equipment, a protective safety helmet of a type and quality equal to or better than the standards established for helmets by the director, except the provisions of this section shall not apply when such vehicles are operated or ridden on private property, or when used as an implement of husbandry.

Please spread the word!

Thanks and have a safe ride.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Many trails, campgrounds will not be accessible for Memorial Day Weekend in Idaho

Hi all,

As one might expect after the long winter and heavy snow in the mountains of Idaho, many roads, trails and camping areas are still snow-bound, and other areas are wet and muddy.

Probably the best bet for Memorial Day weekend is to head for lower-elevation recreation areas that are free of snow. Be sure to check with local Forest Service, BLM or Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation offices to check on conditions before you go.

Here are links to Memorial Day press releases from various national forests:
  • Boise National Forest - "Visitors will find many areas, including roads, trails and campgrounds still heavily impacted with snow this Memorial Day weekend, and many areas above 6,000 feet may be inaccessible" ... (click national forest link for full story).
  • Panhandle National Forests - "Snow-covered access roads, muddy campsites and saturated terrain are combining to delay the opening of several popular national forest campgrounds in the Coeur d’Alene area. Five of the nine campgrounds managed by the Coeur d’Alene River Ranger District on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests are impacted by the lingering winter weather and are expected to delay their opening for up to two weeks."
  • Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest - "It’s been a cold, damp spring on the Nez Perce – Clearwater National Forests, but with Memorial Day Weekend – and the promise of better weather – just around the corner, Old Man Winter is finally starting to loosen his icy grip on the backcountry. There are plenty of great reasons to enjoy a getaway to Idaho’s “Big Wild”; what are you waiting for?"
  • Sawtooth National Forest - "Recreationists planning on visiting the Sawtooth National Forest over the Memorial Day Weekend will find that there are a limited number of campgrounds available for the holiday. Due to the lingering snowpack, a number of campgrounds, roads and trails will be closed."
  • Caribou-Targhee National Forest - "Memorial Day weekend signals the start of the camping and recreating season in this part of the world. Before traveling to the forest, Caribou-Targhee National Officials remind visitors to keep in mind the following information."
  • Salmon-Challis National Forest - "According to the current Motor Vehicle Use Maps for districts on the Salmon-Challis National Forest, most of the seasonal motorized route open periods begin May 22. However, many Forest Service roads and trails at mid- and high- elevations remain impassable (closed) due to snow conditions.
  • BLM Idaho Falls-Pocatello area - "Southeast Idaho may be flooding with cold and rainy weather, but hardy campers are still looking to enjoy the outdoors on the public lands. “Calls have been ‘pouring’ in with people wondering whether campgrounds are open,” said Chuck Patterson, outdoor recreation planner for the BLM Pocatello Field Office (PFO). “The answer is yes they are.” He cautioned that accessing campgrounds could be problematic because of poor road conditions or local road closures."

Statewide, the BLM announced Friday that Most Bureau of Land Management (BLM) campgrounds throughout Idaho are open and ready for Memorial Day weekend; however, rainy weather and wet conditions have prompted some campground closures. BLM recreation planners suggest that recreationists check local road and weather conditions, visit Idaho BLM’s website,, or contact their local BLM office before heading out this weekend.

"Before leaving for the Memorial Day weekend, recreationists may benefit from contacting their local BLM office for the latest BLM recreation site status,” said BLM Outdoor Recreation Planner Terry Heslin. “We plan to have many sites open and ready for campers, but there are a few throughout Idaho that may be closed due to high water conditions or unfit roads.”

The following BLM sites are closed until further notice:

Eastern Idaho - Pipeline and Snake River Vista campground boat ramps along the Snake River, below the American Falls Dam, are closed. River flows are too dangerous for boat launching, as the flow is moving more than five times beyond its normal speed. For more information, please contact Chuck Patterson at 208-478-6362.

Northern Idaho - Blackwell Island Public Boat Launch on Lake Coeur d’Alene will remain closed until high water subsides enough to allow the boat launch facility to be used. The launch facility is currently under two feet of water.

BLM’s Windy Bay site is also under about eighteen inches of water. If the water continues to rise as high as expected, foot access into Mica Bay Boater Park will be under water as well.

Heslin suggests using caution while traveling on muddy roads. “Even though some Idaho BLM campgrounds are well established, many roads leading to them are muddy and could pose safety hazards, which can make accessing campgrounds problematic,” he said. “Recreationists can also cause significant resource damage by traveling, hiking, biking or operating off-road vehicles on muddy roads.”

Have a great weekend!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Danskin Trails now open for OHV use

Hi all,

The Forest Service announced Thursday that the Danskin Trails near Black's Creek and Mountain Home have re-opened for public use.

Here's the text of their news release:

Mountain Home, ID – Effective Thursday, April 21, the Forest Service will reopen all trails for motorized use in the Danskin Mountain Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Area located on the Mountain Home Ranger District of the Boise National Forest.

The area had been subject to an extended closure to minimize trail damage and protect resources during the wet spring thaw conditions.

“Pockets of snow remain on a few higher elevation trails, some water crossings are flowing very high, and there are some slumps and ruts so users need to use caution as not all trail hazards have been identified,” said Stephaney Church, Mountain Home District Ranger.

“We encourage all riders to exercise responsibility and care when riding through any wet areas to prevent damage.”

The Danskin Mountain OHV Area is about 29 miles east of Boise and includes nearly 160 miles of designated motorized-use trails. Motorized enthusiasts are reminded that their machine must display a valid State of Idaho OHV sticker for operation on these trails and compliance with this regulation is strictly enforced. Citizens observing illegal activity are encouraged to report violators to Forest Service law enforcement officers. A key ingredient to protect and preserve the trail system is user compliance.

Maps for the OHV Area identifying all trails designated for motorcycle and ATV use are available at Forest Service offices and from several OHV dealers in Boise and Mountain Home.

Online pdf trail maps are available here on

Further information is available by contacting the Mountain Home Ranger District office at 208-587-7961.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Boise National Forest closes Danskin trails temporarily until damage can be repaired

A pine tree falls across Trail #531

Damage on Trail #512
Hi all,

The Boise National Forest put out a news release on April 8, indicating that it will be closing the trails in the Danskin Mountains area for several weeks because of wet, muddy conditions. The long, wet winter also has caused some damage on the trails.

Here's the text of the news release:

Mountain Home, ID - The U.S. Forest Service Mountain Home Ranger District has extended indefinitely the closure for the motorized access on all trails in the Danskin Mountain OHV Area to minimize trail damage and protect resources due to lingering snow and continued rainfall that have led to very wet trail conditions. This closure prohibits all motorcycle and all-terrain vehicle travel on designated trails within the Danskin Mountains OHV Area.

Mountain Home District Ranger Stephaney Church extended the closure past the anticipated ending on April 10, due to the cool wet weather this spring. District staff reviewed part of the trail system and encountered washed out culverts, down trees, and cut slope failures. Trail restrictions are annually put in place starting January 1 and last through the early season in order to reduce potential motor vehicle damage on soft or muddy trails.

“As conditions now stand, I anticipate the closure could be extended through to April 21, or even longer,” Church said. “We will continue to monitor trail conditions on a weekly basis and open the area to motorized travel just as soon as conditions allow.” The extension will allow the system to continue to dry and allow for completion of needed repairs.

(end news release)

As an alternative, OHV enthusiasts may want to ride in the Owyhee Mountains near Murphy, accessing trails from one of several BLM trailheads. Or, look for a spring riding destinations on our web site,

Monday, March 7, 2011

Senate Bill 1001 advances in Idaho Senate; bill would require youth OHV education

Hi all,

Senate Bill 1001, endorsed by the U.S. Forest Service and the Idaho Recreation Council, would require OHV riders under the age of 16 to take mandatory safety education classes. The bill advanced out of the Senate Transportation Committee last week, and it appears headed for a vote on the Senate floor in the coming week.

Sen. John McGee, R-Caldwell, the majority caucus chairman, is the bill sponsor. If passed, state officials estimate that about 4,000 - 4,500 Idaho youths might take OHV safety classes per year, compared to fewer than 100 per year who do it on a voluntary basis. The bill does not include any funding for the new work load, so right now, how the classes would be funded is an open question.

Idaho Recreation Council officials support the bill for the following reasons:

· Youth training will emphasize responsible use of OHVs and will reduce irresponsible activities and associated impacts.

· When youth are trained, they will be able to communicate responsible use messages to adults and parents.

· Adoption of a training requirement will reduce the concerns of many Forest Service officials and will reduce the need to close Forest Service roads to OHV use.

· Training on road signing and other on-road issues will make young riders safer.

· Training will not be required for youths who just use trails (not USFS main access roads), thereby reducing the impact of the mandate.

The legislation was brought by the Forest Service and the Idaho Recreation Council to address safety concerns on main access roads with a high volume of traffic. In 2009, the Idaho Legislature passed a law that allows youths to ride on USFS main access roads without a driver's license as long as they are under the supervision of an adult.

Even with adult supervision, Forest Service officials are concerned about youths operating OHVs on main access roads because kids wouldn't have the same training as a licensed driver. Youths could get in an accident with a speeding vehicle on curvy roads with poor visibility. Here's a video that explains the risk during hunting season.

Statewide, since 2001, there have been about 20 accidents involving kids on OHVs each year on public roads, according to ITD records. In 2003 and 2004, there were 34 accidents in each of those years. It's unclear how many of those accidents occurred on Forest Service roads or elsewhere.

"We raised our questions about this law two years ago due to concerns about safety -- safety for the OHV operator as well as that for the driver of highway-legal vehicles like a car or truck," said Andy Brunelle, USFS liaison in Boise.

While the legislation is moving through the Idaho Statehouse, the Forest Service is reviewing the safety of its main access roads in all of Idaho's national forests, as was mentioned in a previous blog. The safety review involves 2,700 miles of forest roads. If the new legislation passes, Brunelle said, the Forest Service's safety concerns would be reduced because of the compulsory OHV education for kids. Young OHV riders would learn about the potential dangers in safety courses, and would be better equipped to ride in mixed-use areas with heavy traffic.

This is one reason why the Idaho Recreation Council supports the bill, officials say. With the legislation, the pressure to restrict USFS main access roads will be reduced.

The Forest Service still is likely to take steps to make the main access roads as safe as possible with signage, brushing-cutting to improve visibility and other measures, Brunelle said.

The Idaho Farm Bureau is opposing S 1001 because it opposes mandatory OHV safety classes, according to its legislative update "Capitol Reflections." Farm Bureau officials say the classes should be voluntary.

If have an opinion about SB 1001, contact your local legislators. If the bill passes on the Senate floor, it would move to the House Transportation Committee. If it passes that committee, it would advance to the Idaho House of Representatives and then Gov. Otter.

You can keep close tabs on the Idaho Recreation Council's web site to see what action they recommend in the days and weeks ahead. We'll let you know how things turn out.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Forest Service invites public comment on forest roads safety review; comments due Feb. 22

OHV riders in Idaho should take notice that the U.S. Forest Service is currently seeking public comment on a forest road safety review to identify national forest system roads where OHV use may be a safety issue due to the heavy use of passenger cars and trucks.

The agency is reviewing safety issues primarily on main haul roads that OHV riders may use to travel to Forest Service trailheads or to complete loop rides. The review process is being conducted in every national forest in Idaho. Forest Service officials say they plan to look at mitigation measures to improve safety first, such as signage or brush cutting to improve visibility, but some restrictions on OHV use may occur, or roads may be closed to OHVs if no other alternatives can be found. Even if restrictions on OHV use occurs, the Forest Service roads would remain open to the general public traveling in cars or trucks, officials said.

The Forest Service is requesting public input on the issue. Each national forest has prepared a list of roads that they deem may be hazardous to OHVs riders. The list of hazardous roads is available for public review from each national forest. Contact the national forest where you like to ride to learn more. Public comments are due by Feb. 22.

Here is a copy of the Forest Service's news release regarding the issue.

For example, in the Panhandle National Forests, they reviewed 4,300 miles of roads and came up with 151 miles that need to be evaluated for safety improvements. The agency has several maps and information on its web site for more information.

One reason the agency was prompted to conduct a review of its main access roads, some of which are paved, is that kids under the age of 16 are allowed to ride OHVs on some major Forest Service roads with parental supervision. Previously, OHV use on main forest roads was restricted to people aged 16 and over who have a driver's license, a requirement that still exists for county roads.

"Safe operation of motor vehicles on national forest roads is compromised because unlicensed and untrained drivers are now sharing roads designed and maintained for passenger cars and commercial truck traffic," said Harv Forsgren, regional forester of the Forest Service's Intermountain Region based in Ogden, Utah.

Idaho Parks and Recreation officials advise OHV riders that they should pay attention to the Forest Service road safety review because it could lead to restrictions or closures. But they are also concerned that the Forest Service may be over-reacting. "People have been riding OHVs on these roads in mixed-use areas for 30 years," said Troy Elmore, OHV program manager for IDPR. "The Forest Service was supposed to review mixed-uses on main Forest Service roads during the travel planning process, so this shouldn't be anything new to them."

Statewide, Andy Brunelle, Forest Service liaison in Boise, said the agency evaluated some 7,700 miles of roads used by cars and trucks, and then shrunk the list down to 2,500 miles that are of concern. Approximately 770 miles of national forest roads are either paved or two-lane and experience high traffic volumes and speeds. Other national forest roads of concern were identified based on roadside character such as limited sight distances, blind curves, cliffs or steep embankments, or presently have limited locations for pull-outs.

Potential safety measures being considering include reduced speed limits, brush removal for improved visibility, warning signs, speed bumps, or other minor engineering changes. "In cases where risks are unacceptable, OHV use may be restricted," Forsgren said. "However, for each road of concern, restricting OHV use will be considered as a last resort when no other reasonable and effective safety measures can be implemented."

Sandra Mitchell, a spokeswoman for the Idaho Recreation Council, said she would prefer to see signage and other measures used vs. closing roads. "We don't think there should be any closures of forest roads in the state of Idaho," she says. "The fundamental question that needs to be asked is, "Is there a problem out there?" To our knowledge, there hasn't been a mixed-use accident out there. It's just not happening."

Mitchell notes that parents are required to supervise kids riding on OHVs on Forest Service roads, and she said she thinks parents by and large are doing a good job of monitoring their kids on forest roads and avoiding accidents.

Adds Elmore, "We would support any mitigation measures where they could improve safety for all users and continue to allow people to complete their loop rides. But beyond that, we don't believe that any closures or restrictions are necessary unless data supports otherwise."

A related issue is that the Idaho Recreation Council is co-sponsoring new legislation that would require Idaho kids under 16 to take a mandatory safety course before they ride OHVs on public roads. The legislation, Senate Bill 1001, has been introduced. The bill is pending in the Senate Transportation Committee.

The Forest Service supports SB 1001, Brunelle said. Elmore said that IDPR has not taken a formal position on the legislation, but if it passes, the agency would be prepared to implement it.

Mandatory safety courses for youths would ease the Forest Service's safety concerns, Brunelle said. "If we have training for kids, that lowers the risk," he said.