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Monday, November 1, 2010

Is the Forest Service right in closing illegal ATV roads?

Idaho's Caribou-Targhee National Forest Service (FS) officials announced on Monday that they had closed down "377 illegally created roads" blocking off about 50 miles of forest roads reported Portland's

My first reaction was that the forest service was trying again to thwart access to public land, land literally owned by us American citizens and used for legal recreation purposes, such as boondocking.

The FS case was made by Wes Stumbo, a Forest Service Engineer. "Illegal use of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) is a huge problem," Stumbo said. "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."

In Idaho in 1990 there were 9,000 registered ATVs, but by 2009 there were 137,000--a 1,422% increase according to the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. With that increase, illegal use has risen dramatically.

"I think 80 percent of our users are good," Stumbo said. "It's the 20 percent that won't play by the rules that ruin it for everybody."

These illegal trails, according to Stumbo, increase erosion, decrease big game security, and upset forest users who want to enjoy their particular brand of recreation, whether it's hiking, biking, hunting, horseback riding, or camping and boondocking.

Their position made me think that this wasn't a bad idea. That maybe the illegal roads were in fact created by off-roaders, and that the increasing number of roads were actually harming the forest and our enjoyment of it.

I personally don't like ATVs running along forest service roads where I'm camped, making noise, scaring wildlife, and creating dust clouds. I like the peace and quiet of the forest. I want to hear the leaves rustle, the birds chirp, a stream gurgle, and the wind blow through the trees. But that doesn't mean that I think ATVs should be barred from using the forests, just that they should be legally held to common sense usage just as we booondockers should.

If the forest service is being honest, and they are trying to manage the forest for everyone, but not for everyone everywhere, I can get behind that. Yes, prevent the illegal ATV users from creating roads wherever they want to, as long as they are not hiding behind that issue to close established roads that are used--and have been used historically--by the rest of us.

"I think 80 percent of our users are good," Stumbo said. "It's the 20 percent that won't play by the rules that ruin it for everybody."

What do you think? Should the FS be prevented from closing any roads on public land?


  1. Perhaps if the Forest Service would define more ATV areas we would see fewer ATVs in the quiet areas and we could all have the best of worlds.

  2. Why do people believe that, just because an ATV is available, it is acceptable to use it? Isn't that like the doctor who, knowing that IVF can be done, does it to create octuplets, irrespective of the consequences? Is it not like the geneticist who, knowing that it is possible to clone an animal (perhaps even a human), does so irrespective of the consequences? Must America be an "I want it all and I want it now" culture, irrespective of the consequences? I would hope not. But I have no faith that things will get better.

  3. Here is the right answer and platform: