During the last week or so, a couple of items came across my desk that I think are worth writing about. I received a copy of a report recently released by the Native Forests Network entitled "Tracking Snowmobile Trespass," and I also received a letter from a BlueRibbon member who was very concerned about some illegal OHV use in an area that he visits.
Both issues highlighted the need to make sure we are all operating legally. There are groups out there who are documenting every trespass or illegal operation incident they can. The Native Forests Network report has many pictures that show the results of illegal use in alleged Wilderness or other closed zones. Although this report exaggerates and implies misuse in legal recreation areas and recommended Wilderness areas that still open today, there are, no doubt, legitimate violations documented. I think some people have gotten frustrated with all of the closures and restrictions that have been applied in the last decade, and this frustration has eroded their respect for closures. We all need to remember that violations of today's closures will only lead to more restrictions in the future. And we all need to remember that even if no one sees the violation occur, the evidence of that violation will last until at least the next snowstorm, if not beyond. Those tracks lie waiting for the anti's camera to record.
The letter was from a BlueRibbon member who was very upset with not only closure violations in this specific area, but also some near violent confrontations. Some OHV operators threatened physical violence to a group who was chastising the OHV folks for being in a closed zone. This kind of behavior is totally unacceptable. To make matters even worse, some folks had been "hillclimbing" motorcycles in this area, leaving scars on the open slopes that were visible for miles. This area is spectacularly beautiful, and much of the area is at or above the tree line. This OHV enthusiast was beside himself at what the action of a few irresponsible individuals could do to the entire OHV community.
While I know that BlueRibbon members would never knowingly violate an area closure or do hillclimbs on pristine alpine slopes, you may know people who do. We need to exert peer pressure on these folks to protect the rights of all people who want to continue to access our public lands. We need to remember that those tracks, whether on snow or dry ground, will leave their mark for many others to see--some last for years. While we don't always agree with restrictions or closures, we need to fight those closures legally.
There was one other significant issue that popped up in the Native Forest Network report. These types of reports are usually focused on motorized users only. This report talked about potential impacts to Lynx and Wolverines. But rather than single out snowmobilers only, this report also focused on back country skiers as being a problem for Wolverines. While many of us have known for years that humans on foot are far more disruptive to wildlife, the anti-access folks have almost always focused on motorized users. I think it is clear to most who have seriously looked into these issues that the agenda is anti-human in general, but this is one of the first times I have seen a report talk about limiting ALL human presence, motorized or not. I have long felt that after the motorized groups were dispatched from our public lands, the attention of the anti-access and anti recreation groups would turn to other visitors. This report reveals that the most strident groups want to eliminate people entirely from our back country; a frightening concept indeed.
--Bill Dart is the Public Lands Director for the BlueRibbon Coalition. For questions or comments on this article, or on other Public Lands issues, he may be contacted at: BlueRibbon Coalition, 4555 Burley Drive, Suite A, Pocatello, ID 83202-1921. Phone: 208-237-1008, Fax: 208-237-9424. Email