LAND ISSUES & CLOSURES
Po Box 70001
Boise, ID 83707
cell: (208) 869-3318
fax: (208) 424-3850
Public Land Updates
In October of 2016, I was asked to represent the snowmobile community on a panel as part of the Chief of the Forest Service’s Review of Region 1 in Missoula. Not only was the chief there but many of his key Washington staff. I was given three questions to answer. My answers are below.
What is the Value of public land to you, your organization or interest that you represent. As appropriate, please consider economic, ecologic and social values.
61.6% of Idaho is ‘held in trust for the American people’ and managed out of Washington under an abundance of laws passed by people who have never been to our state and I suspect, most have never been on a snowmobile or plan to. These precious lands are where snowmobilers go to recreate. Their value is unmeasureable and we know that, because loss has taught us the value of those lands. A snowmobiler told me that he had spent hours listening to ‘old timers’ talk about where they use to ride. He used that as a source of motivation because he never wants to tell his children and grandchildren about where he rode, he wants to take them there and let them experience the wonder and joy for themselves.
Yes, we know the personal value of those lands and we also know the value they bring to the rural communities surrounding them. The western states economies have transitioned from timber and agriculture to recreation and tourism. The Idaho State Snowmobile Association is in the final stages of updating their economic impact study. The last one was completed in 2005 by the University of Idaho. When it was released at Press conference in McCall, the head of the project Professor Garth Taylor said, “It is embarrassing how much money snowmobilers spend”.
Here is what we found out:
· A snowmobile visitor spends on average $317.00 per person/per trip to Valley County. Of that amount, $297.00 is spent in area visited.
· 35% of the expenditures are for hotels followed by 26% on money spent on gas and oil for the both the tow vehicle and snowmobile.
· Single day visitors constituted 35% of the snowmobile visitors (multi-day visitor 65%)
In the extremely low snow year of 2004/2005 millions of dollars were spent by snowmobilers across Idaho. Loss of snow and loss of access will result not only in the inability of the citizen owners of the public lands to enjoy the lands as we have for decades but the economies of rural communities will suffer even more devastation.
Over snow use is gaining in popularity because of the ‘snow bike’ and the hybrid user. Both are bringing younger people into the sport. That doesn’t mean that over snow vehicles should be allowed on every acre of the national forests but any restrictions should be established on good scientific data, not on perceptions or assumptions. Decisions driven by real and substantive resource problems or by congressional designations are not at question. However, social issues, such as conflict, drive many allocation decisions. We understand that these decisions must be made, but the present methods by which they are made we believe, must change. All users of the public lands must be treated equitably. No one user group should have greater rights than another. When striving for compromise all parties must have an equal chance of winning or losing. The public land agencies should be able to manage conflict in the context of its real importance in the given situation. Simply eliminating a use because some other user group doesn’t like them isn’t good enough.
What opportunities and or issues do you see on the horizon for the Forest Service and your organization?
When thinking about answering this question it occurred to me that almost every opportunity has a flip side—it-is also was an issue! For example, winter travel planning.
It is an Opportunity for the forest to evaluate all areas including those currently closed to specific uses and to determine which areas are suitable or unsuitable for the various winter recreation activities. While designated wilderness is not available for motorized recreation, it is exclusively available for non-motorized winter recreation and should be considered as such in determining the mix of uses. In performing this evaluation take into account new information, new science, and changes resulting from agents such as wildfire. One of the few benefits from catastrophic fire is that it opens up play areas for over snow vehicle although we long for the day when that was accomplished by logging!
It is an issue because likely the Forest will start where they are and the result will be additional closures. There will be pressure from those who prefer other forms of recreation to close more areas to snowmobilers even though there is to my knowledge not one single acre that provides exclusive use for snowmobilers. All our areas are shared and we have no problem with that, in fact, we advocate responsible shared use.
It is an Opportunity because of new information and scientific studies being completed. For, example, the results from years of studying wolverines in Idaho, will soon be completed. This study came about through of the efforts of the snowmobile community. When the Payette proposed to close thousands of acres to sledding based on wolverine concerns without any science to back up their proposal, we worked with Jeff Copeland to start the study. The results that I have seen show that wolverines choose to live in high recreation areas. It is apparent that wolverines are reacting to recreational presence based on increases in activity levels and movement rates. The question then is whether or not this has a negative impact on their health or reproductive rates or anything else. It is important to note that this study is about winter recreation, both motorized and non-motorized and how it impacts wolverines.
And then we have the lynx. Initially so little was known about lynx that management standards were literally pulled out of the hat. One unproven hypothesis advanced was that the lynx’s competitors would follow packed snowmobile trails into lynx habitat and compete with them for their primary winter food source, snowshoe hares. Lines were drawn on maps to identify lynx habitat based solely on unsupported criteria such as elevation, incorporating areas that never have and never will have lynx.
That theory has been debunked. The first time in the Northern Rockies Lynx Amendment DEIS. It stated, “Because no evidence has been provided that packed snowtrails facilitate competition to a level that negatively affects lynx, we do not consider packed snowtrails to be a threat to lynx at this time.”
Next in a memo dated Feb. 3, 2004 BLM Deputy State Director Susan Glannettino quoted the US Fish and Wildlife Service as saying, “—we do not consider packed snowmobile tracks to be a threat at this time.”
And in The Kolby Paper entitled The Effect of Snowmobile Trails on Coyote Movements within Lynx Home Ranges in the Journal of Wildlife Management he concurs that snow compaction from snow machines is not detrimental to lynx.
And finally in the Canada Lynx Conservation Assessment and Strategy 3rd Edition — August 2013 it says, “However, as indicated above, this local snow compaction is short term and not likely to change the competitive interactions between lynx and coy-otes. “
It is an Issue because no amount of science has persuaded one forest to amend their Forest Plan to remove the no-net gain. The snowmobile community pleads with the Forest Service to base decisions on good reliable science and to then use it when it is provided.
What can we do together to seize those opportunities and address those issues?
It has been a pleasure to have had the opportunity to work with the Forest Service since the late 70s--that was before the Frank was Frank, when logging ruled, and few in North Idaho talked about recreation except jet boats on the Wild and Scenic Snake River.
Things have changed and will continue to do so regardless of who wins in November. As for the snowmobilers, we will continue to do everything possible to work with this fine organization. We do that because it is the right thing to do and because that is the wise advice given to me a few years ago by the chief. “Stay at the table” he said when I sought his advice on what I considered a most difficult predicament. And at the table we have been…snowmobilers all over this state participate in every level of the administrative process and in collaborative
But the question is “what can we do together”?
We spend a great deal of time together at the table, perhaps it is time to spend some in the actual field. Not only would relationships be built but we could have real time conversations about impacts, needs, possibilities, and wildlife concerns. The Forest is tasked with making the decisions that impact not only users but the economic security of many communities. It would seem that firsthand experience would provide a clearer picture of the issues than simply by reading dry comments. If you are willing to go out and ride with us, I promise that ISSA and the Montana Snowmobile Association are ready to take you whenever and I promise, we will bring you back just as we found you only you will have a huge smile on your face.
We all know the Forest Service budgets continue to decline but the need to maintain trails does not. One of the biggest needs for both the OHV and OSV community would be a real time trail repository for each forest. Where we could track trail maintenance, what has been done and what needs to be done. Working together we could make that happen. The OHV and OSV community can help secure the necessary funding.
Thank you for this opportunity to speak with you today. It is greatly appreciated. But perhaps there is one more question that should be asked---What can the users do to help you?
Public Land Updates
If you would like to be involved regarding this
please send Sandra Mitchell an email:
Click on this link to read this full report:
Public Land Updates
Good morning! Red ridge will not be groomed this year. We will open the 626. This cost share easement runs parallel to red ridge approx. 50 yards to the west. We will work to sign the new access point. Please always respect PRIVATE property. If we are to recreate on private property we must show that we can be respectful and accountable. Thank you
Valley County Parks and Recreation
We JUST got wind of this rally. We apologize for the short notice. We are hearing that a monument announcement may be coming this week. We predicted this back in the early part of 2016...we hope to be wrong on this one.
The time is now to voice your concerns about a Bears Ears national-monument proclamation that appears to be imminent.
Monday, December 19th, 2016
2:30pm State Capitol building
This afternoon in Salt Lake City, people will gather on the steps and in the rotunda to advocate responsible use by holding signs, speaking with press, etc. Apparently it will be followed by a counter-protest full of Native American and non-native monument supporters.
Let's show them that many people of all ethnicities challenge the need for our president to unilaterally proclaim everything from the Navajo Reservation up to Hurrah Pass as a national monument. It's an opportunity to demonstrate our passion, but also our reason, as alternatives like simply improving BLM's existing management or passing the Utah Public Lands Initiative make it completely unecessary for the president to proclaim a national monument that's long on acreage and short on local support.
Granted, instead of the 1.9 million-acre boundary proposed by the Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition (which is funded by wilderness groups), the administration seems poised to go with a 1.3 million-acre boundary based on NCA's proposed by the Utah Public Lands Initiative. Unfortunately, the monument proclamation wouldn't include the PLI's language requiring land managers to relocate any problemmatic routes rather than closing them outright, nor the benefits outside of Bears Ears such as recreation zones and the Red Rock Country OHV Trail, not to mention a limitation on future national-monument proclamations in the affected counties. In short, a 1.3 million-acre Bears Ears monument would be yet another overreach that makes Antiquities Act reform all the more pressing.
Wilderness groups complain that wilderness bills haven't been passing in recent years. Well, for one thing, land is finite, so they should expect the rate of new designations to dimish. What's more, wilderness groups have begun designing wilderness bills to fail! The bills have been inflated in order give the administration political cover to proclaim a monument. In the case of the Bears Ears, the wilderness groups exploited part of the Public Lands Initiative bill to rationalize another monstrous monument. The wilderness groups had no intention of following through with the legislative track, but they went through the motions to run out the clock. Specifically, the Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition pledged to provide their proposed "co-management" language to congressmen Bishop and Chaffetz, but on November 30th BEIC finally said that it wouldn't give the "co-management" language unless the congressmen agree to a 1.9 million-acre boundary and several other demands that were above and beyond what could be provided, even by a monument. The administration had encouraged BEIC to give the PLI a chance, but it didn't do enough to compel BEIC to meaningfully negotiate. While BEIC was all too willing to be a pawn for wilderness groups, the systemic problem is that the Antiquities Act continues to undermine the legislative process, and allows uncompromising groups like SUWA to coopt the traditional conservation lobby in D.C.
Two decades after the proclamation of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the PLI has shown a better way of achieving conservation without losing recreation and economic opportunities. Another monument would destroy the collaborative process for decades to come. At least we can say that we tried to prevent this breakdown of negotiations, which is why it's simportant to show up at today's rally.
Public Land Update
Several years ago, I saw a sign that read, “Don’t confuse habit with commitment”. It is so true, often we do things because we always have or always should but not because we are motivated by passion. I fear at times that many members of the Idaho State Snowmachine Association (ISSA) have lost their passion for this amazing organization and many new people don’t know enough about ISSA to develop a passion for it. Perhaps it is time for an ISSA 101 Course! Let’s reignite our Passion.
Here we go, a crash course in ISSA and no, there will not be a quiz!
#1 goal of ISSA is to promote our access to the public lands!
In case you haven’t noticed, there are many who do not want you to ride on public lands. ISSA is dedicated to keeping the gates open and the land available for your use. This is done by working with federal land managers, the Idaho Legislature, State Agencies, the Governor and Congress. ISSA is not new to the political world. ISSA was instrumental in passing the original snowmobile registration act, sponsored and passed legislation that created a special snowmobile vehicle license plate, set up the first in the nation search and rescue fund and created the non-resident trail fee. One would be hard pressed to find any member of the Idaho Legislature who is not familiar with this amazing organization. But we do not just work the halls of the Legislature. Members of ISSA have also walked the Halls of Congress supporting or opposing legislation. Because of ISSA, the American Council of Snowmobile Associations does a yearly snowmobile fly-in to DC. It was our idea and we made the first trip happen. ISSA is powerful within the political world because of its members who care and are involved.
ISSA makes sure its members are never the last to know! Our magazine Snow Biz is published 6 times a year and if you choose, you can receive our ‘Public Land Alerts’. Members of ISSA are informed on what is happening in Idaho and in the nation and we make it easy for them to participate in all the planning processes that impact our sport.
ISSA is a proud advocate of the philosophy of Responsible Shared Use. Unlike many other organizations, it does not suffer from ‘tunnel vision.’ We believe that all have a responsibility to care and share the land and no one group has greater rights than another. ISSA is not one of the ‘shrill’ voices clamoring for their way or no way. Thus, we have gained the respect of Forest Service officials in Idaho, in the Regional Offices and in Washington. Does that mean, we don’t push back when we don’t like a decision or a policy, absolutely not--we oppose decisions and we litigate when necessary. Over 15 years ago, the ISSA Legal Defense Fund was created because many major land use decisions are made in the courts. It is vital that ISSA is a party to litigation that affects our sport. Snowmachiners must challenge bad decisions because a bad decision in one forest sets the stage for bad decisions in other forests.
ISSA is committed to doing everything they can to ensure that snowmachines will be riding in their favorite riding places today and for all the tomorrows to come.
ISSA is the glue that binds snowmachines together from one of the state to the other. We have a long and proud history of protecting your right to ride. We have worked hard, but we have also had great fun along the way. ISSA is worth your time, your energy and your passion!
Sandra F Mitchell
Public Land Director_______________________________________________________________________
Public Land Updates
November 17, 2016
This morning the Senate passed the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act. This legislation is now on the President's desk awaiting signature.
'American Council of Snowmobile Associations'
Follow the link for more information…
November 17, 2016
Wilderness, Idaho and snowmobilers!
Idaho currently has almost 4,792,969 million acres of designated wilderness-- only Alaska and California have more! Before we decide if want more, we should discuss exactly what it is and what it isn’t.
What Wilderness is:
What Wilderness is not:
Idaho, like much of the West, is a growing State. We have seen a population growth of nearly thirty percent in the past decade or so. And we are becoming more urban, with more than 80% of our population now living in town. With all this growth, there is a need to increase recreational opportunities for the public, not to limit opportunities.
Idaho is a State full of folks that like to recreate. Our region of the country has the highest rate – over 80% -- of people that regularly participate in outdoor recreation. As more rural land continues to be developed, and there are less open spaces to enjoy, the public will increasingly turn to the federal public lands for recreational activities and the scenic beauty that comes with them. The most popular activities today include bird viewing, hiking, backpacking, snowmobiling and off-road driving.
There are currently 2 and perhaps 3 ongoing efforts to designate more wilderness in Idaho. Snowmobilers need to be alert and involved in any and all discussions about more wilderness. What you do today, will determine where you, your children and grandchildren will ride tomorrow. Stay involved because together we can be successful in protecting your favorite riding area which may well be someone’s idea for the next wilderness area!
Sandra Mitchell Larry Laxson
Director of Public Lands Membership Chairman