LAND ISSUES & CLOSURES
It is apparent when snowmobilers gather together that their frustration with the Forest Service is at an all time high. I share the frustration but I think it is important to find out what is driving the bad decisions. Our problem is not with the people in the Forest Service, it is with the laws and politics that got them into this unworkable position. In the modern-day Forest Service it is next to impossible to get anything done, not because the agency’s people are incompetent or lazy, but because the work environment they operate in assures conflict and failure. Once upon a time long, long ago, the Forest Service actually made decisions in a reasonable time frame and in a relatively uncomplicated way
But this is not the case today. Nothing is simple, easy or quick. In fact, few goods and services now come from the forests. The problem lies in the framework in which the Forest Service personnel must work. Politics is injected into the most basic decisions from the top down, controlled by the administration. Every decision is appealed or litigated by opposing interest groups, meaning that federal judges who could not tell a Douglas fir from a mink fur now make major land management decisions. Every action is second-guessed by other agencies. Land managers find themselves subject to threats and hung out to dry if they do not make the “right” decision.
So what got us to this sad state of affairs? Where once there was one law directing the activities of the National Forest System now there are many. For 64 years, under the prime directive of The Organic Act the Forest Service managed amazingly well. In 1960, Congress decided to tighten the cinch a bit and passed the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act. While still fairly straight forward, this change upset the agency’s comfortable and steady course. Congress had also flexed its land management muscles, and it apparently felt good. Now new legislation began to pour forth.
· In 1964 the Wilderness Act became law, setting aside certain primitive and undisturbed lands to remain forever wild.
· The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act passed in 1968 basically aimed at protecting rivers from construction of dams but it also inserted the heavy hand of the federal government deeply into management of private and state lands along these waterways as well.
· The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1970 required evaluation of the effects of man’s activities on his environment.
· The Endangered Species Act of 1973, one of the most powerful, invasive and sweeping laws ever, was passed by Congress.
· The Resource Planning Act (RPA) became law in 1974.
· The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) and the National Forest Management Act (NFMA), became law in 1976.
Endless federal regulations, all carrying the force of law themselves, were produced to guide implementation of these complex, often conflicting and sometimes vague laws. With the laws and regulations came Forest Plans, interdisciplinary teams, intense public involvement, appeals, endless litigation and management by judicial decree. These regulations, combined with case law from the inevitable litigation, have created a quicksand into which the Forest Service finds itself sinking.
Times today are different. We have the benefit of new science. New technology has revolutionized the way we work and play. This science and technology has led us to more closely emulate natural processes in our management activities, recognizing the interaction of plants, animals and people with our environments. We still need natural resources for our reasonable use and enjoyment. Everything we are and everything we have ultimately comes from the land—food, fiber, metals, plastics, paper, wood, recreation, comfort, wealth—everything! We can and should wisely use our public lands to meet the needs of the American people. Qualified professional land managers could assure the wise, long-term use of our National Forests if they were given that opportunity, but this cannot happen in the current political and legal context.
Obviously, change is not going to come easily. But we can help and we must never give up. We can stay involved in the processes mandated by the present laws, even if it requires appeals and litigation. This is the context we have and it is in this context we must work. We can also work to change that context by encouraging the Raul Labradors, Mike Crapos, Mike Simpsons and Jim Rischs of Congress to pursue simplification of the terrible morass of laws and regulations. We can push for depoliticizing the Forest Service, restoring it to a professional organization dedicated to the long-term management of our public lands. We can work with the people in the Forest Service constructively, recognizing that they are decent, caring people who did not make the mess in which they must work.
Public Lands Director
Spatial Interest, LLC, P.O. Box 10, McCall, ID 83638, USA
Scotchman Peaks plan scrutinized
January 13, 2017 at 5:00 am | By Keith Kinnaird
Wednesday’s meeting on the Scotch-man Peaks proposal drew a crowd. (Photo by KEITH KINNAIRD)
CLARK FORK — A proposal to firm up a wilderness designation for 13,900 acres in the Idaho Panhandle National Forests went through the wringer on Wednesday.
Supporters of the Scotchman Peaks wilderness proposal hosted a well-attended public meeting to discuss bringing permanency to the designation and its impact on accessing the area. The meeting follows U.S. Sen. Jim Risch’s announcement last month that he is introducing legislation formally establishing the Idaho portion of the wilderness area.
Despite claims making their way across the Internet, social media and over coffee, the designation would not prohibit hunting, fishing, hiking or huckleberry picking, according to Friends of Scotchman Peak and U.S. Forest Service officials.
The designation would, however, prohibit motorized vehicles and mechanical conveyances such as bicycles and carts used to pack out big game harvested by hunters.
The acreage contemplated in Risch’s bill dovetails with an existing recommended wilderness designation that was established through a lengthy forest management plan update for the Idaho Panhandle and Kootenai national forests, which was finalized in 2015.
As a result, a wilderness rule has been essentially been in effect since that time.
“We are not changing anything. We’re not closing an area,” said Sandy Compton, program coordinator for Friends of Scotchman Peaks.
The proposed legislation would make the wilderness permanent and binding upon future generations throughout perpetuity.
The broader Scotchman proposal also contemplates a wilderness designation of 48,000 acres in Montana, making it the first interstate wilderness area.
Friends of Scotchman Peaks has worked for more than a decade in piecing together a diverse mosaic of support from elected officials and the public, in addition to timber and mining companies.
Former Bonner County Commission Chairman Cary Kelly said boards skew conservative and don’t support wilderness proposals, but commissioners have over the years made an exception for Scotchman due to the unique beauty and challenging terrain, which complicates resource extraction.
“Scotchman Peaks, for the commissioners, is the exception to the rule,” said Kelly, who took to summiting Scotchman Peak with county employees as part of its wellness program.
Bob Boeh, vice president of government affairs for Idaho Forest Group, said the proposal would have no impact on its sawmill operations because there is ample timber on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests that is more suitable for harvest.
“There is some marginal timberland in the proposal,” said Boeh.
The wilderness set-aside amounts to one half of 1 percent of the 2.4 million acres of land within the IPNF.
But for some attending Wednesday’s meeting, it was one half of 1 percent too much.
“This is another layer of federal control. This is another federal land grab,” said Danielle Ahrens of the Idaho Redoubt, an arch-conservative blog which has come out against the proposal.
Others were concerned that the designation would prevent fire management activities, big game habitat restoration projects or rescues of injured forest users.
The designation may affect how projects are implemented, but it wouldn’t necessarily stop them from happening, according to Scotchman Peaks and Forest Service officials. Airlifting injured hikers or hunters would still be allowed under the designation.
Sheriff Daryl Wheeler said deputies would not be deterred by barriers they encounter on an emergency call.
“If there are gates there, we’re tearing (down) those gates,” said Wheeler.
Some argued they were being disenfranchised from the process because they had no say in it, although the forest planning process was the subject of numerous public meetings in which citizen input was gathered in an attempt to strike a balance between various forest user groups with conflicting goals.
“The reality is we can’t please everybody 100 percent,” said Sandpoint District Ranger Erick Walker.
Sid Smith, Panhandle regional director for Risch’s office, said the legislation is by no means a finished product and is meant to fully develop a dialogue with the public about the proposal. He added that legislation is neither being rushed nor forced.
“We are going to take our time with this,” said Smith.
Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and Environment
U.S. Senator Mike Crapo
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