Growthophobia Heads For The Hills

Growthophobia and excess traffic are spreading to the mountains of Idaho. Here is an opinion by a GUARDIAN reader warning of taking our urban problems to the wilderness.


The Mountain West is experiencing an ever increasing use of our public lands by operators of motorized vehicles. An armada of 2-wheelers, 3-wheelers, 4-wheelers, snowmobiles, plus other land and water devices is penetrating even the most remote parts of our back country. This insidious invasion, if allowed to continue, will eventually destroy our great outdoor heritage.

We now have a generation or two of outdoors men and women who seem to have emerged from the womb on some kind of machine. They prefer bringing civilization’s trappings into the forest, rather than enjoying nature on its own terms. In a nation with a 40 percent obesity rate, it’s hard to understand why more of us aren’t hiking, paddling, sailing, packing or, otherwise, physically and mentally improving our lives. Maybe we are just too fat.

More machine access will degrade our source water and fisheries; and will push our game animals into ever tightening corridors. The long-term effects will be felt by future sportsmen and recreationists. A forest ringing with the sound and smell of machines soon loses its identity to man’s urban world.

No one is “locking up” or prohibiting the use of our remaining wilderness for recreational use. The law simply states that a person entering such an area must park his machine at the trailhead and use the legs God gave him or her to enjoy such an experience. For those unable to walk because of age or infirmity, there are already 30,000 miles of roads in or our forests from which to observe our magnificent scenery.

Powerful advertising campaigns aimed at “macho” sportsmen by Japanese and American ATV manufacturers have been joined by dealers and user clubs to make a formidable PAC with the money and clout to bend the ears and arms of most Western congressmen.

Now the older ORV organization, the Blue Ribbon Coalition, has a new ally in the Idaho Land Fund headed by Joe B. Scott of the Albertsons super family. He has hired Mike Tracy, former Farm Bureau lobbyist and communications director for Sen. Larry Craig, to manage the “fund.”

The ambiguous titles of these two groups do not accurately portray their objective to kill Mike Simpson’s wilderness bill protecting the Boulder/White Clouds to gain more access by ORVs to our public lands.

Before we are overwhelmed by the “mechanical majority,” we had better take a hard look at the long-term effects of too much off-road vehicle access.

Included in any legislation dealing with our forests, waterways, and desert should be a clear separation of ORV users from those using primitive means of travel–a move to increase the enjoyment for both groups.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Very good thought’s on this issue. One that should be brought to the attention of everyone.

    I for one have gave up on camping in our forest. My back yard is quieter and actually smells better than the exhaust of ATV’s.

    I’m disappointed that Joe B Scott has taken the stand that he has. But what would you expect when you have all the money he has. You loose any thought’s of protecting the environment. The world is yours to heck with anyone else.

  2. I just returned from a weekend camping trip at Warm Lake. The people in the camp site next to ours had a fleet of 4 wheel, 2 wheel off-road vehicles, I presume one for each person.

    I kid you not, the public restrooms were 100 yards from their campsite, yet every time one of them had to go to the bathroom…yes, you guessed it…they fired up their 4 wheelers to drive that 100 yards to the outhouse!!!! To top it off…every one of them was SERIOUSLY overweight and they each could have dropped 5 lbs. over the weekend if they just walked!

    It drove me crazy! even at midnight when we tried to sleep, you could hear the ATV’s fire up to drive their 100 yards for a bathroom break.


  3. I have yet to get past the pic 🙂

    EDITOR NOTE–So no one crosses the line, that is a picture of my daughter on Snowbank Mountain. Be careful!

  4. First commenter beat me to it, but I’ll 2nd his opinion, I too gave up on camping many many years ago. If I want to go hang out in what amounts to a trailer park I need only go a mile or so to Garden City.

    This issue is at it’s biggest up around Ketchum. What happened to the Boulder/White Cloud story? Swept under the rug? Anybody remember the yurt that burned a few years back and the skiers blamed the snowmobilers and the snowmobilers blamed the skiers.

  5. If you want to get a real taste of ORV insanity, go visit Featherville. Here is a community that has sold it’s soul to gasoline powered personal vehicles. I guess they spend more money in town because they drop some coin at the convenience store every time they gas up. I even have a guy in our neighborhood in Boise, ( they moved here from Texas) who drives his grand kids around the streets on his 4-wheeler. He told me everyone drives them to visit friends in the subdivision they lived in near Dallas.

  6. We should not only be alarmed by the damage done to wilderness by ATV users, but also by the damage done to our water by what I will refer to as aquatic ATVs – boats and jet skis. As a kid, pre-jet ski, I could swim at Lucky Peak and in McCall.

    The ski boats were dangerous if you swam out into open water, but could not come in close to shore, so swimmers got the shoreline and boats got the middle. Post-jet ski swimming anywhere in a large body of water is dangerous. Jet skiers race all along the shoreline, while the boats still take up the open water.

    And, the exhaust fumes and spilled gasoline pollute the water even more. Swimming in open water is no longer a safe activity thanks to aquatic ATV users.

  7. Wilderness has been taken over by the machine crowd, aided and abetted by merchandisers and ATV makers’s ads etc. Aren’t a lot of video games replete with these monsters competing for—what?
    Look at how those responsible for Yellowstone caved to the small bunch of purveyors who sell to snowmobilers….so now winter in Yellowstone has to be shared with those. I keep wondering when the Boulder White Clouds will see their first Mcdonalds or Burger King.

  8. Alright folks, the above article the way I read it, was not a stage to complain about your fellow campers or continuously gripe about people trying to enjoy themselves on the weekends or poke fun at less fortunate folks than yourselves. Shame on you! None of us are exempt from polluting or being irritating at one time or another. I’m sure there are plenty of you still driving gas guzzling SUVs, over watering your lawns, filling your garbage cans, wasting electricity, and enjoying all the amenities of your urban life that contribute to pollution and the greedy wasteful way of life all Americans have adopted in one shape or another. I have camped plenty and run into ignorance with and without the use of ORVs. I have had the pleasure of camping with other people’s barking dogs, screaming kids, drunken antics, loud music, litter, etc. It takes all kinds; don’t forget that this is a free society we live in. That means you need to calm down and be just a little more tolerant of people around you. Sometimes a glass of wine is necessary for sure but remember, there is something you do that another person does not like or agree with in every situation whether or not you feel justified or right about your decisions. The solution is not more rules, laws and lock downs but more education, manners, good ethics and proper etiquette. That being said, all of you need to step up and take responsibility. Don’t simply cower behind you monitor and keyboard but approach the situation. Talk to those around you, ask them questions, see if they understand, correct them when they are acting improper and abusing the lands, make them feel like the popular choice is to be courteous and conduct themselves accordingly. Ignorance is the biggest enemy, don’t let yourselves fall into that same category with the complaining –it’s ugly and does nothing but create animosity and more problems. Now, more than ever we all need to take responsibility and work together to combat problems that face our communities, environment and social structure.
    Now about the above article; Chet is correct with his statement “increase the enjoyment of both groups.” Each group has something to bring to the table and there is a compromise to be had. ORV’s do not need more access, or necessarily want more access. They simply want to hold onto what they have. That does not mean the current situation is perfect. It will continuously need improvement especially with more people using public lands. The bike clubs contribute heavily to the public lands every year with trail maintenance and support of land managers, and trail resource access management for all groups. They continually promote and educate on correct trail etiquette, respect for public lands, safety and conservation on public lands as well as educate people of the next generation. In addition they pick up road sides, public camping and recreation areas that everyone uses.
    Next time you are in a campground with or without ORVs take a closer look, make a social endeavor and provide education or perhaps walk away with some education for yourself. It will make you feel good, and make you a better neighbor.

    Tony H
    Idaho Native

  9. Chet buddy, you crack me up. Idaho has the single largest expanse of wilderness in the lower 48 and still you want more? I love riding my ohv on Idaho’s trails and I love backpacking in Wilderness. Those who seek to eliminate one user groups right to enjoy these privledges might find comfort in such a balance. Get well soon.

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