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.
By CHET BOWERS
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.
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