Off-roaders steer agencies with dollars

  A proposal for an off-road vehicle (ORV) trail in central Idaho is kicking up dust.

The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation wants to link 460 miles of existing routes already open to ORVs on federal lands. The agency says the loop trail, which would run through the Lost River Valley and the towns of Arco, Mackay and Challis, will give off-roaders a place to ride without illegally “pioneering” new trails. The project would receive funding from ORV registration fees and the Off-Road Motor Vehicle Fund, which generates $600,000 a year for the state parks department from a portion of gasoline taxes.

Clark Collins of the BlueRibbon Coalition, a Pocatello, Idaho-based motorized vehicle users’ group, says the “trail system would create a tourism industry for the local communities.” He hopes to see similar systems “replicated, not only throughout the state, but throughout the country.”

But critics say the state is answering to off-road enthusiasts — and their funding — instead of acting in the public’s best interest. The state “does have a motorized bias, just because of that money,” says Linn Kincannon of the Idaho Conservation League. Kincannon says lack of law enforcement in the region means the loop trail is “just going to add to the problem” of illegal trail blazing. Citizens have also raised concerns about noise and dust, the spread of noxious weeds, and the uncertain economic benefits.

For more information, call the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation at 208/525-7121 or write the department at P.O. Box 1876, Idaho Falls, ID, 83403.