I have a passion for Idaho and live here for the recreational opportunities. My family, like others, have recreated for generations in the national forests — but now that right is incrementally being stolen away. When I go to the national forest to recreate, it is with anticipation and fond memories; but I often find my favorite roads, trails and campsites closed or destroyed by the Forest Service. This horrible destruction is called naturalization and can entail huge holes with rocks the size of cars sticking out of them, making even walking dangerous. It must cost tens of thousands of dollars to do this — money that would be better used on road and trail improvements. Not everyone believes me, but I'm willing to show examples to anyone that cares.
I attended the Big Wood River Drainage travel plan meeting in Ketchum, Dec. 5, and this is what I learned: Owl Creek and other historic roads and trails are proposed to be destroyed (naturalized). The Forest Service does not even want a trail up Owl Creek.
The justification that the Forest Service gave was resource damage. One criteria that they used is compacted soil — no vegetation — which could be used to close all roads and trails. Another criteria is erosion, a natural process that shapes our world. Some of these roads have been here more than 100 years, so why is erosion now a problem? Another criteria is user-created roads, but area ranger Kirk Flannigan said the Forest-Service-built-roads can be considered user-created in order to destroy them. I also learned that the Forest Service and Sawtooth National Recreation Area want to discourage recreation. When a participant asked if North Fork Road could be improved, Kirk Flannigan replied that they did not want to because it might encourage use.
This area is supposed to be multiple-use and is adjacent to the newly created Boulder White Clouds Jerry Peak Wilderness. Discouraging recreation is wrong, especially for our youth; but maybe they can recreate by looking at their phone or by using alcohol or drugs.