Posted: Thursday, February 03, 2011 11:00 AM
All-terrain vehicle enthusiasts, sportsmen fear road closures
By CAROL RYAN DUMAS
More than 1,000 ranchers and other public-lands users have banded together to preserve historic, multiple use of the Jarbidge area of southwest Idaho and northeast Nevada.
The Jarbidge Coalition for Multiple Use was created to comment on the Bureau of Land Management's draft Resource Management Plan-Environmental Impact Statement for that area. The plan will guide resource management for the next 15 to 20 years.
"One of the big concerns is access to certain areas," said Gus Brackett, whose family has ranched in the area since 1886.
The issue is bigger than grazing alone. Sportsmen, all-terrain vehicle enthusiasts and other recreationists wanted a seat at the table as well.
They're worried about road closures and lost access to areas that have historically been open to their use, Brackett said.
Ranchers are worried about reduced grazing, which could harm their livelihoods, he added.
All are concerned with new designations of wilderness areas, wilderness study areas and areas of critical environmental concern.
The coalition was formed to address the issues, find consensus and comment on them in a short amount of time with one strong voice.
"Access is one of the things the coalition is concerned with, so they have focused in on the alternative that is best for what they want to see," said Rick Vander Voet, BLM Jarbidge Field Office manager.
The plan pertains to 1.4 million acres, requiring broad landscape decisions, and how it relates to any particular road hasn't been decided. After the plan is done, BLM will develop a travel plan on a smaller scale, he said.
The final plan could result in reduced access, perhaps seasonally or because BLM has decided to reduce maintenance of some roads.
Another of the coalition's big concerns is wildfire. The 2007 Murphy's complex fire burned 650,000 acres in the area.
While the planning began before the fire, "we think BLM just kind of glossed over that," Brackett said. "The (plan) doesn't take into account changes out there, to keep these wildfires in check."
"We put several different, alternative ways of doing things in front of the public so we get enough comments back," Vander Voet said. "That's exactly what this group has done."