Kevin Richert: This year’s fight with the feds: Otter vs. BLM | Kevin Richert's columns | Idaho Statesman

When I heard about the Interior Department’s decision to reverse the changes that the Bush Administration made to the policy on wild lands protection I was pleased. However, I remain skeptical at how the policy will be implemented by the current bunch running BLM who I don’t really trust. There is no doubt, however, how Idaho Governor Butch Otter feels about it.

The new policy reverses what the Bush Administration changed and allows the BLM inventory its lands to determine whether they meet the criteria for wilderness. The BLM would then go through a public process whereby lands could be designated as “wild lands”.

For Butch, and his buddies, complete domination over the landscape is not enough. It is unacceptable that anyone, other than the chosen few who maintain control, have any say in how the public’s landscapes are managed. It seems as if their motto is “one cow, one vote”.

Kevin Richert: This year’s fight with the feds: Otter vs. BLM.
Kevin Richert – Idaho Statesman



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  1. Tim Bondy Avatar

    Actually there are a lot more people concerned about Secretarial Order 3310 than Otter and ranchers. Sorry to say this but not everyone wants vast tracts of BLM land to be locked up in Wild Lands, wilderness, roadless areas. Yeah, I’m getting old, am out of shape and like to use ATV’s. But I also do my fair share of hiking. And yeah, I know I’ll get hammered for this next part. I know you young guys and girls will take the high and mighty attitude. Yeah, I know this land should be reserved for only the fit and young people. Yeah, I know 1000’s of people want solitude in the Owyhee’s. But leave things alone for us old, retiring/retired folks who still have the ear of politicians, money to throw behind things like this and really not much else to do.

    In short, there are some folks who don’t want a select few folks/organizations to have complete domination over “the public’s” landscape.

    1. Elk275 Avatar

      I hate ATV’s and I am buying a good mule and working with the trainer. An ATV is $6,500 and a good mule is $4000. In June I will be 60, but I will never step down to an ATV unless I was in a wheel chair. It was not that many years ago that there where no ATV’s and I wildlands were a better place.

      1. Save bears Avatar


        I use an ATV at times, and I didn’t pay 6,500 for it, I bought a sturdy used one (1995) and it works to plow the driveway..I really didn’t want to get one and I use it only for work around the property here, but that damned AK-47 round in the hip in 1991, kind of changed my plans a bit, so just can’t quite do what I used to do anymore, so I needed a bit of help.

      2. Save bears Avatar

        By the way, I am not far behind you in age, I turned 55 today..

      3. Elk275 Avatar

        Save Bears

        When I typed that out I thought of you. My father is 86 year old and when we go hunting I have to have 4 orange wheel chair strickers on my windows so he can shoot from the truck. There needs to be some exceptions.

        My friend Dan who checks your receipt at Bozeman’s Costco is in a wheel chair and he has shot 24 bulls in the last 25 years plus a mountain sheep.

      4. Save bears Avatar

        No biggie Elk, I was just bustin your chops a small bit.


    2. Jerry Black Avatar
      Jerry Black

      I’m coming up on 70 in 6 short months…..I spend at least 4 days a week hiking, summer and winter in some damn rough country.
      If I can still get around without “wheels”, most anyone can. Bad back, 2 knee surgeries, 6 achilles tendon surgeries and more. Keep those damn ATV’s out of wild areas! They ruin the wilderness experience for man and animals.
      SB.. you are an exception along with any other vet that was crippled in war.

      1. Save bears Avatar

        Thank you Jerry,

        I sure wish it was different, and really I don’t use the ATV that much, I figure it is just a tool that I have to use, but I don’t use it to access any real wilderness areas, in fact, I have only fired it up twice so far this winter and that was to plow the driveway..

  2. Ovis Avatar

    I imagine that this will be like the Forest Service’s roadless areas initiative during the Clinton years. The roadless areas will be identified and some recommended for wilderness designation to Congress. All will be protected to keep certain wilderness characteristics intact, but they won’t be closed to ATVs, mountain bikes, dirt bikes, 4 x 4s as the result of this.

    The Salazar order will be subject to repeal or modification by the next Administration. Only Congress can designate a full blown Wilderness area.

  3. Alan Avatar

    There will always be plenty of places to ride ATV’s, mountain bikes, 4×4’s etc.; but just as folks have a right to such areas, others have a right to areas free of them. More importantly, Wilderness designation means that these lands remain undeveloped and unchanged for our children and children’s children; and perhaps even more importantly, for the creatures that live there.
    I too am pushing the big 6-0, and though I can still hike, I certainly can’t go as far as I once could. But it’s not about me, it doesn’t matter that I will never be able to visit most of these areas. It’s enough that they are there, untrammeled as it were, as wild and free as is possible in a modern world. And we do certainly all benefit from them, not only in the knowledge that they are being preserved for future generations, but also in the clean water, fish and wildlife that will eventually make their way down to areas with easier access where even old geezers like us can enjoy them.

    1. Save bears Avatar


      Except for my mishap 20 years ago in Iraq, I have no doubt I would be able to out hike most people half my age…

    2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      The big danger in my opinion is some of the extremists elected to the legislatures and congress who are, or will be soon itching to sell off the public lands, and give strategically placed private landholders vast powers to grant or withhold access to the public lands they potentially block.

      1. Save bears Avatar


        I feel as do others this is the number 1 threat to those who enjoy the wild areas of the US

  4. PointsWest Avatar

    I believe wilderness itself has an intrisic value and a beauty in and of itself and the world will be a better world and a more beautiful world if we preserve as much wilderness as we can.

    I fly from LA to Salt Lake City quite a bit. The deserts of southern California are more protected than those of Utah. The California deserts have beauty and they are ejoyable simply to behold on the ground and from the sky. When you get the Utah, there are roads and tracks and powerlines, and tanks and fences and structures all over the desert there…especially as you approach Salt Lake City. There is a road or tack every half or quater mile runing in every odd direction and you can see the odd errosion patterns down the roads or you can see how the damming of the drainages has changed the natural patterns. It is a pain to look at. It looks like some vast third world junkyard.

    I can’t imagine there is that much economic value in letting trucks and 4X4 create roads and tracks everywhere in this desert. Whatever is done in the Utah desert could be done on about a tenth of the roads.

    In general, I think we should preserve wilderness and wildlife wherever we can. Wilderness and wildlife and beauty all have a high value of there own and this value often far exceeds any value that a privite land owner could possibley hope extract from land that could be wilderness.

  5. Idaho Dave Avatar
    Idaho Dave

    I can understand issues from both sides. I hunt, hike, camp and occasionally use a trail bike to get deeper into back country. A used trail bike for $1500 that does not require a vet bill, horse trailer or pasture.
    In Idaho, we already have a ton of wilderness areas with more proposed in the White Clouds and the Owyhee desert.
    Furthermore we have threatened and endangered species that will impose further restrictions on land use, sage grouse, wolves, grizzlies, wolverines, bull trout, chinnok salmon and a native grass, a desert snail to name a few.
    Each time more land is locked up for “wild lands” or “wilderness” designation use, recreation and economic development is restricted and/or drastically changed.
    There a lot of people who enjoy ATV, motorcycles, snowmobiles, 4×4’s for recreation and to make a living(sales and service).
    There are also many who choose not to use them. Neither side is “better” than the other, they just have different tastes. I object to the “holier than thou” attitudes taken by people, it fuels the flames and does nothing to help reach consensus, so something can actually be accomplished, instead constant deadlock.
    Salazar’s directive basically uses a broad stroke to encompass large tracts of land and creates a lot more controversy and devisiveness. There just isn’t a single solution that can blanket the lanscape from coast to coast, it is far more complicated than that. Furthmore, these directives always seem to partisan ship driven from one extreme to other. How about some consensus, give and take, to create something that will last longer than the current administration?? Our economy, public lands and wildlife would benefit greatly.

    1. Ken Cole Avatar

      I happen to think that the argument that a landscape is “locked up” when it is classified as Wilderness is kind of absurd. It is not locked up or closed to entry by anyone. The only thing that has changed is the method of travel. It means some idiot can’t ride their ATV around in a wet meadow or up a steep hillside or through sensitive vegetation. To think that motorized vehicles are innocuous on the landscape is to ignore a lot of science.

      I don’t think that anyone has the NEED to access these remote landscapes on an ATV in the first place.

      I also don’t think of wilderness as just a landscape, it is also habitat.

      What this policy could do is protect what we haven’t already put roads or ATV trails into. I don’t think that under this, or any other, administration it is likely to do that. I guess I’m too cynical.

      1. Tim Bondy Avatar

        – “It is not locked up or closed to entry by anyone. The only thing that has changed is the method of travel.”

        The one thing that came to mind after reading that was “you can still ride the bus but you gotta ride in the back”.

        Conversation over…you win.

        1. Ken Cole Avatar

          Wow, that was easy.

      2. Nancy Avatar

        +I also don’t think of wilderness as just a landscape, it is also habitat+

        Totally agree with that thought Ken. You only have to look around and see what the destruction of habitat is doing to wildlife.

    2. Brian Ertz Avatar

      there are plenty of places that exist where access for ORV’s is available. have you visited them all ? have you exhausted that available resource to its fullest extent with your ORV and find yourself without anywhere else to go ?

      there are innumerable places i will never go – wonderful places that i’d like to go – even if i had a machine to take me there – that’s not an injustice perpetrated upon me by some gate-keeping interest-group, it’s a practicality given my limited time on this planet.

      the real question of human “access” is how much “access” our kids (and theirs) will have to lands and wildlife untrammeled by the growing number of individuals with machines, who for whatever reason are unwilling or unable to self-regulate such that their presence doesn’t contribute to the irretrievable degradation of the wild in a way that diminishes it for current and future shared-users.

      We can all agree that bad-apples exist – enforcement doesn’t work where ORV access is permitted – the question becomes, given the relative certainty that “access” will be abused, and those individuals who don’t give a rip about the quality of habitat/tranquility/etc. that ought be baseline values respected by any shared users of lands that belong to all of us, what are we going to do to protect those values given that knowledge ?

    3. JB Avatar

      I could be supportive of snowmobiles and ATVs if we could place restrictions on their horsepower, emissions, and decibels/loudness. I understand that these vehicles allow access for people who would not otherwise have it; however, generally these vehicles are not being used to get access (i.e., a means to an end) but as an end in themselves (i.e., tearing the hell out of our public lands). A low-horsepower ATV with an electric engine (which would be quiet and have zero emissions) and low-profile tread would be perfect, in my opinion.

      1. SEAK Mossback Avatar
        SEAK Mossback

        There aren’t many here, but jet skis (essentially aquatic 4-wheelers) have always been like fingernails on a blackboard to me, even from miles away. Putting in 4 cycle engines has made a huge difference — hardly notice them anymore. However, they no doubt still have a substantial impact on wildlife running near shore in some areas, like bays and coves in lakes with loons and other birds with young.

      2. Daniel Berg Avatar
        Daniel Berg


        Another thing about jet skis is that they just flat out suck. They aren’t even fun unless you’re a 16 year old boy trying to impress a few chicks in a boat. They aren’t worth it in any way shape or form.

  6. PointsWest Avatar

    Idaho Dave Writes: “There a lot of people who enjoy ATV, motorcycles, snowmobiles, 4×4′s for recreation and to make a living(sales and service). […] I object to the “holier than thou” attitudes taken by people, it fuels the flames and does nothing to help reach consensus, so something can actually be accomplished, instead constant deadlock.”

    It is not only about tastes and people who enjoy ATV’s and 4X4’s versus people who enjoy walking or hiking. It is about destruction of the landscape and the habitat. ATV’s and 4X4’s can be very destructive.

    No one cares if gear-heads camp in the Owyhee Desert, they just do not want them creating tracks and ruts and tearing up hillsides with 500hp 4X4’s.

    1. PointsWest Avatar

      500hp or 500 horse power. That is about 400 bison power or nearly 1/8th of the Yellowstone herd.

  7. Jerry Black Avatar
    Jerry Black

    Check out this electric/peddle 4-wheeled cycle. A friend designed and built prototypes of this near Ovando in the Blackfoot Valley. I’ve driven it and it is “sweet”. He’s waiting for the patent and then he’ll be ready to market them.

  8. Alan Avatar

    Whenever I hear the arguement that wilderness areas are “locked up” because some individuals may be PHYSICALLY unable to visit them I think, ya know, some of these folks have been to Europe or Africa, or any number of places that I am FINANCIALLY unable to visit. The simple fact is that there are no guarantees when we are born entitling us to be able to do whatever we want, go wherever we want. Some people can play the piano beautifully, others are tone deaf no matter how much they practice. If I want to visit Europe bad enough it is up to me to figure out how to afford it, not to society to make it easier for me.
    Yet every now and again we hear stories about how someone DID make something happen. When Mark Inglis became the first double amputee to reach the summit of Mt. Everest he didn’t complain that there were no ATV’s allowed. Nor did Hulda Crooks who hiked to the summit of Mt. Whitney every year well into her ninties. They wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
    In addition to all of the other benefits of Wilderness, they challenge us and allow folks like Ms. Crooks and Mr. Inglis to prove that, when it comes to the human spirit, anything IS possible; it’s just not guaranteed.

  9. Craig Avatar

    It amazes me how that prick got re-elected, but he’s always been riding Simplots ties with the ranchers ect. he absolutly is about ranching and screw wildlife or wilderness, he pisses me off to know end.

  10. Tim Bondy Avatar

    Thanks for not disappointing me with your comments. Now that you guys have converted me into a super conservationists I will write my representative with the following requirements to step off any dirt road in any piece of public land.
    1. You must take a shower/bath with local sourced water so as to not introduce any non-native material of any kind.
    2. You must be completely naked…of course, to reduce or eliminate the the introduction of non-native material.
    3. All bodily emissions must be removed promptly from our lands without hesitation. This includes anything exhaled from the lungs, sweat, mucus, sinus emissions, body hair.
    4. Footprints are allowed if they don’t disturb any native soils. “Any” really means any in this case.

    Thanks for shining the light on just how important preserving our land really is. I hope all of you will join me in the quest to keep our land pure.

    On the other hand maybe I’ll just join a local ATV club, actively communicate with my Idaho representatives and use many of the comments in this blog post as to why Secretarial Order 3310 will lock up our public lands.

    Bye…I’m sure I’ll have way more important things to do in the future.

    1. jburnham Avatar

      Tim, I’m not sure what you’re talking about because nobody has said anything close to your four points in this thread.

      I’m just curious if you would agree that there are places where roads and motor vehicles are not appropriate?

      The Wilderness/roadless argument always gets turned into one about recreation. What about preserving the landscape and preventing the problems that come along with roads/trails/atv use? Why does recreation have to be top priority everywhere?

    2. PointsWest Avatar

      No Tim…we want to watch you destroy our public lands with a 500hp 4X4 so you can get the negative attention you could not get from your mama.

      Why don’t you join the Hell’s Angles, not clean yourself, and ride around on a loud and obnoxious Harley in a big gang and scare people too. Gee…we would have to notice you then!

    3. Ovis Avatar

      Seached for your name on-line Tim Bondy. Found you have put some negative reviews of this web site up going back before you appeared on it.

      So maybe you were not a serious participant anyway.


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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