The Back Country Horsemen of Idaho are seeking to have one of their favorite destinations declared a disaster area.
Fed up over the lack of trail clearing and maintenance in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area, the group is behind House Joint Memorial No. 1 which would declare the 2.3 million acre wilderness a natural resource disaster area.
They say the memorial is an attempt to point much needed attention at a problem that too few Idahoans know about. It's not about getting more money for trails at a time when budgets are tight. Rather, they contend, its about U.S. Forest Service making trail work a priority.
"Our play isn't asking for more money from Congress. Our play is saying hey Forest Service Chief and (Department of Agriculture) Secretary you need to take a closer look at your obligations and make certain you are spreading the available resources to the right places," said John Burns of Carmen.
The campaign is striking in part because the group is normally an ally of the Forest Service. The Horsemen routinely work with the agency in a volunteer capacity to preform trail clearing and maintenance.It's also striking because they are willing to blacken the eye of one of their favorite destinations, the sprawling wild country in the heart of Idaho, with a negative connotation.
That negativity is too much for environmental groups like the Wilderness Society to stomach.The group shares the BCH concern over trails but won't go along with verbally trashing the Frank.
"I think it's one thing to ask for money for trails and another thing to declare a disaster area which I think in the long run is a lot more detrimental to the cause," said Craig Gehrke, of the Wilderness Society at Boise.
You can read further about the issue in today's Tribune (subscription required) and the role wild fires play in the trail maintenance problem.
A Sunday feature story I wrote last November about the trail maintenance problem in places like the Frank and The Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area is available here. (this one is free)