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Public Use On Private Lands In Jeopardy

Guest Commentary for Jan. 24

By FRANK BACKUS

SDS Lumber Co.

ERIC KELLERY

Boise Cascade Corp.

RICH POTTER

The Campbell Group, LLC

KELLY KREPS

Kreps Ranch

Over the past several years, I'm sure many of you have noticed an increasing number of gates, areas closed to motor vehicle access or land closed to public entry altogether. There are many reasons for private landowners to limit access. There are also many assumptions made by the public as to why landowners are limiting public access.

The first and perhaps one of the most important considerations is damage to roads. Roads represent a major investment and require care and maintenance. If roads are traveled in wet conditions, road damage can and often does occur. It only takes one vehicle in some cases. In order to prevent erosion and road damage, many roads must not be traveled during wet conditions. This is becoming more important with the increased efforts to protect salmon. Many roads cross or lie near waterways and sediment from roads often doesn't have to travel very far to reach a watercourse. This applies to both motorized and non-motorized vehicles and is especially important on dirt roads. Mountain bikes can also pose problems on roads and trails in wet conditions.

The next consideration is risk of fire. Natural fire risks are burden enough without combining hot mufflers and dry grass in late summer. In a continuous forest environment, fires can be very difficult, if not impossible to control without extremely expensive efforts. With the right weather conditions and a lack of natural firebreaks, many acres could burn in a very short time. Sometimes, limiting access can make a response difficult if a fire did start, but many landowners feel that reducing the risk of human caused fires associated with vehicle access outweighs the risk of increased response time. Also, nearly all gates have locks that can be opened by the local fire response agencies.

Theft, vandalism and garbage are also key issues. The tolerance of the landowner can be tested with just a few of these types of activities. In some cases, people simply don't know they are causing a problem. Removing a few trees to make a camp more comfortable, dumping yard debris, littering, putting up a meat pole, and driving an ATV through a recently planted stand all seem trivial, but resources are being impacted or damaged. One act in one place may seem minor, but spread across the landscape, they add up quickly.

We also need to consider our furry and feathered friends. Many wildlife populations respond negatively to vehicles and roadways. Limiting access provides many benefits. Poaching and harassment are greatly reduced when you take motorized vehicles out of the picture. In addition, road closures provide great opportunity and enjoyment for those hunters who like to get away from their vehicle and actually hunt.

We urge all of you to be aware of whose land you are recreating on and take notice of those around you. If you see someone acting inconsistent with landowner expectations, let the landowner know. Check in with landowners every once in a while and create a positive relationship. We need to be creative in finding ways to discourage those individuals damaging resources and protect the recreational opportunities on private lands.

We appreciate the time you have taken to read this article and we would be happy to hear any comments or ideas that you may have.

Thank you,

Frank Backus SDS Lumber Company 509-493-6101

Eric Keller Boise Cascade Corp. 509-773-4343

Rich Potter The Campbell Group, LLC 509-364-3331

Kelly Kreps Kreps Ranch 509-493-2850

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