From Sandra’s (Our executive Director) Desk

Forest Service short-course

It is apparent when OHV/OSV users gather together that their frustration with the Forest Service is at an all time high. I share the frustration but I think it is important to find out what is driving the bad decisions. Our problem is not with the people in the Forest Service, it is with the laws and politics that got them into this unworkable position.  In the modern-day Forest Service it is next to impossible to get anything done, not because the agency’s people are incompetent or lazy, but because the work environment they operate in assures conflict and failure.  Once upon a time long, long ago, the Forest Service actually made decisions in a reasonable time frame and in a relatively uncomplicated way

But this is not the case today.  Nothing is simple, easy or quick.  In fact, few goods and services now come from the forests. The problem lies in the framework in which the Forest Service personnel must work.  Politics is injected into the most basic decisions from the top down, controlled by the  administration.  Every decision is appealed or litigated by opposing interest groups, meaning that federal judges who could not tell a Douglas fir from a mink fur now make major land management decisions.  Every action is second-guessed by other agencies.  Land managers find themselves subject to threats and hung out to dry if they do not make the “right” decision.

So what got us to this sad state of affairs?   Where once there was one law directing the activities of the National Forest System now there are many.  For 64 years, under the prime directive of The Organic Act the Forest Service managed amazingly well.  In 1960, Congress decided to tighten the cinch a bit and passed the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act. While still fairly straight forward, this change upset the agency’s comfortable and steady course.  Congress had also flexed its land management muscles, and it apparently felt good.  Now new legislation began to pour forth.

  • In 1964 the Wilderness Act became law, setting aside certain primitive and undisturbed lands to remain forever wild.
  • The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act passed in 1968 basically aimed at protecting rivers from construction of dams but it also inserted the heavy hand of the federal government deeply into management of private and state lands along these waterways as well.
  • The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1970 required evaluation of the effects of man’s activities on his environment.
  • The Endangered Species Act of 1973, one of the most powerful, invasive and sweeping laws ever, was passed by Congress.
  • The Resource Planning Act (RPA) became law in 1974.
  • The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) and the National Forest Management Act (NFMA), became law in 1976.

Endless federal regulations, all carrying the force of law themselves, were produced to guide implementation of these complex, often conflicting and sometimes vague laws. With the laws and regulations came Forest Plans, interdisciplinary teams, intense public involvement, appeals, endless litigation and management by judicial decree. These regulations, combined with case law from the inevitable litigation, have created a quicksand into which the Forest Service finds itself sinking.

Times today are different.  We have the benefit of new science.  New technology has revolutionized the way we work and play.  This science and technology has led us to more closely emulate natural processes in our management activities, recognizing the interaction of plants, animals and people with our environments.  We still need natural resources for our reasonable use and enjoyment.  Everything we are and everything we have ultimately comes from the land—food, fiber, metals, plastics, paper, wood, recreation, comfort, wealth—everything!  We can and should wisely use our public lands to meet the needs of the American people.  Qualified professional land managers could assure the wise, long-term use of our National Forests if they were given that opportunity, but this cannot happen in the current political and legal context.

Obviously, change is not going to come easily.  But we can help and we must never give up.  We can stay involved in the processes mandated by the present laws, even if it requires appeals and litigation.  This is the context we have and it is in this context we must work.  We can also work to change that context by encouraging the Raul Labradors, Mike Crapos, Mike Simpsons and Jim Rischs of Congress to pursue simplification of the terrible morass of laws and regulations.  We can push for depoliticizing the Forest Service, restoring it to a professional organization dedicated to the long-term management of our public lands.  We can work with the people in the Forest Service constructively, recognizing that they are decent, caring people who did not make the mess in which they must work.


Sandra Mitchell

Executive Director

Are all of Obama’s national monuments permanent?

Are all of Obama’s national monuments permanent?

The Story in Valley County

The Wilks brothers, two Texas billionaires, purchased 172,000 acres of private property in Valley County that was previously owned by Boise Cascade and then Potlatch. That hit the news and the uproar began. The media certainly didn’t help by jumping to many incorrect assumptions! Albert Einstein was right when he said, “Assumptions are made and most assumptions are wrong”.
Here is what is Correct:
• DF Development LLC which is owned by two gentlemen from Texas purchased the property.
• All logging contracts were cancelled. They will be reissued according to the guidelines of the new owners.
• Most public access through their property is done through cost share agreements or easements. The new owners are willing to work with Valley County on any access concerns.
• Representatives of the company are currently having regular conversations with Larry Laxson, Valley County Parks and Recreation about future use of their land.
• This company owns property in Idaho County and according to a County Commissioner there, they are fine landowners and good partners.
• The owners of the property are not experienced with recreation needs but they are more than willing to listen and learn.
• While touring the land before the purchase, they became concerned about over-logging, the size and condition of the elk herds and the amount of GARBAGE in and around the dispersed camping sites.
If we are going to be allowed to continued access to their property beyond what is covered by easements, we are going to have to prove that we can be good neighbors and dependable partners. We will need to demonstrate that they can trust us to use their land in a responsible manner. Remember they are under no legal obligation to allow public access anymore than you have to let people use your property. It is truly a privilege and we must respect their right to determine how their property is used.
A good lesson for all of us. Verify our easements. Make sure they are Easements Appurtenant so they last into perpetuity.

Boise County
Another case of bad information from the media! If you believe everything you hear on TV news, you would think that all grooming has been shut down for this winter near Idaho City because of the Pioneer Fire. That simply isn’t true! No decisions about grooming have been made. The fire will soon be 100% contained. At that time, the Forest Service will be able to tell what needs to be done before grooming can begin. I plan on attending a FS tour of the area at the end of the month and will be able to see firsthand what the problems are and how we can resolve them.
It is hard to find good news when it comes to catastrophic fires but there is some. The District Ranger in Idaho City, Brandt Petersen, is one of the most dedicated fair-minded Rangers with whom I have ever worked. He understands how important the area is to sledders and to the local economy. ISSA will work closely with the Forest Service and IDPR to get as many areas as possible opened.

Sandra Mitchell
Public Land Director
Larry Laxson
Valley County Parks
and Recreation Director

Daines: Montanans Know Best How to Protect our Resources



September 22, 2016


Daines: Montanans Know Best How to Protect our Resources


U.S. SENATE — U.S. Senator Steve Daines today worked to protect Montanans from the Obama administration’s unilateral efforts to designate large areas of land as national monuments.


During a Committee on Energy and Natural Resources legislative hearing, Daines pressed the Obama administration to ensure that any monument designation secured the input of Montanans who live and work on the land and know best how to protect those resources.


“Too often, unilateral designations completely ignore the needs of the local communities, farmers and ranchers, sportsmen and small business owners directly impacted by new monument designations,” Daines stated. “Any designation that has the potential to impact land management must be made locally, not by D.C. bureaucrats.”


Click here to download.

Click here to watch.


The bills considered in today’s hearing include:


  1. 437: Amends the Antiquities Act to require, before the President could designate a national monument, 1) Congressional approval of the proposed national monument; and 2) notice from the Governor of the State in which the proposed monument is located that the State legislature has enacted legislation approving the designation. The bill also prohibits the President from designating a national monument in marine waters unless: 1) the monument is specifically authorized by Congress; 2) the President has certified compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act; and 3) the Governor of each State located within 100 nautical miles of the proposed national monument submits notice that the State legislature has approved the proposed designation.


  1. 1416: A bill to limit the President’s authority to reserve water rights in designating a national monument: Requires any water rights reserved associated with a Presidentially-created national monument be reserved only in accordance with state laws in which the water rights are located.


Daines has long worked to protect Montana from administrative abuses of the Antiquities Act. Daines introduced an amendment to S.1, legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, that would express the sense of Congress that all future national monument designations should be subject to consultation with local governance and the approval of the Governor and legislature of states in which designation would occur. He also introduced an amendment to S.Con.Res 11 to establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund to ensure states’ and local governments’ voices are heard in all new national monument designations under the Antiquities Act.


In the House, Daines introduced the Montana Land Sovereignty Act to prohibit the establishment of new national monuments in Montana without Congressional review and approval. Daines also supported the Ensuring Public Involvement in the Creation of National Monuments Act, which requires that the President secure public participation and local support before any new monuments are declared.




Contact: Marcie Kinzel, Katie WaldmanLindsey Singer

Happy 80th to Mel Quale, Past President of IRC

We want to wish Mel Quale who is turning 80 on the 21st of August a HAPPY BIRTHDAY. Mel was the second President of our fine organization, and a supporter, and worker for our endeavors. Mel has riding Dirt Bikes for over 50 years, and a supporter of all types of outdoor recreation.