In response to an article, OHV use at State Parks, in the Jan. 24 edition of The Argus Observer:
I grew up in Adrian and I’ve spent a lot of time in Oregon’s Owyhee. Most times I’m out there, I see people out exploring and enjoying the wild and rugged terrain, some of them on off-highway vehicles. And most times, OHV users are friendly, responsible and respectful of the land, sticking to designated roads and routes.
However, that’s not the complete picture. In my role at Friends of the Owyhee, I’ve had conversations about OHVs with people in our community from all walks of life. Whether it’s a rancher whose cattle have been scared off or injured, a landowner whose fence has been cut, a BLM employee who has to restore a track in a fragile area, or a hunter whose game has been spooked, most everyone agrees: In recent years, irresponsible and illegal OHV use has been increasing and is starting to cause problems in this landscape.
It’s not surprising. The Treasure Valley area and Boise are some of the fastest growing places in the entire country. Whether we like it, more and more people are going to be out recreating in Oregon’s Owyhee. In the face of increased use, everyone benefits — as do the land and wildlife — when it’s clear where and how OHVs can be used. This is essential to keeping our shared public lands, including our state parks and natural areas, healthy and intact so that everyone can enjoy them.
I’ve seen the impact of OHV misuse at Succor Creek State Natural Area firsthand – erosion that leads to poor water quality, new tracks that will be on the land for decades, an absence of wildlife, to name a few. If a plan exists on how to best manage and care for a shared resource like a State Park or Natural Area, it should be enforced. At the same time, people should be able to enjoy using OHVs in the Owyhee. Friends of the Owyhee thinks Commissioner Larry Wilson’s suggestion to establish OHV parking areas near parks could be part of a solution. But we also think this could be a great opportunity to take an even bigger picture look at this landscape. For example, should we consider a designated OHV use area on the Oregon Owyhee Front? We have some great examples near Murphy and Grandview that have been well received by the OHV community and taken the pressure off of other places where OHV use was more problematic.
As a community, we can come together and find solutions that keep our favorite places and public lands intact and incredible.
Tim Davis is a member of Friends of the Owyhee, a grassroots organization that supports protecting the Owyhee Canyonlands. The views and opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Argus Observer.