Jay Lenkersdorfer

Our household used to consist of news junkies, always tuning in to broadcast television, internet news and local, regional and nationwide newspapers. It was assured that if something important was happening in the world, we would be among the first to know about it. How times change.

One of the big losers when the news isn’t being covered well is the everyday average guy or gal. The news, regardless of how important or invasive it is in the lives of everyday average people, can’t be reported if there aren’t reporters present when the government is making decisions.

And nowhere is this truer than right now in Cassia County where the Forest Service has advanced a policy proposal that would close significant swaths of the South Hills for the entire month of October 2020. I should clarify that this proposal would only close the South Hills to motorized travel for the 31 days in October 2020.

We all like to hope that any policy changes like this would be shouted from the rooftops where all who would be impacted by this change in policy could give their feedback and share how such an invasive policy change would impact recreation, hunting, wood cutting, sight seeing and every other use of this public land.

The news of this proposed change wasn’t well circulated. I was told about it one week ago in a casual conversation and at the time the public comment period was scheduled to end even before the next edition of the Weekly Mailer was going to publish. I learned of it while at a church dinner where we just happened to sit by people who had also just learned of it.

Their knowledge came from someone who was a member of the Magic Valley ATV Riders Club who had stumbled into the proposal not long before that.

The official correspondence from the Minidoka Ranger District says that the information was posted in the official newspaper of record, which is the Times-News. Its circulation is so small these days it is a miracle that anybody would see their official notice. We need to demand they go further in making us aware of radical changes like these.

I believe there is a pattern of behavior from our BLM and Forest Service managers where radical programs like this are spawned, nurtured, and harvested without any regard for the individuals that would be impacted.

Every season has its own beauty but fall takes the blue ribbon for the spectacle of fall colors that make it unique from all other seasons. It is a time when nature prepares for the big chill by dropping the leaves. The colors of fall can take as little as two or three weeks from the beginning when the colors change untill the ground is covered by this leaf litter. The smell alone awakens memories of falls past when as a young lad I would ride my motorcycle into the foothills to enjoy the color and spend a few quality hours pondering my place in the universe. It is a time like no other – which only makes the possibility of having it taken away even more egregious.

I recall a conversation with some of Burley’s senior statesman who remember the day when the Forest Service and BLM were managed by a handful of hands-on managers. They were known for their willingness to work with ranchers on grazing permits and the cooperation with other land users made for all winners and no losers. Today’s Forest Service and BLM offices consist of dozens and dozens of mostly Eastern liberals who have invaded our traditional recreational lands. They have gone mad with road and trail closures and have imposed ridiculous rules that deny us access we had enjoyed for the first hundred years of life here in Southern Idaho.

The most imposing rules have been shoved down our throats in the past 20 years. With each mile of trail eliminated and for each gate closed for future generations, there was no real notice in advance of their action. Sure, they said they had public hearings, but nobody came so they went ahead with their plans thinking nobody cared. What they should have done was to spend months in the field letting people know what they were about to lose. They should have mailed notices to every ATV owner, motorcycle rider, hunter, jeeper, cyclist, fisherman and any other land user to inform them of all the things they were about to have taken away.

The Forest Service has no right to make such radical land restrictions to begin with, but where they see some management change might be of benefit to the land users they should do all they can to inform everybody.

As a user of our public lands, I understand that not everybody that uses the land has the same respect that most of us have. Where there is abuse of the land there should be some enforcement of reasonable rules. Closing down entire drainages, eliminating trailheads and gating off perfectly good roads – even if they only go out to a ridgetop – shouldn’t be happening unless there is a legitimate reason. The South Hills are a real jewel for all sorts of recreation. There are trails I once rode on that snaked their way through the most beautiful stands of spruce trees, maple groves and my favorite, aspen groves, that are now closed down. In some cases, the reason I have been told for the closure was that they didn’t want us driving through a seasonal stream.

We have an uphill fight to keep our public lands open and accessible, but we must fight. There are battles we would have fought but couldn’t because we weren’t made aware that a change was being proposed. How sad it is when we find a sign on the border of our public lands that says “Road Closed” – because we said so.

What can you do? Submit a written comment telling the Forest Service how ridiculous their planned closure is and how disruptive it will be to your access to land that we have come to know and love. Don’t let them take this next step because they won’t stop there. Their assault on our public access to these mountains will continue to the point that our only access will be to park in a parking lot at the bottom of the canyon and we’ll have to hike to see anything. When you take away my preferred method of accessing my public lands you are taking that land away from me. Please help me fight this fight and do it today because tomorrow may be too late.

Send comments to: Scott Soletti, 2306 Hiland Ave, Burley, ID 83318. You can call Scott at 208-677-8292 or email him at scott.soletti@usda.gov Please sign your name on your feedback because without it Mr. Soletti won’t consider it a legitimate comment. You can also post your comments at the following address:

comments-intermtn-sawtooth-minidoka@usda.gov. The deadline for comments is November 11, 2019

(1) comment


The Forest Service is doing a lot things that no one really knows about or sees. They are taking away our access and getting away with it, but they are also destroying or getting paid by someone else to destroy our forest.

The South Hills and Mount Harrison are being clear cut in areas so that more quakies can grow. They use the excuse that it is for the moose and deer to have food. But think about it, the moose and deer have moved in because there is already food and water there for them. These forests do not need to be changed. They need to be taken care of and let nature do its thing. They need the public to be able to come in and take out the dead trees to use for firewood.

Or they need to bring in crews to take the dead out. But that does not make much money, so instead they sell the live trees to the logging companies who come in and completely strip areas of everything except what needs to be taken out. The last time I was in Howell Canyon one of the most beautiful areas had been stripped of the pine trees, or at least the live pine trees. The logging company came in and cut them down. They left the dead standing. People who want firewood are not allowed to cut in these areas, so the land is bare except for wood that could be used to heat homes. I heard they are going to have many controlled burns in these areas to take care of what the logging companies have left behind. They are not doing this to just Howell Canyon either. Controlled burns are scheduled to happen all over the South Hills and the Sawtooth National Forest. I am not sure about how many acres are going to go up in smoke and I don't know the reason. If it is to turn our evergreen forest into a deciduous forest whoever made that decision needs to come out and spend time in the forest to see that it is wonderful the way it is, or was. Many of these pine trees have been on this mountain for more than 100 years, maybe 100s of years.

I had seen the trees marked with blue and orange paint. I had no idea what that meant until someone told me those were being cut down. Who made this decision? Was there ever a public meeting concerning OUR forests? I believe in several areas there were more trees with paint markings that without.

Then, to top it all off, the slash piles are left behind leaving the area looking trashy. The dirt is so soft that it just blows away when the wind blows. When it rains there will be mud that will slide down the hills and create more problems. Our forests have enough problems with people who leave trash when they go or vandalize the signs, campgrounds, and whatever else they can. We don't need someone who has no idea of our lifestyle coming in and destroying it, someone who has only seen it in books or thinks all forests should be like they are back east. The trees with all the different shaped leaves and different colors in the fall are great for them there, but here we love our pine forests. There is nothing like an early summer camping trip where you wake up to the smell of coffee and new pine growth smell. For someone who has never been to a pine forest, that smell is nothing like the little pine scented cardboard you put in your car to make it smell better. It is so much better and nothing can ever take its place.

But back to the problem of cutting our pine trees down. This has been going on for several years. Before Woody Anderson, owner and operator of Pomerelle, passed away he told me and my husband that he was just sickened when they came in and cut all the pine trees out of Bennett Springs. They left the quakies and dead pine trees. It is saddening to see this happen and to feel helpless because our government agencies do not include the public in the decision making.

Our forests needs to be cared for by our government agencies and the public. They need to see that these pristine areas are important to the lives of so many people who spend time there. They need to have public meetings and let people know when those meetings are going to be held. With all the ways to communicate these days it should not be too hard to get the word out. These are public lands and we should have some say as to what is going to happen to them. My children and grandchildren are never going to see the pine trees that were more than 6 and 8 feet in diameter and 50 feet tall. They are going to miss the beauty of what God and time had placed in the mountains and South Hills in Cassia and Twin Falls counties. We need our forests to be maintained and cared for but not changed from pine trees to leafy trees. There needs to be a natural balance that mother nature can manage pretty well if we give her room and time.

The saddest part is a lot of this has already happened and cannot be changed back, Future generations will never see the trees in Howell Canyon and the South Hills as big and beautiful as they were not so long ago.

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