As the Utah Coordinator for the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA), I represented the organization at the Emery County fair in Castle Dale. I want to thank the recreation department staff, workers, and county commissioners for making the fair such a success.
I also want to take this opportunity to pass along some of the comments and observations I heard from those who stopped to visit with me at the BHA booth. I would also like to address those who would mischaracterize BHA as an "environmentalist" group with an anti-ATV agenda.
For several weeks prior to the fair, BHA ran an advertisement in the Emery County Progress as an introduction to the group. The ad briefly described the organization's interest in having local sportsmen and women join with BHA to promote priorities that most hunters and fishermen agree are important in order for hunting and fishing to be worthwhile. The ad also invited interested sportsmen to look at the BHA website for more information about the organization and its activities. Some of these activities focus on how irresponsible ATV use affects watershed resources and wildlife habitat. It is no secret that illegal and irresponsible ATV riding is a large and growing problem in many areas throughout the west, Utah included. While BHA supports responsible ATV use where it is legal on public lands, it is true that BHA roundly condemns the resource damage and disturbance to sensitive wildlife habitat that ATV abuse can cause. That is why BHA has supported increasing and standardizing fines for ATV-related infractions on public land. BHA also advocates making ATV registration numbers clearly visible from a distance so that violators can be identified and reported. These measures would help protect the rights of responsible ATV riders to continue to have access to approved routes.
BHA applauds the efforts of the individuals and ATV clubs who actively monitor riding activity and resource conditions. We recognize the efforts of dedicated ATV enthusiasts who spend countless hours repairing and maintaining motorized trails and help enforce regulations regarding ATV use on pubic land.
Such efforts are worthy of mutually-beneficial collaboration. For example, BHA is a key supporter of the 243 mile ATV route through the Clearwater Basin of north central Idaho. This route will connect eight small, rural communities helping to broaden their economic base.
Emery County offers ATV/OHV users many outstanding opportunities to enjoy its exhilarating scenery which also contributes substantially to the local economy. There are, however, places where ATV use should be limited to avoid disturbance to wildlife, especially in prime, secluded habitat.
A number of visitors to the BHA booth at the Emery County fair commented on the prevalence of ATV-mounted hunters and recounted instances where motorized disturbances spoiled their hunting experience. Some visitors also made the observation that there are far fewer places where they can find undisturbed game and wondered about the correlation between increased ATV use and general decrease in huntable wildlife populations.
For hunting and fishing to be worthwhile and fulfilling activities and to remain lasting family traditions, there must be viable populations of wild game.
That is why the protection of quality fish and wildlife habitat is, and will remain, the primary focus of the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.