Kootenai County in Idaho Creates ATV Panel

| June 2, 2011

Folks who traverse back country hills on engine-powered steeds have gained some representation.

More important, they’ll gain some funding, too.

The Kootenai County commissioners voted 2-1 on Tuesday to create an Off-Highway Vehicle Advisory Board, making the county eligible to receive state funds for OHV programs.

“It’s extremely popular,” said Lt. Stu Miller with the sheriff’s department, on the number of folks who steer OHVs across Idaho public lands. “On Forest Service and BLM land, it’s phenomenal. It’s quite a draw of ATV enthusiasts.”

Under new state legislation, all Idaho counties will give the state $1 of every registration fee collected for off-road vehicles, which will then be redistributed to counties with OHV advisory boards.

“If their counties don’t have an OHV committee, it (their registration fees) are dispersed to those that do,” Miller said, adding that the dollars will be given to the sheriff’s department to use for OHV purposes.

Kootenai County will bring in about $8,000 to $10,000 a year, Miller estimated.

Doesn’t seem like much?

That’s $1 for every registered OHV user in the county.

“It’s a good state for it,” explained Larry White, member of Panhandle Trail Riders Association, who will likely sit on the board. “It’s your range of use. I can pull up to Canfield Mountain, easily ride to the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River and over to Lakeview in a day.”

For lifelong wilderness lovers like his family, he added, ATVs and off-highway motorcycles are a safe option for anyone, including young children and adventurers of advancing years.

“For my family, that’s our primary recreation, is OHV use,” said White, 63. “We combine that with camping.”

Miller said the state funds will go toward the sheriff’s department’s recreational safety division, which patrols remote areas.

“If we go out on any call for service, this will reimburse us for fuel and overtime,” Miller said.

The funds will also provide safety education for OHV use, he added.

He is glad for that.

“There are a number of ATV crashes in the back country, and sometimes with the amount of acreage we do have, it gets rather busy back there,” Miller said.

All of this was previously funded out of the department’s general budget, he added.

The advisory board, which will include representatives of the sheriff’s department and two members of OHV organization, will counsel the county commissioners on OHV issues, Miller said.

White said he doesn’t have an agenda for the board, but hopes to improve access on public lands and improve trail maintenance.

“It’s win-win, in my opinion, because OHV users are willing to pay the extra money in their registration fees, and I think it can be very well spent by the sheriff’s department,” White said.

He is pleased the back-country patrols will see steady funding, he added.

“For deputies qualified on OHVs like motorbikes and ATVs, it enhances their ability to search for anyone missing,” he said.

He would like to see education classes addressing proper use of the machines, he added, as well as the rules of land management.

“In other words, proper use. Act your age on the trails,” White said.

Dan Loughlin, vice president of the North Idaho ATV Association, said he’s not aware of any glaring abuse of OHVs in Kootenai County.

He is glad to be considered for a board that will include input from vehicle users, he said.

“I want to see what direction we’re going to go in,” he said, adding that he couldn’t predict the impact the board would have.

The registration for OHVs in Kootenai County is $12.

Commissioner Todd Tondee cast the vote against the measure on Tuesday.

Tondee pointed out that a similar organization, the county Snowmobile Advisory Board, has encountered problems with the county Parks and Waterways Department.

“We’re kind of duplicating something we’re needing to fix right now,” Tondee said.

Commissioner Dan Green, a member of the snowmobile board, said he thinks that group’s hang-ups are unique to that entity and might be resolved by appointing new members.

White said he has hopes for the advisory board’s impact in North Idaho.

“Just increasing awareness of OHVs,” he said.

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Category: Northeast - Access Issues

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