By Sandra Mitchell
ED—This is Sandra Mitchell’s response to Mark Menlove’s editorial in the Idaho Statesman. Menlove’s editorial is in the attached PDF.)
In his “Reader’s View” on December 30, 2009, Mark Menlove asserts that snowmobilers are “greedy” because we have asked our Senators to assist us in keeping the south half of Mount Jefferson open to snowmobiling.
That is an interesting adjective to apply to the group that voluntarily gave up 50 percent of the area about five years ago so the non-motorized community would have a place for their exclusive use with no motors. They are also able to use the motorized section whenever they want. Now the non-motorized community wants all of Mount Jefferson for their exclusive use and they call snowmobilers “greedy?”
There is of course much more to the Mount Jefferson story. For example, the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest recently revised their Forest Plan and did not recommend the portion used by snowmobiles for Wilderness. The managing agency determined this portion did not qualify for Wilderness and they listened to everyone who chose to submit comments. The decision was, of course, appealed and all the appeals were rejected.
The south half of Mount Jefferson is primarily accessible in the winter from Idaho and provides a unique riding experience and incredible scenery found nowhere else in the area. It is considered one of the nation’s crown jewels of snowmobiling. Although the land is within the state boundaries of Montana, it is a winter resource for Idaho, and especially important to the small, economically strapped community of Island Park.
Kevin Phillips, the Island Park Polaris dealer and former president of the Chamber of Commerce, says that 90 percent of his sled rentals want to go to Jefferson. Visitors who stay in the Island Park area to snowmobile spend an average of $300 a day when using their own sleds and $400 per day when renting. They eat in the restaurants, buy gas locally and stay in the motels.
Senators Crapo and Risch have listened, studied all sides of the issue and determined that there is great merit to keeping the south half of Mount Jefferson open for snowmobiling. Most Idahoans, whether they ride a snowmobile or not, would probably agree with their decision because they are doing the right thing for the right reasons. Their help is appreciated.