Today marks the start of my last week at the SELC. I am not happy about that at all! There are still so many things I want to work on to educate myself. I hope after graduation in May that I may be able to volunteer my time to the SELC to continue assisting them with research... we shall see.
I turned in early this AM to my boss my revised version of the Memo. She wanted to have this revision now to look over, while I work on supplemental materials. These supplemental materials are additional research on three other collaborative groups as well as my giving a succinct summary on the "Tester Bill" aka Senate Bill #1470 Forest Jobs & Recreation Act (Beaverhead-Deerlodge, Kootenai, and Lolo National Forests). This bill was introduced in the 111th Congress by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT). This bill never became law, after being referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The bill was a wonderful opportunity for permanent land designation -- to be designated as wilderness and SMAs (Special Management Areas). Additionally, the Tester bill discussed how off-road vehicles (ORVs) would be permitted on some lands and restricted on others. I would like to tell you more and educate you on ORVs.
ORVs are a big controversy for environmentalists. In some situations, they may be the best way to get to a specific area faster, without hiking for miles. However, many people have seen how ORVs can completely destroy what used to be a lovely landscape in many National Forests and National Parks. There are designated trails, but occasionally people will decide to do loops all over a field of wildflowers and completely destroy and erode it. Instead of following the established gravel/paved/dirt roads, they will 'create their own path' instead. These new trails are called "unplanned trails" because each road put into the USFS and NPS lands is specifically mapped and researched ahead of time. Any additional trails are destroyed land that is supposed to be preserved. What is saddening is that it is difficult, if not fiscally impossible for the already cash-strapped parks to repair this damage. Some people are so arrogant as to set up illegal off-road race tracks on these public lands. The Wilderness Society has a good article about ORVs here.
Last summer, an off-road vehicle dragged and killed a rare threatened-species female loggerhead turtle that was attempting to nest on Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Think about that, a person thought it would be fun to run over and drag a pregnant endangered animal. Believe me, these things are too big to not notice... I would compare her size (I've seen the NPS crime scene photos) to probably around the size of a six year old child. Not small. She had at the very least twenty-six baby turtle eggs in her body ready to be laid into the sand that night. Tragic, right? How many other incidents with endangered or threatened animals have occurred from people driving ORVs illegally? What's next?
Many interest groups have stirred up support for the restriction of ORVs in some areas due to these risks. I think they are pretty logical, as not everyone has an ORV, but this land is for everyone and damaging it would be unfair for the majority, right?