Off-highway vehicle (OHV) travel is limited to designated routes
on all BLM-managed lands in the King Hill Creek wilderness study
area (WSA) after the BLM found that resources in the area have been damaged by off-route travel.
Since 1995, BLM policy has required that all WSAs be managed to ensure that their existing wilderness values are not degraded or impaired so far as to significantly constrain Congress' prerogative to either designate a WSA as wilderness or release it for other uses. This is called the non-impairment standard .
Resource specialists have determined that increasing use in the WSA of OHVs and other types of motorized and mechanized equipment for scouting, hunting, and antler-hunting (among other uses) combined with general increases in the prevalence and capabilities of OHVs has led to a proliferation of routes in the area beyond those that existed in the WSA when it was established.
Routes and ways created after the WSA was established threaten wilderness values there, and so allowing their continued use would be inconsistent with the non-impairment requirement.
The WSA also encompasses the Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game's (IDFG's) productive Hunt Unit #45, popular for its world-class trophy mule deer bucks. Today's motorized vehicles are in much wider use during fall hunting and winter/spring shed hunting, and can carry riders farther into remote areas that were previously inaccessible. As a result, deer, antelope and elk are being increasingly disturbed when they are most vulnerable. IDFG reports greater mortality among the area's fawns in recent years.
Recreational OHV use has also reduced shrub-grass-forb cover, which forms habitat for a variety of wildlife. Proliferation of OHV routes frequently leads to encroachment by invasive grasses and noxious weeds – which further degrade and fragment grassland habitat.
The restriction on motorized vehicle use will also help address an increasing number of conflicts reported between motorized and non-motorized users of the area.
The restriction will remain in effect until the conditions that gave rise to the finding have been sufficiently addressed. Cherry-stemmed roads and designated ways depicted on the map at left remain open to vehicle use. The BLM is posting signs along WSA boundaries to identify areas that are closed to motorized use. (CLICK on the map-image to view, download or print full-page PDF.)
The King Hill Creek WSA contains 29,309 acres of BLM-managed lands in Elmore County, east of Boise and Mountain Home, and northwest of Twin Falls. The BLM Shoshone Field Office manages the 5,494 acres that lie east of King Hill Creek. The other 23,815 acres (west of the creek) are managed by the BLM Four Rivers Field Office.
The authority for the closure is 43 CFR 8341.2 . | Decision rationale June 29, 2011