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Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve Travel Management



Land Use and Transportation

One of the most important issues to be considered in this planning effort is the amount and type of access to and within the Monument. This plan characterizes the existing road and trail network using the best available data on current condition and historical maintenance practices.

With the exception of road closures implicit in the application of Pristine Zone areas, decisions affecting the status or condition of all roads and trails within the Monument will be made in a follow-up travel management implementation-level plan. As stated in the Desired Future Conditions section below, there will be a net decrease in road mileage within the Monument. All travel and access will be limited to the existing roads and trails.
 
The existing roads and trails were evaluated by agency staff and organized into the following classification system to provide for a reasonable baseline data set to be used within the context of a more specific travel management plan to follow.
Class A — paved surface roads
Class B — improved, maintained, constructed roads with natural or aggregate surface
Class C — roads constructed or established through use with a natural surface and little or no maintenance
Class D — primitive roads established through use with no maintenance
Class 1 Trail — restricted to nonmotorized/non-mechanized travel; wheelchairs allowed
Class 2 Trail — open to motorized/mechanized travel with a footprint no wider than an 18-inch tread
 
"The Proposed Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve (Monument) Management Plan/Final Environmental Impact Statement (July 2005) categorized routes and other travel features within the Monument as Class A, B, C, and D roads, as well as Class 1 and Class 2 trails. Since that time, The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has adopted a new policy for defining these types of routes (http://www.blm.gov/nstc/library/pdf/TN422.pdf).
 
We are required to use the new system of describing Roads, Primitive Roads and Trails in the Travel Management Plan. Please see the definitions below.
 
Road: A linear route declared a road by the owner, managed for use by low-clearance vehicles having four or more wheels, and maintained for regular and continuous use.
 
Primitive Road: A linear route managed for use by four-wheel drive or high-clearance vehicles. These routes do not normally meet any BLM road design standards.
 
Trail: A linear route managed for human-powered, stock, or off-highway vehicle forms of transportation or for historical or heritage values. Trails are not generally managed for use by four-wheel drive or high-clearance vehicles.
 
What this means for the Craters Travel Plan:
All Class A and B roads within in the Monument will become “Roads” for travel planning purposes. All Class C and D roads will be described as “Primitive Roads.” Trails will still be described as “Trails” and the definitions for Class 1 and 2 trails remains the same as in the Monument Management Plan.
 
Desired Future Conditions:
There is a net decrease in road mileage within the Monument.
 
LAND USE AND TRANSPORTATION
Chapter 2: THE PLAN 43
The road system in the planning area provides access for visitors, permittees, nonfederal landowners, and administrative needs while protecting those resources and values the Monument was established to preserve. The agencies coordinate road management inside and outside of the Monument in a cooperative fashion with local government agencies so that the transportation system is managed in a comprehensive, logical manner.
 
The agencies also work cooperatively with local government agencies to provide appropriate access to the Monument and private land within the Monument. The road system within the planning area supports efficient response time for fire suppression activities.
Most management direction related to travel and access is covered by management
zone allocation.
 
Management Actions:
ROAD-1: All lands except for the existing roads shown on Figure 4 are designated as “closed” to vehicle use. Off-highway vehicle (OHV) use is “limited” to existing roads shown on Figure 4 unless and until such roads are closed, converted to Class II Trails, or are further limited by operation of this plan or by the forthcoming travel management plan. (OHV designations do not apply to specifically authorized administrative use.)
 
ROAD-2: All land within the Monument other than designated roads and trails will be designated “closed” for off-highway vehicle (OHV) and mechanized vehicle use.
 
ROAD-3: The agencies will prepare an implementation-level travel management plan showing road and trail classifications, standards, restrictions, and closures. Current road standards and classifications will be in effect until the travel plan is approved.
 
ROAD-4: The agencies will prepare guidelines and procedures for authorization of emergency and administrative off-road travel.
 
ROAD-5: The agencies will prepare a travel map showing allowable uses, road and trail classifications, and standards and restrictions.
 
ROAD-6: No motorized vehicle roads or trails will be permitted within the Pristine Zone.
 
ROAD-7: The agencies will close and rehabilitate all routes established in Wilderness Study Areas that were not identified in the wilderness inventory as “existing ways.”
 
ROAD-8: All roads and trails shown on Figure 4 within the BLM administered portions of Monument will be designated “limited” for OHV/motorized vehicle use unless further limited or closed in the forthcoming travel management plan.
 
ROAD-9: All authorized roads on NPS administered portions of the Monument and Preserve will be open only to bicycles and highway licensed motorized vehicle travel and will be designated as “park roads.”
 
ROAD-10: The agencies may close individual roads and trails temporarily or permanently to protect resources on a case-by-case basis.
 
ROAD-11: Snowmobile use on BLM administered portions of the Monument will be addressed in an upcoming travel management plan.
 
ROAD-12: The agencies will seek local jurisdiction concurrence (county or highway district) for any change in the commitment to future maintenance for any roadway under that entity’s jurisdiction.
 
ROAD-13: Existing Class B and C roads will remain open, but maintenance will be driven by natural resource management needs, primarily fire suppression, weed management, and restoration activities.
 
ROAD-14: A Class B standard will be allowed on the Arco-Minidoka Road through the Monument should the adjacent road segments outside the Monument be upgraded.
 
ROAD-15: Selected Class D roads in the Primitive Zone could be converted to trails or closed for resource protection. Class D roads in the Pristine Zone could be converted to Class I trails where resource protection needs dictate.
 
ROAD-16: Temporary improvements to existing Class C and D roads could be authorized in the Passage and Primitive Zones to facilitate fire suppression and restoration activities or other management actions aimed at natural resource protection.
 
ROAD-17: In cooperation with the counties, the agencies will maintain the primary access roads to provide better access for fire management.
 
ROAD-18: Redundant, unnecessary, or unused roads will be closed as determined by management after completing a travel management plan.
 
Recreation. Visitation to the original NPS Monument averages 200,000 people per year, with peak visitation on summer weekends. Many visitors are on vacations that include Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks to the east of Sun Valley and the Sawtooth National Recreation Area to the west (USDI NPS 1990). Commonly, visitors spend less than 3 hours at the Monument; 5% remain overnight. The typical visitor will stop and tour the visitor center, then sightsee along the 7-mile paved loop drive, taking advantage of photographic opportunities and often having a picnic before leaving.
 
School groups represent an important visitor group. More than 100 school groups comprising more than 3,000 students visit the Monument each year. Teachers who have attended one of the Monument-provided teacher orientation workshops lead many of these groups.
 
Commercial tours also come to the Monument through the primary visitation season. Commercial tour numbers vary from year to year, but the average is between 30 and 40 tour buses each year.
 
Winter visitation is low, but winter attracts local and regional visitors familiar with the quality cross-country skiing and snowshoeing opportunities. The loop drive is closed to vehicle traffic and groomed for skiing in winter. The National Park Service has also offered winter ecology programs for the past few years; these are always well attended.
 
Visitation to the expanded parts of the Monument during the past 10 years averaged approximately 20,000 visits per year, according to BLM’s Recreation Management Information System (RMIS). Some popular sites are Pillar Butte, Wood Road Kipuka, Bear Park, Snowdrift Crater, Kings Bowl, and Bear Trap Cave. No visitor facilities are available at any of the sites, but all receive day use and occasional overnight camping.
 
Recreational activities in the expanded part of the Monument, in order of popularity, are hunting; driving for pleasure; geologic exploration including caving, lava hiking and sightseeing; hiking; primitive camping; photography; horseback riding; and mountain biking.
 
Commercial Outfitters and Guide Services. There is currently one temporary special use permit issued for guided tours within the Monument. In 2004 there were no tours conducted under the two existing hunting outfitter permits issued for Hunting Units 52A and 68 (one in each unit) within the Monument, and past use of these permits has been quite low as well. Although some interest in commercial outfitter and guide permits has been expressed, the agencies do not foresee a dramatic increase in demand for these permits over the life of the plan.
 
Hunting. The Idaho Fish and Game Commission sets hunting seasons and other regulations for hunting in Idaho. Most of the Monument and Preserve is within Idaho Fish and Game Hunting Unit 52A (see Figure 10). The southern part of the area, including all of the Wapi Lava Field, is included in Unit 68. A very small portion of the northern edge of the Monument and Preserve falls within Units 49 and 50. The length of season and number of available controlled-hunt tags vary annually on the basis of wildlife population levels and other factors.
 
BLM’s Recreation Management Information System and Idaho Department of Fish and Game estimates indicate that Greater sage-grouse hunting and open mule deer hunting attract the highest number of hunters in the Monument. The open seasons for archery (antelope, elk, and deer), other small game (rabbits, upland birds), predators, and unprotected species, along with the controlled seasons (draw tags) for antelope, elk, and deer, account for a much smaller portion of hunting use. Almost all hunting has historically been in the BLM portions of the Monument. Hunting occurs in what is now the NPS Preserve, although hunting has never been authorized in the original NPS Monument. The exposed lava flows in the NPS Preserve can be used for a quality hunt for a few hunters who seek the challenge.
 
The very small amount of hunting by members of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes that takes place in the Monument is considered a treaty right and is not considered a recreational hunting experience.
 
Motorized and Mechanized Recreation.
OHV (off-highway vehicle) use in the Monument includes off-highway motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, and snowmobiles. Most OHV use in the Monument takes place during hunting seasons or in association with other land uses like livestock operations. The amount of OHV-specific recreation activity in the Monument is quite small (Recreation Management Information System estimates less than 5,000 visits per year). Most OHV activity takes place on the road network, since no trails have been designated for motorized use.
 
A small amount of mountain biking occurs in the expanded Monument. This small but growing recreational use is confined primarily to the existing road network, because no designated trails for mountain biking exist. In the area of the original Monument, mountain bike permits are available for riding along portions of Goodale’s Cutoff. Bicycle use occurs on the 7-mile loop drive and other areas. No OHV use is permitted within the original Monument.
 
Hiking and Horseback Riding. Most hikers hike on designated trails in the original Monument. Hiking trails to features of interest in the original Monument are the North Crater Flow, Devils Orchard, Inferno Cone, the Big Craters/Spatter Cones area, Tree Molds, and the Caves Area. Hikers in the non-wilderness part of the original Monument regularly see other visitors, because the area is highly used.
 
Opportunities for solitude are limited; however, the Craters of the Moon Wilderness offers outstanding opportunities for self-directed hiking, with an excellent chance to experience solitude.
 
Wilderness use is extremely light, with an average of 130 overnight backpackers per year (based on backcountry permits issued 1990 through 2002). Backpacking parties usually consist of fewer than four persons, and they seldom stay out more than two nights (USDI NPS 1990). All water must be packed into the backcountry.
 
Exact numbers of day users are unavailable. Some constructed hiking trails exist at the Crystal Ice Caves / Kings Bowl area (Recreation Management Information System estimates 1,000 visits).
Horseback riding in the original Monument is limited to the Craters of the Moon Wilderness Trail by permit only. No other designated trails currently exist for horseback riding.
 
Camping. In the original Monument, more than 50 developed campsites with water, restrooms, charcoal grills, and picnic tables are available on a first-come first-served basis. Most campers stay only one night. The campground is rarely full, with the exception of several weekends during the summer, generally around holidays.
 
Caving. Tens of thousands visit the Caves Area in the developed portion of the Monument each year. Although dispersed caving does not draw large numbers of visitors, it is an important and unique recreation opportunity at the Monument. Opportunities exist for recreational cave experiences throughout the Monument, ranging from hiking a paved trail to an easily accessible lava tube such as Indian Tunnel, to visiting a remote wild cave somewhere in the expanded portion of the Monument, to the potential to actually discover a previously unknown cave.
 
Health and Safety. Several factors are involved in health and safety concerns for Monument visitors and surrounding communities.
 
These factors include road standards and levels of maintenance, extreme weather, wildfires, caves/fissures, lava terrain, livestock, and snakes.
 
Desired Future Conditions:
Opportunities are available for diverse recreational experiences, consistent with the intent of Monument proclamations and applicable laws.
 
The area continues to offer a range of opportunities for discovery.
 
The public enjoys opportunities for self discovery and primitive type recreational experiences.
 
Unsigned and self-directed motorized recreation opportunities are available.
 
Within the Pristine Zone, public opportunities to experience solitude, natural quiet/night sky, and views of landscapes remain substantially free of human influence.
 
Commercial outfitters and guide services provide opportunities for visitors to experience and learn about the resources, reducing the need for development and agency staffing.
 
Public awareness of responsible low impact recreational use reduces or eliminates the need for restrictive management policies.