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Protecting the Salmon-Challis National Forest from Off-road Vehicles

Hikers in Salmon-Challis National Forest.

Hikers in Salmon-Challis National Forest.

Photo courtesy of silent7seven / Flickr

What’s at Stake

Earthjustice represented organizations determined to protect the Salmon-Challis National Forest in Idaho from excessive off-road vehicle use. Much of the forest has been protected; other areas are still being debated.


The Salmon-Challis National Forest is located in east-central Idaho and covers some 4.3 million acres. It includes within its boundaries the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, the largest wilderness area in the continental United States, as well as the Wild & Scenic Salmon River and the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.

Even outside these protected areas, over a million acres of the Forest is wild, undeveloped, and roadless. Consequently, the SCNF is home to miles of pristine salmon streams and abundant and diverse wildlife. It is a unique and irreplaceable refuge for many species and for people who seek the untrammeled solitude of wild places.

But it is not safe from the onslaught of modern, high-powered off-road vehicles. In 2009, the SCNF adopted a "Travel Management Plan" that designated trails and routes that would be open to ORV and other motorized use.

Notwithstanding detailed comments from many individuals and hundreds of photographs documenting the damage ORVs have caused on the Forest, the Forest Service designated thousands of miles of routes open to ORV use, including many miles of routes across inventoried roadless areas and recommended wilderness areas. These designations will allow continued destruction of fragile meadows, pollution of streams with sediment, and disruption of wildlife and non-mechanized recreational use of the Forest.

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