Four volunteers from the Idaho chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers arrived in Weiser about 9:00 a.m. on a sunny and clear November morning. These men had never met each other previously, but all of them had responded to emails and social media posts from Idaho BHA asking for volunteers to spend a day helping US Forest Service staff build a barrier in an area of the Payette National Forest (hunt unit 31) where illegal motorized use was creating problems. After exchanging pleasantries and receiving some safety instruction from the USFS staff, they jumped in trucks for a 1.5 hour journey up the Mann Creek Road to a 6,000 foot saddle. The task for the day was to build a conspicuous log fence barrier with obvious signs to make it abundantly clear that the trail up an unnamed ridge was not a designated route open to motorized use.
User-created trails and motorized use on non-motorized trails such as this can lead to problems such as erosion, invasive weeds and decreased wildlife security. More and more Idaho hunters are citing illegal motorized activity as one of the biggest problems they encounter during hunting seasons.
The group split into two 3-person crews and efficiently completed the project in about 2.5 hours. The project was originally scheduled for 4 hours but the volunteers were met with increasing clouds and a below freezing wind-chill, so they worked fast to keep warm! A little ingenuity was needed when the crew discovered they were one fence pole short. Forest Service staffer Jascha Zeitlin hiked into the woods and returned in minutes with dead snag that was perfect for the job.
Long time BHA member Dan Herrig of Boise was one of the volunteers and had this to say about the day, "in addition to knowing we contributed to improving the quality of hunting and protecting habitat, the highlight of the day for me was meeting and chatting with relatively new BHA members. It reminded me of what a diverse and young membership we have. Our strength lies not only with our numbers but the variety viewpoints we bring to the table when dealing with issues."
The four volunteers not only built the fence, the also fostered camaraderie and an appreciation for one another's willingness to contribute time to protecting our public lands. As the crew departed, they were rewarded with outstanding views of the Snake River canyon and the spectacular, rugged public lands of Idaho.
To volunteer for future stewardship projects with Idaho BHA, email [email protected]