Do your part to keep access open this winter

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Itís almost snowmobile season! Itís time to grease the bearings and check the oil, but before you go out this year, make sure you know the rules for the 2019-2020 season. Will you be snowmobiling in Bonner or Boundary counties this winter? If so, there are some things you need to know.

For several decades, the general public has had the privilege of accessing some of the most scenic, remote and exciting places during the winter months across miles of groomed snowmobile trails.

Ownership in this area is a checkerboard of private, state-endowment and federal lands. Historically, private timber companies in the area have generously allowed snowmobile recreation and access to public and endowment trust land.

While most people are good stewards and respect private property rights, a few bad sports are causing some private land owners to reconsider their generosity. They grow tired of broken gates, shot-up signs, dumped trash, and damaged land and timber.

In the Highland Flats area, access to endowment and public lands is provided on roads through private Stimson Lumber Co. timberland. Entering Stimson land is a privilege. The company, in cooperation with the Idaho Department of Lands, Bonner County, Boundary County, and the East Bonner Groomers, has graciously allowed the county to groom trails for the public to enjoy. Stimson land is working land, where timber and the land itself is vital for business. Off-trail snowmobiling can cause significant and expensive damage to young tree plantations.

There are rules for snow vehicle recreation just like with motorized trails in the summer, so before heading out on the trail:

• Always know where you are and who owns the land when recreating in the backcountry, and what activities are allowed.

• Always have a map. Donít have one? Contact a land management agency: US Forest Service, Idaho Department of Lands, Boundary or Bonner counties.

• Stay on groomed trails until you are certain you are on lands that allow over-the-snow vehicle travel.

• If you see someone not following the rules, speak up, that one person could close a trail for everybody.

• Ďpack it in, pack it outí: respect the land and clean up after yourself.

Have fun, play smart, respect the rules, and encourage others to do the same. We donít want a few to spoil this incredible recreation opportunity for the many.

Iíll put this: Dan Dinning is a county commissioner in Boundary County. The op-ed was written in collaboration with multiple agencies and people in Bonner and Boundary counties.

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