Pete Zimowsky: The shutdown closed campgrounds, boat ramps at bad time

Many hunters and anglers wondered where to go during a primo month for outdoors.

pzimowsky@idahostatesman.comOctober 31, 2013 

Closures of campgrounds and boat ramps on federal lands this month, as a result of the government shutdown, were a really dumb idea.

What a mess. You couldn’t call anyone for information and updates because U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Reclamation offices were closed.

We were in the same boat as others. We usually camp in a BLM campground on the Salmon River for steelhead fishing and couldn’t get any information on whether it was open or not.

Our group of anglers decided to go for it anyway, but worried about Plan B if we got to the campground and it was closed.

We packed a portable toilet in case the outhouse was locked. We packed extra water jugs. We also mapped out undeveloped camping spots along the river, just in case.

Well, we lucked out. The campground wasn’t barricaded, and we snagged campsites.

Apparently, it was closed at first during the shutdown, but it raised such a stink with locals that the BLM removed barricades and allowed camping.

That was the right move to make by the local federal office, even though nationwide recreation facilities were shut down. There was no reason not to allow the public to use federal facilities such as campgrounds and boat ramps.

When we arrived at the campground, the garbage cans were full, and there was no toilet paper in the outhouse.

No problem. We could understand that because staff was not available. We removed trash and supplied TP to the outhouse. Plain and simple.

Although there was no enforcement of camping fees, we put our money in the registration box anyway. Supporting our campgrounds is a good cause no matter what bone-headed things our representatives are doing in Washington.

I’ve had several readers calling me about the campground closures. The closures didn’t make any sense, especially in the fall when a lot of services end at campgrounds anyway.

Federal agencies traditionally “shut down” campgrounds in the fall, but leave them open for camping without services such as outhouse maintenance, drinking water and garbage collection.

Veteran Idaho campers just bring everything they need.

The campground closures also came right at the height of deer and steelhead seasons in Idaho. That didn’t go over big, either.

Idaho campers know what they are doing and can get along without campground hosts or maintenance people while people in Washington play games.

Don’t shut campgrounds down again. It was a big public relations blunder for federal land management agencies and plenty of fuel for those who want the state to take over federal public lands.

IDAHO SKI BOOK

Margaret Fuller’s new book, “Ski the Great Potato: Idaho Ski Areas: Past and Present,” is out.

It is a history of the 21 Idaho ski areas that are still running and 72 of the historical or “lost” ones, Fuller says.

Fuller’s son, Doug, and Jerry Painter, of Idaho Falls, co-authored the book.

“We worked on this book for four years, looked at miles of microfilm and interviewed over 150 people,” Fuller said.

Did you know that Sun Valley had the first chairlift in the world, but it was not the first ski area in Idaho? Lookout Pass had a rope tow Jan. 1, 1936, and Quigley Gulch near Hailey had horse-drawn toboggans for skiers a couple of weeks later.

Margaret Fuller is one of Idaho’s most veteran hikers and has written several hiking guides for the Sawtooths, White Clouds, Hells Canyon, Idaho wilderness areas and more.

The book sells for $22.95 plus shipping. For a look, go to trailguidebooks.com.

The Bogus Basin Ski Club will be selling the book at the ski swap at Expo Idaho this weekend.

THANKS, HUNTERS

This is a cool item from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. As wildlife numbers dwindled across the country more than 100 years ago, hunters were the force behind a movement to encourage and support conservation and wildlife management based on science.

President Theodore Roosevelt, among other hunter-conservationists, called for an end of the commercial hunting.

They also lobbied for the creation of hunting licenses, leading to a funding mechanism to assist with growing sustainable wildlife populations.

In 1937, hunters requested an 11 percent tax on guns, ammunitions, bows and arrows, with the proceeds directed solely toward conservation, the foundation said.

To date, that tax raised more than $7.2 billion for wildlife conservation, including a record $522.5 million in 2012.

Through state licenses and fees, hunters pay $796 million a year for conservation programs.

They also add $440 million a year to the effort through donations to conservation organizations like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

It’s hunting season. Thought you’d like to know.

Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445, Twitter: @Zimosoutdoors

Statesman outdoor writers Pete Zimowsky and Roger Phillips alternate columns on Thursday. Look for Roger next week.

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