Letters from the West

Valley County prepares to open snowmobile trails crossing billionaire brothers’ land

Snowmobiling in Valley County on its trail system above Cascade Lake.
Snowmobiling in Valley County on its trail system above Cascade Lake.

Valley County’s snowmobile trail system that depends on access across forestland purchased last summer by two Texas billionaires is expected to open on schedule, depending on snow.

Valley County still has cost-sharing easements in place for access to get to the trails across the land owned by the Wilks brothers, said Larry Laxson, Valley County parks and recreation director. Soon after purchasing the 172,000 acres, one of the brothers’ representatives sent a letter asking to terminate some of the county’s access agreements.

But Laxson talked with Farris and Dan Wilks and their representatives, and has since sent them the maps and other materials explaining the arrangement that is in place. Grooming the trails will begin Dec. 15 under Forest Service contract, if there is enough snow.

“We already are doing trail maintenance like brushing,” Laxson said.

He plans to snowmobile in Valley County sometime this winter with the Wilks and their land manager.

More than 18,000 snowmobilers use the West Mountain snowmobile trail system annually, according to a study by Headwaters Economics of Bozeman, Mont. Closing the trails, the 2006 study said, would cost the Valley County economy $832,000 in sales.

In October, Laxson reminded users that the land is private property and that public access depends on the owner’s good will.

“If we are going to be allowed continued access to their property, beyond what is covered by easements, we are going to have to prove that we can be good neighbors and dependable partners,” Laxson said on a post to the Idaho Recreational Council site.

Rocky Barker: 208-377-6484, @RockyBarker