Letters from the West

Texas billionaires open up some land access, let Idaho snowmobilers groom trails

The Idaho State Snowmobile Association has opened up three trails across land now owned by two Texas billionaires in Valley and Adams counties, allowing riders to reach public land.
The Idaho State Snowmobile Association has opened up three trails across land now owned by two Texas billionaires in Valley and Adams counties, allowing riders to reach public land.

The Idaho State Snowmobile Association has carved out a deal with a company owned by two Texas billionaires to groom trails on a portion of their private land near New Meadows, allowing access through there to public land.

Gary Cvecich, the association’s president, signed an agreement Monday with DF Development, owned by Dan and Farris Wilks. It will allow grooming on three trails from now until May 1. The three trails — Blue Bunch, Fish Lake, and Red Ridge. — provide access for snowmobilers to forest and state lands otherwise blocked by the Wilkses’ property.

“We are delighted that DF Development has allowed snowmobilers to groom trails in this most important area,” Cvecich, of Stanley, said in a news release. “We urge snowmobilers to respect their private property and stay on the trails.”

The Wilkses had closed off the 172,000 acres of mostly forest lands when they bought them in 2016, locking out snowmobilers, hunters, hikers, campers, berry-pickers and others who had access under previous owners. Under Boise Cascade, Potlatch and other companies, the general public largely couldn’t tell the difference between these private forest lands and public land — contributing to their later shock over the 2016 purchase.

The Snowmobile Association was able to negotiate this agreement independent of Adams and Valley counties or other agencies. Cvecich reminded snowmobilers that use of the groomed trails is a privilege and should not be abused.

“There are thousands of miles of open terrain all around that provide ample opportunities for off-trail riding,” Cvecich said. “We ask all snowmobilers riding on these trails to do what’s right and stay on the trails.”

Larry Laxson, Valley County Parks and Recreation director and a former Snowmobile Association president, said the agreement is another sign the Wilkses seek to be good neighbors. He said he has developed a good working relationship with DF Development.

“This agreement is greatly appreciated, and we look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship,” he said.

DF Development has long turned down interviews with the media and has been otherwise unresponsive to local officials since controversy erupted over logging access and closing off hunting and trails. A confrontation between an ATV owner and a security guard hired to stop trespassers on the company’s land was the latest controversy in August.

The Wilks brothers have now also expressed an interest in working on ATV trail access, Laxson said. He said such an agreement would be far more complicated and would require a lot of time.

“This is the beginning of a process,” Laxson said.

The Wilks family began as brick masons, then started a hydraulic fracturing and oil-field service company that they sold for $3.5 billion. Since then, they have purchased tens of thousands of acres across the West.

Two of the three trails were misidentified in an earlier version of this story due to misinformation supplied to the Idaho Statesman.

Rocky Barker: 208-377-6484, @RockyBarker

  Comments