30. June 2020 · Comments Off on Trail between Stanley and Redfish Lake is in the right place · Categories: Current Events, Public Lands

In March 2019, I retired after a 30-year career as a backcountry recreation manager for the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. In that position, I helped design and lay out many trails including, as my last major trails project, the Galena Summer Trails Network at Galena Lodge.

Based on that experience, I can guarantee that no competent trails designer and few incompetent ones would even consider the trail location along State Highway 75 proposed by Mr. David Boren in the June 14 article in the Idaho Statesman.

In 2005, the Sawtooth National Recreation Area purchased a trail easement across private land now owned by Mr. Boren in the location determined to provide the best recreation opportunity, emphasizing the world-class views of the Sawtooths and ease of trail construction. The trail on the easement is vastly preferable for recreationists who can enjoy the views of the Sawtooths for the entire length of this section of the trail rather than just a short portion of the Boren proposal.

The recreation opportunity provided by the highway trail would not even resemble a desirable experience, and construction of a trail on the extremely steep loose slopes above the highway is impractical in the extreme. The problems with the highway trail, for both construction and experiential reasons are too numerous to mention in the space I have here, but I would eagerly walk both routes with anyone who would like to discuss them.

As to the easement trail’s effects on sandhill crane nesting, the bench is not nesting habitat. Sandhill cranes prefer to nest in riparian areas, not open sagebrush areas. And while elk do use the bench, they are active in the early morning and late evening when use of the trail would be minimal.

The idea that Mr. Boren is concerned about the view of the Sawtooths is a bit confusing, considering that he is building a monster house directly front and center of that view. The few people who get married at the Sawtooth Meditation Chapel and would see the trail, as pointed out by Mr. Boren, pales in comparison to the hundreds of thousands who will have their view marred by his mansion. And I will point out that the land in the foreground of the chapel slopes away from the building and recedes from view quite quickly. And if Mr. Boren does really care about the view, how hard did he try to convince his brother to not build his own mansion, again, front and center of the view of the Sawtooths?

Mr. Boren’s excitement for the view of the Sawtooths that he felt as a child is exactly why the Forest Service is building the trail on the easement, not along the highway. I believe in the power of landscape to inspire people. To spend time immersed in awe can be transformative. I experienced it and over the course of my career in the Sawtooths I had contact with many many others who did, as well. That opportunity for awe is ever-present on the easement trail and is woefully absent from the highway trail.

There is wealth in this landscape. Not wealth that can be measured in dollars and cents, but wealth that fills people’s souls and moves them to greater heights. Science increasingly documents this, and the easement trail provides it; the highway trail decidedly does not. The American people paid for the right to build this trail where it provides the most benefit. Let’s not allow the wealth of “a Boise tech company success story” to deny them that.

Ed Cannady retired last year after working for the U.S. Forest Service for 30 years, many of them as backcountry manager for the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.
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