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Owyhee County officials remind public about trail etiquette

Recreationists may be eager to get outside and enjoy the outdoors, but Owyhee County officials say it is crucial that they respect the land while doing so.

MURPHY, Idaho — Owyhee County Commissioners are urging outdoor recreationists to show respect for the roads, trails and other users in the area.

Recreationists may be eager to get outside and enjoy the outdoors as the weather gets warmer, but Owyhee County officials say it is crucial that they respect the land while doing so.

County officials say to stay off muddy trails and roads, and practice proper etiquette by staying on designated trails and following the rules set by Bureau of Land Management travel management plans.

"When Ridge to Rivers tells people to stay off muddy trails in the Boise Foothills, people often come out here in the Owyhee Front and look for trails and roads to ride as an alternative," an Owyhee County Commissioner and rancher, Jerry Hoagland, said. "But it's just as important to avoid tearing up the trails and the land in Owyhee County as it is anywhere else."

Officials say it is important to research ahead of time to know where to go and which trails are open to the public.

"We expect outdoor recreationists to treat the land and other trail users with respect when they're out here in Owyhee County," Hoagland said. "It's really important that people do their homework before they come here to know where it's appropriate for them to recreate and do it responsibly."

Owyhee County is made up of 4.9 million acres of public lands which include canyons, high plateaus, and lava features to name a few.

Key issues that Owyhee County Commissioners are concerned about regarding outdoor recreation in Owyhee County, include:

  • The need for mountain bikers to practice proper trail etiquette on non-motorized singletrack trails in the Wilson Creek area. Mountain bikers riding at high speed on the trails can spook horses and cause potential safety issues. The proper procedure is as follows: If mountain bikers encounter horseback riders on the trail, step off the trail, talk to the horseback riders so the horses know you're human, let the horseback riders pass by, and continue your ride.
  • Stay off muddy trails and roads (universal for all users). Mud-bogging and doing donuts on Owyhee County roads is not appropriate at any time. UTVs can travel on wider two-track roads, jeep trails and dirt roads. There are hundreds of miles of dirt roads open to UTVs, trucks and other vehicles after they have dried out. If you're leaving ruts and tracks in the roads, turn around and come back on another day when things are dry. 
  • Be prepared for breakdowns. Trails and roads are extremely remote in Owyhee County. Most have no cell service. Be sure to bring everything you need to cope with a flat tire or vehicle breakdown. Experienced users carry a GPS with SOS function or Satellite phone for contacting emergency services in the event of an accident or personal injury. 
  • When traveling on Owyhee County roads, all trail machines and vehicles should slow down and travel with caution when approaching blind corners. Traveling slowly in these areas could save lives and prevent accidents and injuries.
  • Know before you go, where you can go, what trails are open to particular uses, etc. BLM Travel Management Plans are in place for the popular Owyhee Front trailheads such as Hemingway Butte Off-highway Vehicle Area, Rabbit Creek ATV and motorcycle trails, Wilson Creek non-motorized trails and more. It's your responsibility to know the trail regulations and abide by them. 
  • Show respect for livestock. If you encounter cattle on trails or roads, slow down to walking speed, and proceed slowly to allow cattle to move off the trail. • Pack out your garbage. No garbage-pickup services are available in the remote backcountry. Bring extra garbage bags to ensure you can pack out all of your trash. 
  • If you are camping overnight, be sure to douse your campfire with water and make sure it's dead out before you leave. 
  • Open and close gates on BLM roads. The gates are there to keep cattle in grazing pastures. Open the gate, pass through and close the gate behind you. 
  • Plan your route in advance to make sure you travel on public roads. Observe No Trespassing signs. Many areas in Owyhee County are a mix of public and private lands. Trespassing on private land is against the law. 
  • Practice safe-shooting practices. Make sure you have a proper backstop when target shooting. Also, know what's beyond your backstop for safety reasons. Pick up spent shotgun shell casings and bullet casings and pack out.

For more information on responsible recreation habits, visit the Owyhee County website.

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