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Idaho officials close popular recreation area due to trash

The 40-acre area 4 miles east of the small town of Rockland will close Wednesday due to visitors leaving behind trash and human waste.
Credit: Idaho Department of Lands Facebook

BOISE, Idaho — A popular state-owned recreation area in southeastern Idaho will close to camping and utility terrain vehicles due to visitors leaving behind trash and human waste, state officials said Tuesday.

Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) officials also said UTV drivers have been going off trails and damaging the area, leaving it susceptible to erosion.

Department officials said the 40-acre (16-hectare) area 4 miles (6 kilometers) east of the small town of Rockland will close Wednesday to those activities.

The department said the area will remain open for walk-in use unless visitors continue to leave behind trash and human waste.

"Unfortunately, there's a few bad apples that tend to ruin things for everyone. They go out in the name of having fun, but they'll leave trash and waste and destroy the resources. And that's a real issue for us. Predominantly because we use this land to generate revenue for beneficiaries, mainly our public schools," said Scott Phillips, Policy and Communications Chief for IDL.

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IDL manages about 3,900 square miles of state-owned land that generates money mainly for public schools. Idaho's 2.5 million acres of Endowment Land earned more than $54 million or public schools last year, according to the IDL.

So it's very important that we maintain the quality of this land. And while the land board has made a policy decision to keep the land open for public recreation, we need citizens to do their part to help us by protecting preserving the land, preserving its revenue generating potential," Phillips said.

The department said abusive behavior at the southeastern Idaho site diminished its ability to produce revenue for public schools.

The Idaho Constitution requires that state officials manage the land to maximize revenue over the long term. Spending money to clean up and repair damage at the site reduced the amount of money going to public schools.

Officials last year launched an educational campaign to let visitors know the area was at risk of closing if the ongoing problems continued.

Land managers also warn about upcoming fire season dangers as temperatures are expected to reach summer levels in the next few weeks. Being smart while enjoying Idaho outdoors is crucial, keep a close eye on campfires and other open flames while camping. When driving through Idaho, make sure trailer-chains are secured and not dragging on the road. One spark is all it takes for a major issue.

IDL reports that 62% of fires on IDL land is caused by humans. Top four causes: Equipment & vehicles, campfires, debris burning, and arson. 

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