Another Reason WC Loathes Dirt Bikes


WC has been complaining about dirt bikes for years, especially dirt bikes tearing through the wilderness. However much fun it may be for the folks riding the dirty, noisy and destructive machines, it is a use that precludes pretty much any other use. With noise levels at or above 100dB, they scare away any wildlife. The noise can be intolerable for anyone near by. A couple of years ago, WC abandoned Seven Devils Campground and an attempt to find Dusky Grouse because dirt bikers were racing each other around the campground loop.

And they chew up the scenery, too.

The Idaho Batholith is an immense outcropping of granodiorite that’s at the heart of the State of Idaho. It’s surface area is about 9,700 square miles. Not much of it is easily accessible and not much of the rock itself is exposed. But Lick Creek Road, just outside of McCall, cuts through the heart of it, with immense outcrops. It’s spectacular country.

Much of that granodiorite is covered in lichens, that odd symbiont of fungus and algae (sometimes cyanobacteria) that grows on rocks and old trees. Lichen is tough – it has to be to grow on bare rock –– but it is fragile, too. And dirt bikes are doing mortal damage to the lichens and mosses on the exposed rock adjoining Lick Creek Road.

At an altitude of 5,000-6,000 feet, lichens grow at the rate of half a millimeter a year. Call it 1/64th of an inch. Painfully slowly. But it only takes a fraction of a second for a dirt bike tire to obliterate a six-inch wide track and 350 years or so of lichen growth.

Healthy lichens on the exposed rock look like this.

At least 4-5 different species of lichen grow on the exposed batholith along Lick Creek Road

At least 4-5 different species of lichen grow on the exposed batholith along Lick Creek Road

Lichens that have been subjected to dirt bike traffic look like this.

Dirt bike tracks on lichen-encrusted rock along Lick Creek Road

Dirt bike tracks on lichen-encrusted rock along Lick Creek Road

Where the dirt bike traffic is concentrated, the lichens are completely worn off, leaving only bare rock.

Lichens completely stripped off a main track to the top of the outcropping

Lichens completely stripped off a main track to the top of the outcropping

WC is certain that it’s a lot of fun to ride 40 miles an hour up the rock, turning sharp corners and flying down the slopes. But you know, the damage done is going to take centuries to recover. The benefits of lichens – slowing run-off, consuming greenhouse gases, creating soils out of rock – are all lost where dirt bikers come to play. Not to mention some pretty cool scenic values, too.

Still more ripped up lichen from dirt bikers

Still more ripped up lichen from dirt bikers

These particular lands are Idaho Endowment Lands, owned and managed by the State of Idaho. “Endowment lands” are lands given to Idaho by the federal government when Idaho became a state back in 1890. Idaho sees it mission for those lands as being “to professionally and prudently manage Idaho’s endowment assets to maximize long-term financial returns.”

It’s hard to imagine what batholith mountainsides can be used for anything that makes money. But scenic value does have money, and rock slopes trashed by dirt bikers are a lot less scenic. A lot less valuable.

The State of Idaho has a history of being a pretty lousy landowner. This doesn’t help.

*Credit for the idea for this blog post goes to WC’s brother-in-law. Who may detest dirt bikes even more than WC does.

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