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City of Pocatello News

Posted on: May 5, 2021

Don’t Fail Our Trails: Illegal trail building has permanent consequences | 5/5/21

An illegal trail in the City Creek Management Area

A conglomerate of folks interested in the sustainable growth of the Pocatello trail system is coming together to remind everyone that it is illegal to build trails on public land without prior authorization.

Unfortunately, land management agencies are noticing a proliferation of illegal trail building, estimating 90 miles of illegal trails currently exist in the valley.


“We all love playing outside and the desire to find adventure so near to home is something most of us can relate to,” said Lance Clark, City of Pocatello Outdoor Recreation Manager. “The problem comes when a few individuals take their desire for adventure too far and create their permanent footprint on the landscape.”


Unauthorized trail construction can result in: 


  • Fragmentation of wildlife habitats, which can negatively impact wildlife survival, behavior, movement, and can increase the likelihood of human/wildlife conflicts when animals are disturbed by trail users
  • Disruption to sensitive plant ecosystems
  • Soil erosion or soil compaction, which reduces both trail quality and the ability for plants to grow
  • Negative effects on water quality or water flow
  • Slope stability concerns
  • Negative impacts for other resource users
  • Safety and liability concerns, due to improperly built or maintained trails and structures
  • The spread of invasive plants inadvertently introduced by hikers, bikers, horse riders, and other trail users
  • Less money and time to maintain and create sustainable trails


“Sometimes the ramifications of building an unapproved trail aren’t obvious in the beginning,” said Jennifer Jackson, Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game Regional Communication Manager. “Dense trail networks and redundant trails create habitat fragmentation and increase human presence. This often results in increased disturbance to wildlife, which is especially problematic during winter months when animals need to conserve their energy and during the spring/summer months when animals are caring for young. When disturbance occurs in fragmented habitats, wildlife is often forced to retreat to areas which may be less ideal for survival.”


Government agencies including the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, Bannock County, City of Pocatello, City of Chubbuck, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Idaho Department of Lands, local recreation groups, and a host of volunteers work cooperatively to develop and maintain authorized trails to minimize negative impacts to the land and maximize the recreational experience. Illegal trail building has major consequences on the environment and severely impacts these groups’ ability to build and maintain legitimate sustainable trails.



What can you do: 


  • Make sure the trail you are riding on is legal. Check the sign kiosks and the trail system maps before heading out. 
  • Report illegal trails or suspicious activity. Members of the public are encouraged to email if they see anything that doesn’t feel right.
  • Provide your trail ideas to the appropriate agency. Do you have an idea for a new trail? Great! Don’t go rogue, reach out to the City of Pocatello, Bureau of Land Management or U.S. Forest Service so they can begin the collaborative process of working with community stakeholders to improve the existing trail system. 
  • Find out when legal trail building events are occurring in your area and volunteer your time to help. 


We can’t fail our trails and success starts with you! 


Quick Facts:


  • The community of Pocatello supports over 535 miles of legal trails within the Portneuf Valley.
  • Recreational activity is recognized as an important economic value to local communities.
  • The Sterling Justice Trail, constructed in 2012, represents the gold standard of trail collaboration, with community members and land management agencies coming together to connect Cusick Creek and Gibson Jack. 
  • In 2020, the BLM, USFS and the City of Pocatello worked together to provide public river access to the Portneuf River Trail. A map of the river water trail is available online at

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