On July 30, six hikers from Missoula were trekking along the Montana/Idaho border through the Clearwater National Forest when an off-road motorcyclist allegedly assaulted them.
According to a report filed with the Clearwater County (Idaho) Sheriff’s Department and the Clearwater National Forest, one of the hikers spotted three dirt bikes on a trail closed to motorized traffic. Bob Clark, a conservation organizer with the Montana Chapter of the Sierra Club (the group that sponsored the outing), says he took out his digital camera and began documenting the illegal activity.
“I put my camera to my eye and the lead motorcycle immediately started his engine and raced straight toward me,” Clark stated in the complaint. “He lifted the front wheel off the ground in a ‘wheelie’ manner…what I remember from that two seconds was the front tire coming at my head and putting up my right arm to deflect the impact.”
Clark captured a blurry shot of the upright blue-and-red dirt bike just before the cycle struck him. When Clark got up, the rider, who apparently wiped out, was on top of one of the other hikers in the party and the two men were “engaged in an altercation.”
“There was a brief exchange of words as the rider got on his bike, started it and left down the trail with the two other bikers behind him,” Clark alleges.
Neither hiker was seriously injured, but Clark says he wants to press assault charges against the riders if they’re ever caught.
Officials with the Clearwater County Sheriff’s office did not return repeated requests for information about the incident. John Preston, Region 1 patrol captain for the southwest zone, says if the Forest Service receives information that could identify the riders, the offenders could face fines ranging from $75 to $5,000 and up to six months in jail.
The Sierra Club routinely plans field-monitoring trips to document illegal activities on public lands, but Clark says this outing was supposed to be purely recreational.
“We were on a hiking trip…to get people connected to this beautiful piece of public land,” says Clark. “This was not a monitoring trip by any means.”