Wyoming to spend $9.7M to protect pronghorn

Finally, it looks like a real effort to keep antelope bottlenecks west of Pinedale from closing-

Over the years, we have written about the Trapper’s Point pronghorn migration bottleneck a number of times.  There has been growing awareness that the thousands-of-year-old antelope migration from the Wyoming high desert over the Gros Ventre each year, down into Jackson Hole could easily be severed by increasing development.

I had heard something was being done.  This summer I visited Trappers Point, walked all around, took photos, but saw no changes to the situation had been made. Today the Jackson Hole News and Guide has some good news.  There will be an expansive and expensive overpass built at Trappers Point and another at a dangerous highway crossing about 5 miles to the NW, north of Daniel Junction.

Of course, these overpasses will benefit other kinds of wildlife hit on the highways in this area of increasing traffic and development from the gas fields and subdivisions.

State to spend $9.7M to protect pronghorn: Plan would build fences, highway underpasses and overpasses in Sublette County (WY). By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole News and Guide.

Roadkill Problem on America’s Longest Main Street Studied

A lot of large wildlife is killed on U.S. 20 in Island Park, Idaho — a very long, but narrow town-

Island Park, Idaho boasts the longest main street in America. This simply means it is a small population, incorporated community hugging a federal highway for a long way through wildlife rich forest. A lot of folks on this blog are familiar with Island Park.

You don’t really appear to be in town in most of the drive. There’s just scattered sprawl amidst the trees, and few places of more development, e.g., “Last Chance.”  The highway is straight and the speed limit high,  and big animals pop out of the dense  lodgepole pine onto this heavily travelled route.

I drove through just two weeks ago. I see a major pine cutting operation is currently underway to remove the new, thick pine growth back to about 100 yards from the highway.

A detailed study of the road kill is also going on, as this article describes. Roadkill Problem on America’s Longest Main Street Studied. Discovery News.

Wildlife use of Highway 93 crossing tunnels increases

Wildlife teach their young about tunnels under U.S. 93 on the Flathead Reservation-

Cameras show wildlife use Highway 93 North overpass and tunnel. By Vince Devlin. Missoulian

Not the first time we have posted a story on these tunnels, but their use keeps growing.

Wildlife underpass to be built on Idaho 21 this summer

This is an area where many wildlife collisions occur each spring and fall.

Good news for deer and elk which cross the highway to and from winter range. I’ve had a few close calls here myself.

Wildlife underpass to be built on Idaho 21 this summer.
Idaho Statesman.

Stimulus funds for Wyoming wildlife underpasses denied by feds

Although proven to work, WY high value wildlife crossing projects failed to get funding-

Ambitious Wyo big game underpass plan takes hit. By Jeff Gearino. Casper Star Tribune Southwest Wyoming bureau

It is especially sad to see pronghorn crossing projects at Trapper’s Point near Pinedale denied. This bottleneck is a huge threat to the semi-annual, thousands-of-year-old trek of pronghorn to Jackson Hole and the Tetons from the Red Desert and back.

Udall, Salazar propose big fines for “mudbogging” on public land

Finally an effort to penalize mudbogging as a major crime-

Udall, Salazar propose big fines for big damage on federal lands. By Howard Pankratz. The Denver Post

Montana: Sled grooming to end in West Pioneers

Action was meant to protect wolverine and the wilderness quality of this wilderness study area-

The Forest Service has settled a lawsuit by Wildlands CPR of Missoula and Friends of the Bitterroot regarding the terms of the Montana Wilderness Study area act of 1977 regarding allowed uses of one of the study areas in the Act. Snowmobile grooming will end. Snowmobiles are still permitted.

Story in the Montana Standard. Sled grooming to end in West Pioneers. By Nick Gevock.

Idaho Senators try to pressure Tester to remove an area from his “wilderness bill”

Idaho snowmobile interests “own” the Idaho side of the Centennial Mountains, yet still want Mt. Jefferson on the Montana side removed from bill-

Conflicting Interests. Written by Mark Menlove. Backcountry Magazine.

I see that conservation groups who support Senator Tester’s  “Forest Jobs and Recreation Act (FJRA)” (a.k.a. “wilderness bill”) are waging a campaign to keep the area in the bill. The Idaho-based Blue Ribbon Coalition is using the Idaho senators to try to get Tester and Baucus to fold.

Pocatello: George Wuerthner presentations on “Thrillcraft”. Nov. 16-17

George Wuerthner, ecologist, writer, photographer, will be the featured symposium presenter in Pocatello, Idaho-

This will be of interest to SE Idaho outdoor enthusiasts.

Here is the story on the Nov. 16 presentation from the Idaho State Journal. Public lands v. Private Recreation. By Jimmy Hancock. Idaho State Journal. The headline is misleading because Wutherner clearly had no problem with recreation in general, just what he called “thrillcraft.”

Read the rest of this entry »

New Web site launched to track wildlife along Interstate 70 in Colorado

Wildlife is the third most common reason for crashes on I-70-

Story 1. New Web site launched to track wildlife along Interstate 70. Sky Hi Daily News.
Story 2. Colorado officials and advocates conserving wildlife by stopping roadkill. By Caroline Griesel. Examiner

How many readers have hit large animals? Maybe I should ask how many haven’t?

The confessions of an off-road-vehicle outlaw

He had a change of heart when other off-roaders ruined his elk hunt-

The confessions of an off-road-vehicle outlaw. By Garrett Veneklasen. Op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune. Writers on the Range.

Feds To Consider Tortoise for Endangered Species Act Listing

Groups Applaud Finding for Rapidly Declining Desert Icon

Desert Tortoise - photo: USFWS

Desert Tortoise - photo: USFWS

Desert tortoise advocates have been waiting for this good news for a very long time.  Should a listing take place, many human intrusions into the desert tortoise’s southwest desert habitat, including livestock grazing and excessive development, will be largely halted.  The benefit of such will be enjoyed by a great number of desert wildlife species.

Feds to consider protections for desert tortoiseAP

Wildlife officials said the environmentalists’ petition presented substantial information that might warrant listing the species as threatened or endangered. Threats include urban sprawl, off-road vehicle use and livestock grazing. The tortoises’ range includes 8.4 million acres of federal public land in Arizona. Livestock grazing is permitted on more than half that land.

The News Release :

Arizona—Aug 28. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) gave the green light today on a petition submitted by WildEarth Guardians and Western Watersheds Project requesting protection (listing) for the Sonoran desert tortoise under the Endangered Species Act. The finding means that the Service will now conduct a full review to determine if the tortoise warrants being placed on the list of threatened and endangered species.

Read the rest of this entry »

WDOT to build 5-lane highway in winter elk range south of Jackson, WY

Teton County Commission wanted smaller improvements on the 7-mile stretch-

WYDOT: 5 lanes in elk range. Agency rejects commissioners’ plea for smaller highway upgrade from South Park Loop to Horse Creek. By Cara Froedge, Jackson Hole News and Guide.

Wildlife overpass on U.S. 93 Montana latest in series of wildlife crossings

Tribes’ insistence has created most wildlife friendly highway in Montana-

This is the crowning achievement of the reconstruction of US93 through a wildlife rich area in NW Montana. There will be 42 crossings. They are all large culverts or bridges except for this one big overpass.  Recent motion-sensing camera photos show use of the underpasses by many kinds of wildlife.

Story in the Missoulian. Wildlife to Roam Free. By Kim Briggeman.

Is 55 mph too fast on the Jackson Hole Highway?

Officials think too many large animals are being hit. Speeding may not be the primary cause-

Speed kills? By Whitney Royster. Casper Star Tribune.

Snowmobile groups sue over enlarged designation of lynx habitat

Snowmobile tracks aid the survival of predatory competitors of lynx in deep snow-

Snowmobile groups sue to set aside the improved designation of lynx habitat. By Ben Neary. Seattle Post-Intelligencer. AP

They are saying that more environmental analysis is needed. Some conservation groups are suing too, saying not enough habitat was set aside.

It is nearly a foregone conclusion that Federal Judge Clarence Brimmer of Wyoming will rule in favor of the snowmobilers.

Bush BLM’s environmental legacy on trial; Will Salazar listen ?

Scope of litigation - map © Advocates for the West & Conservation Geography

Scope of litigation - map © Advocates for the West & Conservation Geography - click to view enlarged map

Judge B Lynne Winmill ruled in favor of Western Watersheds Project ordering that the group’s comprehensive challenge of over 16 Resource Management Plans, directing management of over 30 million acres, can be litigated in his single court.

Resource Management Plans (RMPs) guide management of livestock grazing, off road vehicles, energy development, and other potentially environmentally harmful administered uses of public land.

WWP argues that Bush BLM’s collective Resource Management Plans constitute a systemic effort to undermine fundamental environmental laws of the United States thereby threatening many imperiled species using the example of mismanagement and failure to consider impact to sage grouse – an imperiled landscape indicator species (‘canary in the coal-mine’ of sage-steppe habitat) across millions of acres.
Read the rest of this entry »

New vehicle plan for Bridger-Teton National Forest goes in effect May 1

The new travel plan for this high profile national forest is effective May 1-

Developing a national forest travel plan nowadays is fraught with controversy and often lawsuits, but the Bridger-Teton seems to have pretty wide acceptance, relatively speaking. Years in the making, it goes into effect on May. 1.

ATV, motorbike rules to go into effect soon. Plan will limit off-highway vehicle access for those hunting antlers in Gros Ventre River drainage this spring, Bridger-Teton official says. By Cory Hatch. Jackson Hole News and Guide.

Earlier on this blog. Jan. 28, 2009. Bridger-Teton National Forest produces its long-awaited travel plan
Still earlier. Jan. 15, 2007. Bridger-Teton National Forest has draft travel plan

Warning. Bison migration across US 191 north of West Yellowstone!

Sudden appearance of bison on highway have resulted in numerous bison deaths-

Although conditions for the bison that leave west side of Yellowstone Park in the winter, and especially the spring, have been much better in 2009, the sudden migration of buffalo across busy U.S. 191 has resulted in at least 15 dead bison this week. Fortunately, human injury has been minor. The bison are heading for Horse Butte where they calve on its sunny south-facing slope.

The great danger is at night. That is when these wrecks have happened. Bison on the highway are all but invisible in the dark, and they generally don’t move when they see on-coming headlights. Unlike elk and deer, their eyes don’t glow in the headlights. They don’t have a light rump patch like elk.

The bison don’t just cross the highway. They eat the grass on the edges and linger because the warmer roadside is one of the first places grass sprouts in the spring. This year the snow is staying longer than usual due to wave after wave of storms with heavy wet snow.

When bison are on the road, or likely to be, the Buffalo Field Campaign deploys a number of volunteers to slow traffic down, warn them, etc. They have a number of pink neon signs that read “Buffalo Crossing.” They patrol day and night, although 24-hour-a-day coverage is not possible. Moreover, BFC has no official capacity, so they cannot haze the bison off the highway. The result can be frustration among motorists waiting for the bison to move off the highway. Read the rest of this entry »

Salazar is drilling home renewables’ new power

The great misfortune of “renewables” seems to be that wildlife habitat is expendable…

Salazar is drilling home renewables’ new power.By Michael Riley. The Denver Post

Bill proposes stiff fines for off-roading on closed lands

This is a turn of events regarding OHV’s and the minimal fines that have been applicable in Montana. Currently fines are roughly $50 per offense, this Bill proposes $500 and jail time.

Bill proposes stiff fines for off-roading on closed lands. By Kahrin Deines. Montana Standard.

Grizzlies using Banff NP wildlife crossing structures more each year

Five crossings by grizzlies in 1996 have grown to 177 last summer-

Grizzlies using highway crossings. By Cathy Ellis. Rocky Mountain Outlook. They clearly are working.

It would be nice if some of stimulus money here in the U.S. went into wildlife crossings. They are as shovel ready as other highway projects.

Don Simon Art: Unnaturalism

Don Simon Art: Unnaturalism. “Images of an evolving world” by artist Don Simon

This is an interesting perspective on the human affect on wildlife and wilderness. (Audio/Visual).

Webcams capture success of deer underpasses

Some good results on US 30 in Southwestern Wyoming-

Webcams show deer quickly using new underpasses– By Jeff Gearino. Casper Star Tribune. Southwest Wyoming bureau.

Over 800 deer have already used the underpasses. Other animals too.

In light of Judge’s ruling, a temporary plan is set for YNP snowmobiles this winter

Temporary snowmobile plan has a low limit on snowmobiles-

Plan issued for snowmobiles in Yellowstone. Temporary measure sets limits lower than plan rejected by judge. The Associated Press. LA Times.

Plan: 318 snowmobiles. Jackson Hole News and Guide. By Cory Hatch.

This came out very close to the opening of the season. The Park closed to wheeled vehicles this morning (Nov. 3).

Update (Nov.5):Plan for snowmobiles satisfies green groups. But temporary solution will mean less business. Bt Cory Hatch. Jackson Hole News and Guide.

Thrillcraft Video

A video detailing the damages of ORV use on America’s public lands following the general theme of George Wuerthner’s book Thrillcraft: The Threat of Motorized Recreation has been posted online: Read the rest of this entry »

Appeals court reopens long quieted Jarbidge road fight

Appeals court reopens long quieted Jarbidge road fight. Rocky Barker. Letters from the West. Idaho Statesman.

Significantly Mother Nature sent a huge boulder crashing down on road the other day. Hopefully that is a good omen for the future.

Copyright © Katie Fite

Posted in Forest Service, Motor vehicles wildlife, public lands, public lands management, Wildlife Habitat. Tags: . Comments Off on Appeals court reopens long quieted Jarbidge road fight

Underpasses for deer built on U.S. 30 northwest of Kemmerer, WY

The Wyoming Range’s deer herd is not doing well. A lot of deer are killed on the highway. This is an fairly ambitious effort to reduce highway mortality. I’ve had some close calls on U.S. 30, and I don’t drive it very often.

Taking the low road. By JEFF GEARINO. Southwest Wyoming bureau. Casper Star Tribune.

Judge Molloy limits late snowmobiling season in favor of Flathead grizzlies

Late season, high altitude snowmobiling has been a contentious issue for a long time on the Flathead National Forest. Here is a victory for bear conservationists.

Judge Molloy limits late snowmobiling season in favor of Flathead grizzlies. Daily InterLake. By Jim Mann

Study looks at central Idaho wildlife-vehicle collisions

This is a short stretch with a lot of commuting and tourist traffic. Story. AP

The study found that at least 134 collisions between vehicles and deer or elk occurred in 2007 on the 26-mile stretch from Ketchum south to the intersection of state Highway 75 and U.S. Highway 20.

Arizona starts building wildlife-friendly roads

State starts building wildlife-friendly roads. Sheep overpasses, elk collars: Call it road ecology. By Glen Creno. The Arizona Republic.

There have been quite a few similar stories in recent years. What I’d like to see is a study (other than Banff National Park where there have been a number) showing the magnitude of these improvements overall and the degree of success.

Bush executive order to promote hunting might result in stricter rules on off-road vehicle use

Project on I-90 has reduced wildlife slaughter near Bozeman Pass

For years, this is something I hoped they’d do. It seems to be a success and the cost has been amazingly low.

Project prevents wildlife casualties. By Christine Uthoff. Bozeman Chronicle City Editor

Posted in Motor vehicles wildlife, Wildlife Habitat. Tags: . Comments Off on Project on I-90 has reduced wildlife slaughter near Bozeman Pass

Blaine County ORV enthusiasts blame wolves to prevent BLM closures in wintering habitat

Off-road ‘enthusiasts’ (snowmobiles) expressed their disdain for a “Blaine County Cooperative Conservation Recreation and Travel Plan” which would close BLM and state big game wintering habitat to both motorized and non-motorized recreationists on either side of the Wood River Valley “only when harsh winter conditions warrant.”

Motorized users express outrage over BLM travel plan
Snowmobiles don’t harm wintering big game, they claim :

On Wednesday, many of these speakers said the only negative impact on wintering deer and elk is the area’s growing gray wolf population. They claimed snowmobiles do not harm deer or elk in any way.

This ‘wolves as whipping-boy’ phenomenon is growing.

I’ve got extended family in West Yellowstone that compelled me to write this personal anecdotal account of snowmobiles’ general affect on me last year. Whatever a person’s take on snowmachines is, to say that they don’t disturb wildlife is … less than honest …

Climate change threatens wolverines. Glacier NP is a refuge

As snow depth diminishes, the deep snows of the mountains become more crucial for wolverines because they need the snow in the  high bowls for denning.

With the coming of high powered snowmobiles much of this country has already been damaged. A five-year study of Glacier NP, where these machines are not allowed shows that its deep winters snows are a critical remnant of denning habitat.

Story in the Great Falls Tribune. By Eric Newhouse.

Wood River Valley: Wolf howls and water woes. The state of the environment in 2007

The Wood River Valley is a long, many-forked drainage that rises in southern central Idaho mountains and flows southward across the Snake River Plain into the Snake River.

It drains a large area of very scenic backcountry, mountainous frontcountry, and contains the towns of Hailey, Ketchum, Bellevue and Sun Valley, giving the area a much higher average level of wealth than the rest of Idaho.

For environmental, economic and political reasons, it is a part of the state that gets more than average attention.

This article is an overview of “environmental” events there during 2007. Wolf howls and water woes. The state of the environment in 2007. By Jason Kauffman. Idaho Mountain Express.

The biggest story, however, was the Castle Rock forest fire, which threatened Hailey and Ketchum and had a perimeter of about 50,000 acres. Castle Rock Fire brought valley together. Lightning-sparked blaze burned for 20 days near Ketchum. By Jason Kauffman, Idaho Mountain Express.

At the north end of the Valley begins the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, a large parcel of public land, managed by the U.S. Forest Service and set aside by Act of Congress in 1972 primarily for use as recreation and scenery.

Photo of Big Wood River near the southern boundary of the SNRA.

Posted in Fish, Idaho wolves, Motor vehicles wildlife, water issues, Wildfires, Wolves. Tags: , , , . Comments Off on Wood River Valley: Wolf howls and water woes. The state of the environment in 2007

[Utah] Off-road activist says he’s tossed in the towel

Off-road activist [Huck] says he’s tossed in the towel. He declares, after ruling, he’ll no longer fight wilderness designations. By Patty Henetz. (link expired) The Salt Lake Tribune. Note the SLT link died, but a found an active link at an off-road activist site.

“It’s like battling the Borg: Resistance is futile,” Huck said during a phone call from Blue Notch, a desert region near Lake Powell’s Hite Marina where he was dirt-biking with his family. “We might as well just designate all of Utah wilderness now and get it over with.”

Pickup truck kills huge grizzly bear near Lincoln, Mountana

A 700 pound grizzly (huge for the interior Rocky Mountains) was hit and killed by a pickup truck on Highway 200 not far from Lincoln, Montana.

This is in the NCDE grizzly recovery area, not the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.

Story: Pickup truck kills 700-pound griz near Lincoln. By John Cramer. Missoulian

– – – – –

Update. Nov. 6. Grizzly Killed by Pickup: The Photos. New West. By Matthew Frank.

Update. Dec. 12. Folks in Montana have tug-of-war over display of giant grizzly. By Kark Puckett. Great Falls Tribune. It turns out the bear was not 700 pounds, but well over 800 pounds!

Update. Dec. 14. The big griz will be mounted and displayed in the Lincoln Ranger District Office (US Forest Service). By Larry Kline. Helena Independent Record.

Note: this is one of the most visited posts on the blog. There is a lot of misinformation about where this bear was killed. It was near Lincoln, Montana. That’s north of Helena. If you are old enough, you might remember the “unibomber” lived near Lincoln. The area has long been known as grizzly bear country.

BLM Sees Worsening Off-Road Crisis (Marauding bands of off-roaders now threaten the public)

BLM Sees Worsening Off-Road Crisis Risking Visitor Safety. Ranger Ordered to Ignore Emergency in “Near Riot” at Utah’s Little Sahara. News Release form P.E.E.R.

“Over last Easter Weekend at Little Sahara,  37 injuries, including a state Highway Patrol officer, and some 300 arrests and citations were tallied. More than 50 officers from state, federal and local agencies called to the scene tried unsuccessfully to cope with numerous sexual assaults and other attacks attributed to marauding bands of off-roaders.”

Rocky Barker’s blog: Rangers say renegade off roaders ride roughshod over public lands

“Off-road vehicle problems cannot simply be blamed on just a ‘few bad apples’– as industry apologists try to do. America needs stronger penalties to deter reckless off-roading,” Southwest PEER Director Daniel Patterson, an ecologist who formerly worked with BLM. [PEER] wants much tougher penalties for off-road violations, as well as law enforcement funding devoted to stemming the avalanche of problems occasioned by reckless off-roading . . . from Barker’s Blog on PEER’s recent report on the destruction and lawlessness of off-road vehicle drivers on our public lands. Rest of Barker’s blog.

PEER is Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Their news release.

When I see a 4 x 4 or an ATV come off the public lands completely covered in mud, I feel sort of the same as when I see someone’s pet dog come out of a pasture with blood all over its face. When I see the mud-caked vehicle I wish gasoline was $10 a gallon.

I think it is true that the off-road problem is not just the “lawless few.” Most off-roaders, at least some of the time, blatantly violate the rules and harm the outdoors for wildife and other people. ”

Television ads for these vehicles blatantly portray unacceptable use, such as splashing through creeks, roaring through the mud, and climbing mountains where there is no road or trail.

Reining in reckless off-roading. Editorial

This  appeared in the Idaho Falls, Idaho Post Register. “Rangers for Responsible Recreation” wants to Rein in Reckless off-roading.

Posted in Motor vehicles wildlife. Comments Off on Reining in reckless off-roading. Editorial

Video on Wildlife and the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff National Park

CPAWS has just made a video on wildlife and the trans-Canada Highway that runs through part of Banff National Park. Significant expenditures have been made to build fencing and wildlife overpasses and underpasses.

These measures work, but they have to be designed correctly, put in the right place, and one kind of crossing does not fit all species.

In sum, I think they concluded that these measures have dramatically reduced wildlife mortality on the highway, but they have not increased, and perhaps have even decreased, the amount to wildlife that gets over the highway.

post 1299

Posted in Motor vehicles wildlife, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Video on Wildlife and the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff National Park

Good News! Judge Rejects Utah Counties’ Road Claims in National Monument

Despite a potential setback on wolves, there is good news for those who don’t want to see totally unregulated use of vehicles in the Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument.

Judge Rejects Utah Counties’ Road Claims in National Monument. ENS

Editorial. Salt Lake Tribune. One road at a time: Ruling should help protect public lands from ATVs. Tribune Editorial

Burgeoning Ravalli County [Montana] grapples with outlaw ATV riders

Burgeoning Ravalli County grapples with outlaw ATV riders. By Perry Backus in the The Missoulian.

Here is a recent opinion piece on the growing menace of ATV scofflaws in western Montana. I linked to it several days ago. Here it is again.

post 1247

Irresponsible ATV riders hurt everyone – Guest column in Missoulian.

Off-road vehicle interest groups say “it’s just a few bad apples.” So why don’t they support measures to cull these spoilers?

Opinion by Joe Hundley in the Missoulian. “[Hundley] is an avid hunter and horseback rider and a member of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and life member of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Ravalli Fish & Wildlife Association. He lives near Darby.”

Posted in Motor vehicles wildlife, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Irresponsible ATV riders hurt everyone – Guest column in Missoulian.

Colorado’s Rep. Udall to sponsor amendment to kill abusive use of RS 2477 law.

RS 2477 is remnant of the mining law of 1866, which was repealed in 1976 when the Federal Land Policy and Management Act was passed. The intent of rs2477 was to grant access to miners on the public domain way back when, and its purpose had long expired.

Nevertheless, some crafty lawyers with help from the first Bush Administration seized on it as a method for claiming that any old track or even sled trail on public lands was in fact “a highway,” and could be turned into an ATV runway or even a paved highway by a county contrary on any other law. Some even want to use it to attack private property rights to assert RS 2477 claims exist on private property where a way has been abandoned.

Some rural counties and lawless off-road groups have used it as a cudgel to attack proposed wilderness areas, national monuments and even national parks. The second Bush administration has been only too happy to accommodate them.

Now Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colorado is sponsoring a measure to the Dept. of Interior’s appropriations that would forbid the BLM from spending money to validate rs2477 claims by counties or states. Putting it in the budget largely protects it from filibuster, thus only a majority of the Senate needs to approve it rather than the 60 votes needed to kill the filibuster.

Here is the story in the Denver Post. Udall wants BLM not to surrender roads to locals. By Thomas Burr (originally from the Salt Lake Tribune). I should note that RS 2477 abuses have been most common in Utah.

More mudbogging photos

Mike Beagle sent these photos of the results of mudbogging trucks in the Greentops of SW Oregon.


“The ravine that my son is in was created winter of ’05-’06 as a result of the damage. It did not exist prior. All of this drains into Kanutchan Creek, a seasonal but important summer steelhead spawning trib in the upper Rogue basin.” Mike Beagle

This is post 1213 

Penalize mud-boggers who rip up the land

This is a guest opinion from Writers on the Range published inHeadwaters News. Penalize mud-boggers who rip up the land. By Mike Beagle.
June 13, 2007.

The essence of the argument is that because law enforcement is sporadic in the hinterlands, these increasingly and deliberately destructive people need to be dealt with harshly in order to put an end to this.

The writer’s perception is that they are generally young men who deliberately destroy the land and waters of the backcountry. My perception is that they usually get a bit drunk too.

Because they are often men who can barely afford their huge tricked up pickups, confiscation would probably be a huge deterrent.

Boulders erected on the Caribou National Forest (SE Idaho) to prevent further mud-bogging. Photo by Ralph Maughan. May 2007

Idaho shooters target National Guard

This is amazing, and check out the quote from the rancher.

Idaho shooters target National Guard. By John Miller. AP

Return of the Bubbleheads

This blog about the approval of a new Yellowstone snowmobile plan. It is in the Western Watersheds blog.

Although there is the perception of strong support for snowmobiles in West Yellowstone, there is actually less than meets the eye. Yes, it provides a lot of winter employment, but many people perceive their presence might be preventing quieter winter visits; and in fact, the town is diversifying. Hopefully, this new plan will not really ramp up the number snowmobiles again and kill off the new initiatives people are undertaking in West Yellowstone.

Posted in Motor vehicles wildlife, national parks. Comments Off on Return of the Bubbleheads

There is yet another Yellowstone snowmobile rule “finalized,” except that the issue will continue

Park winter divide persists

By Whitney Royster. Casper Star-Tribune environmental reporter Wednesday, March 28, 2007

JACKSON — Yellowstone National Park officials released the fourth, and perhaps not the last, chapter in the debate surrounding snowmobiles in the park Tuesday.

The National Park Service proposal would continue to allow use of snowmobiles in the park, but with significant restrictions — leaving both conservation and recreation interests dissatisfied.

All sides, those for more liberal access to Yellowstone via snowmobile and those in favor of eliminating the use, stopped short of saying they’ll go to court to make their cases. They noted the draft plan was still in the development stage, open for public comment through May 31.

But it was clear that there continues to be little middle ground on the issue.

Posted in Motor vehicles wildlife, national parks, public lands. Comments Off on There is yet another Yellowstone snowmobile rule “finalized,” except that the issue will continue

The 112 appeals of the Gallatin National Forest travel plan are rejected by Forest Service

I’ve never heard of so many appeals of a local Forest Service decision, but the travel plans are becoming increasing controversial because of conflicting methods of travel on public lands.

Story in the Bozeman Chronicle. By Scott McMillion Chronicle Staff Writer

madsonriv2below-hebgan.jpg The Madison River on the Gallatin National Forest about 15 miles west of Yellowstone Park.

The Gallatin is one of nation’s top recreational national forests and conflict between people using various modes of transportation is high. Photo copyright Ralph Maughan

Blue Ribbon Coalition Action Alert. Bridger-Teton NF and Boise NF

The Blue Ribbon Coalition is not one of my favorite groups because of their uncompromising stance in favor of recreational motor vehicles. They also try to get me fired every so often.

I do get their alerts to their members, however. Here is one very relevant to those who care about the Bridger-Teton National Forest, and another for the Boise National Forest. Do as they say, or more likely do just the opposite. Ralph Maughan

– – – – –

Dear BRC Action Alert Subscriber,

Attention Western Wyoming and Eastern Idaho recreationists!

The Bridger-Teton National Forest is working on their new travel plan and as part of that process they will be hosting three OHV Workshops asking the public to assist with development of alternatives to the current Proposal for a Designated Motorized Road and Trail system. A schedule of these meetings is listed below. The proposed system is available for public review on the forest’s website at http://www.fs.fed.us/r4/btnf/projects/travelrevision/proposal/proposal.shtml

The schedule and location of the OHV Workshops: Read the rest of this entry »

Flathead National Forest to crack down on scoflaw snowmobilers

Just weeks after a snowmobiler was almost killed by an avalanche in Jewel Basin in Montana’s Swan Range, closed to snowmobiles, the Forest Service wants stiff penalties for those riding illegally in Wilderness and other closed areas. The increasing number of rescues and fatalities of these illegal riders is both dangerous to rescuers and expensive.

Law-breaking snowmobilers face crackdown. Billings Gazette.

Earlier story about the incident in this blog.

Here is a current, March 18, related story. Flathead National Forest snowmobile use likely headed to courtroom. By Michael Jamison. Missoulian.

Posted in Motor vehicles wildlife, public lands management, wilderness roadless. Comments Off on Flathead National Forest to crack down on scoflaw snowmobilers

Too many ATVs in Spread Creek, WY area; scare elk

Spread Creek rises east of Jackson Hole and flow into the Park. It is terrible fishing because it was degraded by a dam to divert waters to Elk Ranch Reservoir for irrigating hayfields for CATTLE inside Grand Teton National Park.

The lower reaches of Spread Creek are lousy for fish, but the country around it is great elk country, moose, deer, bear and wolf too. The Bridger-Teton NF is supposed to have wildlife management as the number one multiple use for the area, but ATV crowds are pushing in.

This story is about Wyoming Game and Fish Department asking the US Forest Service to limit the Spread Creek area to reduce ATV density because they scare the elk on their summer range. The Forest Service sure seems to be proposing a lot of motorized access for a wildlife first area.

Of course, the Blue Ribbon (blue smoke) Coalition was there to speak up for the fat the lazy.

Story in the Jackson Hole News and Guide. State: ATVs scaring elk. By Cory Hatch

See also, Elk prefer people on foot. Study finds ATVs, bikes disturb them most. Jackson Hole News and Guide. By Corey Hatch.

Accident that Killed 21 Pronghorn Not All that Uncommon

Accident that Killed 21 Pronghorn Not All that Uncommon. Carnage Abounds on Western Wyoming Roads. New West. By Brian Maffly.

This article is an explication of the earlier story, 21 pronghorn die as they veer into oil services truck near Pinedale.

Posted in Motor vehicles wildlife, pronghorn, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Accident that Killed 21 Pronghorn Not All that Uncommon

Elk prefer people on foot. Study finds ATVs, bikes disturb them most.

Elk prefer people on foot. Study finds ATVs, bikes disturb them most. By Cory Hatch. Jackson Hole News and Guide.

21 pronghorn die as they veer into oil services truck near Pinedale.

21 Pronghorn Dead. Deadliest Roadkill Ever in Wyoming. By Brian Maffly. New West

Many have had the experience of pronghorn racing along your vehicle, sometimes even sprinting to pass the road in front of you. Something like that may have happened.

The tyranny of the motor minority

This editorial appeared in the Bozeman Chronicle.  The Gallatin National Forest has been working on a new Gallation forest travel plan for years now.  There are an incredible number of interests to satisfy, but the minority who seem to have lost use of their legs, but not their mouths, has bullied its way against the 90% or so who like to see some restraint.

The tyranny of the motor minority. From the Greater Yellowstone Coalition news page.

Posted in Motor vehicles wildlife, public lands, public lands management. Comments Off on The tyranny of the motor minority

Ski group pushes to limit snowmobiles on Togwotee

“A conservation group representing backcountry skiers says the time is ripe to limit snowmobiles in the Togwotee Pass area as officials rewrite the Bridger-Teton National Forest management plan.” From “Ski group pushes to limit snowmobiles on Togwotee [pass area]. Jackson Hole News and Guide. By Cory Hatch.

The Togwotee Pass area is a large area of forest and beautiful meadows NE of Jackson Hole, rising up to the Continental Divide. To its north is the designated Teton Wilderness Area, not to be confused with Grand Teton National Park. Summertime has shown a great environmental improvement because the cattle allotments have been bought out and the lush meadows with willow-sided streams provide much habitat for moose and elk, and great grizzly bear habitat too, but in the winter it has become a snowmobile raceway with the ever more powerful sleds racing 60 t0 80 mph across the meadow, and increasingly directly violating the Wilderness Act by entering the Teton Wilderness. Some get stuck there almost every year and have to be rescued.

This illegal entry into the Teton Wilderness has got to be harmful for hibernating bears, who tend to use the north-facing slopes where the snow lingers longest. Moose do use these areas in the winter, and Wyoming’s moose population is on the decline (no it’s not the wolves; the moose are undernourished). Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Motor vehicles wildlife, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Ski group pushes to limit snowmobiles on Togwotee

Bridger-Teton National Forest has draft travel plan

With powerful off-road vehicles able to rip and tear almost anywhere, the establishment of a national forest’s travel plan has become a critical matter, especially when it is a forest like the Bridger-Teton, contained some of the best scenery and wildlife in America. The travel plan for the “Teton” portion of the Bridger-Teton is moving along with on-line public comments due Feb. 5, 2007.

Forest Service web page showing the plan.

The Casper Star Tribune has an article on it today. Bridger-Teton sets Travel Plan. By Whitney Royster, Tribune environmental reporter Monday

I did post a story on this a couple months ago, when the travel plan was in what Forest Service calls “the scoping stage”.

Posted in Motor vehicles wildlife, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Bridger-Teton National Forest has draft travel plan

A convert to snowcoaches. A Critical Outfitter Now Embraces Yellowstone’s New Winter Tourism

For years noisy and dirty snowmobiles dominated winter tourism in Yellowstone, but now they are beginning to be displaced by a new generation of clean, quieter, and warm snowcoaches. The coaches also feature numerous options for stopping, and dropping off skier and snowshoers, stripping away one of the arguments in favor of snowmobiles — the freedom enjoyed by their users.

Over the years, the gradual decrease in snow too, which many attitribute to global warming, has given an advantage to snowcoaches which are better able to travel long expanses of bare pavement.
When changes like this come, there are some people who are more critical in the process than others. Apparently Randy Robertson of West Yellowstone is such a person.

Story from New West. By Randy Robertson. Guest Writer.

Posted in Motor vehicles wildlife, national parks, public lands. Comments Off on A convert to snowcoaches. A Critical Outfitter Now Embraces Yellowstone’s New Winter Tourism

Wyoming is trying to keep the East Entrance of YNP open to snowmobiles at huge taxpayer cost per rider

Recently I posted an article about the Park Service’s latest winter plan, and its proposal to stop maintaining snowmobile access through the high elevation East Entrance to the Park.

The East Entrance road crossess 20 avalanche paths, and the Park Service keeps it open by firing artillery shells to trigger the avalanches. Unexploded ordinace is scattered all over the nearby mountains, posing a grave danger to hikers and wildlife. One Park Service employee has lost his life working to keep entrance open for guess how many snowmobiles? Last winter the number was twelve snowmobiles. Avalanche control costs about $200,000. Divide that by 12 and the result is 😥 There are additional costs grooming and patroling the road.

Now Wyoming’s governor is lying like he does about wolves. He wrote to the Park Service “Wyoming especially wants to emphasize the State’s concern with closing the East Entrance”. “There are numerous reasons not to close the East Entrance, not the least of which is the significant harm such a closure would impose on Cody’s winter tourism economy.” [boldface mine].

. . . not the slightest relation to reality.

Story in the Casper Star Tribune by Amy J. Tripe.

In an earlier article Yellowstone Park spokesman Al Nash estimated the cost per snowmobiler for avalanche control alone was $200. If you do the actual calculation, last winter the actual cost was over $1500 per snowmobile.

Think about that when you pay your new $80 public land access fee or Yellowstone lacks the money to provide vital services.

Roadkill higher than usual in Jackson Hole this winter

Here is the story by Whitney Royster. It is isn’t just deer/vehicle collisions.

Posted in Motor vehicles wildlife, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Roadkill higher than usual in Jackson Hole this winter

Judge orders new 3-state in dispute over grizzly habitat

This is a big victory for those trying to protect the imperiled grizzly bear populations in extreme NW Montana (the Cabinet-Yaak population) and in the Panhandle of Idaho and NE Washington State (the Selkirk grizzly population).

Story. By Perry Backus in the Missoulian

Wild Bill says Rocky Mountain Front has not been saved

Stopping the oil and gas leasing is not enough,  Bill Schneider. New West.

The Forest Service is not protecting the area from off-road vehicles and parts of the Front could fill up with trophy homes.

An ominus sign on the Rocky Mountain Front. Montanans will recognize that is not “Buffalo Hill,” but famous landmark Haystack Butte in the distance. Photo copyright Ralph Maughan

Requirement of guides has reduced snowmobile stress on Yellowstone wildlife

A technical document, part of the current draft environmental impact statement on Yellowstone snowmobile use tells that the requirement that snowmobilers have guides has reduced, but not eliminated, the stress snowmobiles create on the wintering wildlife.

Bald Eagles are the species that show the most stress, followed by elk and coyotes. While the grooming of roads affects bison, especially those bison deep the in the Park, the bison was the animal that showed the lowest stress response of those studied.

Story in the Jackson Hole News and Guide. By Corey Hatch.

Posted in Motor vehicles wildlife, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Requirement of guides has reduced snowmobile stress on Yellowstone wildlife

Plan allows 720 sleds a day in Yellowstone

It’s probably hard for most folks to keep up on the struggle over snowmobiles in Yellowstone Park. The article today indicates that the current temporary plan has now mostly become the draft plan for the future. Public comments will be taken beginning in March 2007.

Snowmobiling in the Park would continue with a maximum 720 machines a day allowed. The snowmobiles will be held to standards meant to ensure they are both quieter and less polluting than before the controversy arose. This requires 4-stroke, rather than the typical 2-stroke snowmobile engire. Furthermore, all riders have to go with a commercial guide.

The biggest difference between the temporary and the draft plan is the closure of the East Entrance of the Park to snowmobiles. The East Entrance gets small use and the expenditure for avalanche control are very high, amounting to a huge subsidy per snowmobile user for that Entrance.

Story in Billings Gazette by Mike Stark.

Probably the most important recent development, however, is not the plan, but on the ground. Actual snowmobile use has dropped far below this cap. Last winter only about 250 snowmobiles a day entered the Park. A number of news articles have written of the profound drop in Yellowstone snowmobile use. The reasons seem to be 1. lack of snow 2. many snowmobiles users don’t like the restraints on speed and noise 3. many snowmobilers don’t like the requirement of a guide 4. with a decline in snowmobile use, snowcoach use has been able to become rooted. More and more visitors choose a snowcoach to enter wintertime Yellowstone.

Drop in snowmobile use helped Yellowstone air quality

The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees reports that decreased use of Yellowstone Park by snowmobiles has been the greatest factor favoring air quality in the Park the last few years.

Read about it in the Jackson Hole News and Guide. By Cory Hatch.

Posted in Motor vehicles wildlife, public lands, public lands management. Comments Off on Drop in snowmobile use helped Yellowstone air quality

Yellowstone Park sees snowmobile use slide

Brodie Farquhar wrote about the recent decline in snowmobile use inside Yellowstone in the Casper Star-Tribune today, November 13, 2006.

A telling quote was that of a snowmobile dealer in Cody, Wyoming. “Big-time snowmobile fans relish speed and resent the mandate that all snowmobiles be commercially guided, [Ed] Wells said. “That was the last straw,” he said. “They’ve turned their back on Yellowstone.”

The speed demons have turned their back on Yellowstone. That’s just awful 😉

Yellowstone, still noisy after all these years

Brodie Farquhar is writing in New West about the snowmobiles in Yellowstone, which are supposed to be much quieter now with their 4-stroke engines.

I didn’t realize this, but the Park is going to have yet another comment period on snowmobiles. This time it is on a draft environmental impact statement that will be released in late winter.

Read also from the Jackson Hole News and Guide. “Noise still a problem with park sled use: Former park employees say snowmobiles exceed Yellowstone noise limits, should be banned.” By Cory Hatch.


B-T Nat’l Forest taking comments on very important travel plan update near Jackson Hole

It’s called the “North Zone travel plan revision,” hardly exciting enough to make your heart pound. But the Forest Service has a very major revision of its travel plans for the area on the east side of Jackson Hole (and other prime wildlife areas) underway, and your comments are due on October 23.

The mighty Teton Range does not have dense wildlife populations, with all that rock and ice, but the more subdued mountains on the other side of the great valley of Jackson Hole do — moose, thousands of elk, deer, pronghorn, bighorn, wolves and both kinds of bears. Especially critical is the Gros Ventre/Shadow Mountain area and Togwotee/Blackrock area. Shadow Mtn/Gros Ventre proposed travel plan map. Blackrock/Togwotee proposed travel map.

On the surface it looks like a good idea because now these areas are open to all kinds of cross country vehicle travel, and the proposal will limit them to existing motorized roads and trails.

It is the reality of the situation on the ground that counts, however, not a nice-looking map.

I like to drive my truck around in the area, but each year I see more and more user-created trails, some of them even illegally constructed. The Forest Service would grandfather all of this, including some roads that have been closed for years due to unstable ground and past resource damage.

Here is an example

Here is what the Forest Service needs to hear from you.
1. No designation for motorized use of illegally constructed OHV roads or trails.
2. No reopening of roads that have been gated for years due to resource damage unless the damage can’t happen again.
3. Most important, no access to open ridgetops where OHVs can travel cross country with no fear of being stopped by a ranger. Remember that law enforcement for the Forest Service is grossly underfunded, a joke really.
4. If you know any of these areas near Jackson Hole, comment on them directly.

Send your comments to dwilkinson@fs.fed.us by Oct. 23.

When sending you emails to the Bridger-Teton National Forest, please state your name, address and map area or areas of concern.

– – – –

Added. Here is a photo of the off-road vehicle route, Bob Caesar, is talking about in his comment.

This is looking eastward across Ditch Creek from a slope on Shadow Mountain.

Utah off-road group vows to fight closure of government land.

Here is the AP article.

The article says the “president of Americans with Disabilities Access Alliance, is looking for a crowd of off-roaders to drive . . . ”

The idea is to get some tickets and challenge them in court, but I want to comment on another aspect of this.

For years, off-road vehicle activists have tried to use the disabilities laws, which in my opinion are good and important laws, to bootstrap their way out of regulations to protect the land, the wildlife and other users.

The point needs to be made clearly that being lazy, unfit, outdoors incompetent and fat is not, and should not be a disability for these purposes.

They should waddle their way up to Factory Butte on their own two legs. If you need a wheelchair, fine, but not wheelchair that is really an ATV.

Added on Oct. 16. I’ve found no news about their protest. Maybe it fizzled. RM