JACKSON, Wyo. — Last evening, Oct. 20, the Teton Bighorn Sheep Working Group shared their findings and winter strategy recommendations during a public meeting.
The meeting recording is available here.
The nearly two and a half-hour meeting covered the final report created by the working group, responses from agency representatives and input from community members.
Agency representatives from Bridger-Teton National Forest (BTNF), Caribou-Targhee National Forest (CTNF), Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD), and Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) all expressed their commitment to a shared cooperative approach between agencies and urgency in education.
“When we think about closures on the Bridger Teton, one of the thoughts we are having is perhaps starting with voluntary closures, recognizing we would need to have some monitoring around that,” said Tricia O’Conner BTNF supervisor. Adding, “Frankly going into permanent closures is something that takes quite a bit of effort to go through the process and honestly we have some concerns about enforcing those closures.
Mel Bolling CTNF supervisor echoed a similar sentiment. He said, “Enforcing closures is challenging, we cover a large area, we have limited law enforcement presence and really when I think about that I think more about avoiding those opportunities for enforcement and focus more on education and information sharing.”
GTNP Superintendent Chip Jenkins discussed the “really tough compromises” that led to the creation of the modern Grand Teton National Park and the decisions and choices by thousands of people since the park’s creation. “We all exist in this framework of choices and decisions. Now is our time. The decisions and choices that we all make will be the legacy that we hand down to the next generation.”
“We see the ski and snowboard community as crucial stewards to make sure the bighorn sheep survive,” Jenkins said.
Renee Seidler commented during the meeting, noting that she is the executive director of JH Wildlife Foundation and has been a backcountry skier for 25 years. “I support recommendations, I do think that winter closures are a necessity here. this legacy has been handed to us and I don’t want to be a part of the generation that lets it go,” Seidler said.
A question about hunting licenses was brought up during the meeting. Aly Courtemanch, a biologist with WGFD and a member of the working group responded to a question, explaining that the department only offers one license per year and the success rate for hunters is very low. “Removing one male every two to three years does not have a significant impact on the herd,” Courtemanch said.
“In the past, we offered eight bighorn sheep tags for this herd. The hunting community has given up a lot for this herd,” Courtemanch said.
Another question was raised about how the effectiveness of the closures will be measured and the timeframe of the closures.
“We will continue to monitor and see what bighorn sheep use is and based on that we will adapt. If the closures are effective they may be kept in place, ” said Sarah Dewey, GTNP wildlife biologist and member of the working group.
Courtemanch also weighed in, she said, “I think this is something that is great for the working group to hear. Personally, I feel like that [a timeline] would be a fair thing to work into this process.”
Jeff Dobronyi, a local backcountry skier who has been vocal about the recommendations, maybe a number of recommendations and comments but proposed the opportunity of adding backcountry skiers to the working group.
The specifics of the proposed closures are not defined at this time.
Agency specific questions can be directed to:
- Grand Teton National Park: email@example.com
- Bridger-Teton National Forest: Jason.Wilmot@usda.gov
- Caribou-Targhee National Forest: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Wyoming Game and Fish: Alyson.Courtemanch@wyo.gov
More information about the working group and process can be found here.