BTNF considering year-round leash laws at popular dog trails

JACKSON, Wyo. — The Bridger-Teton National Forest is proposing changes to the leash law requirements enacted in 2016 in popular dog-walking locales including the Cache Creek, Nelson Drive, and Teton Pass areas and is seeking public comment.

Over the past five years, there has been a noticeable reduction in dog waste at trailheads, a reduction in negative dog-vs-dog and dog-vs-people interactions, and fewer dogs hit by vehicles during the winter months. For this trend, Forest Service officials commend those in the community who have stepped up to properly dispose of dog waste and leash their dogs in the trailhead areas, along with the volunteer ambassadors who have helped spread the message.

At the same time, issues that prompted the original leash laws in 2016 are just as prominent in the summer, signaling, perhaps, a need for consistent messaging and rules throughout the year to prevent confusion around dates and locations where leashes are required.

Leash requirements are currently in effect only during the winter months (December 1 – April 30) and only apply in the trailheads/parking areas and on trails that parallel the winter wildlife closures (Woods Canyon, Putt-Putt, Game Creek Trails).

The proposed changes are intended to improve consistency in regulations while also reducing dog waste and reducing conflicts between people and dogs in the trailhead areas year-round.  Additionally, the changes are proposed in order to protect wildlife, protect water quality, provide more enjoyable experiences, and to ensure the safety of people’s dogs in these heavily visited areas.

Proposed Changes

Cache Creek Trailheads – Extend the leash requirement to apply year-round. Extend the leash requirement 200 yards on every trail leaving the parking/trailhead areas. This includes the main Cache Creek trailhead, Hagen trailhead, and Woods Canyon trailhead.

On the main Cache Creek Road, the leash requirement was extended to the picnic area where the boardwalk ends, which is roughly 200 yards.

Nelson Drive Trailhead – Remove the leash requirement in the parking/trailhead area year-round. Add leash requirement on the water tank road leaving from the parking lot, starting at the existing wood barriers and up to the trail junction with the Nelson Knoll trail.

The existing leash requirement for the Putt-Putt Trail and Woods Canyon Trail area would not change and would start directly at the trailhead kiosk. Leash requirements for this area would remain the current season of December 1 to April 30. The Nelson Knoll trail would remain a leash-free area.

Teton Pass Trailhead (top parking area) – Extend the leash requirement to apply year-round and extend 200 yards on all trails leaving from the parking/trailhead area.

Game Creek Trailhead – No proposed change. Current leash requirements for the winter months (December I -April 30) at the trailhead and along the first 1.2 miles of trail would remain in place.

Signs showing the exact locations of leash up and off-leash zones would be installed on each trail.

Rationale for Proposed Changes

Cache Creek Trailheads (including Woods Canyon and Hagen Trailheads)
Rationale for applying the leash requirement year-round

  • Use in the summer is higher than winter and is increasing. The trailhead areas are extremely busy, posing a greater safety threat to unleashed dogs.
  • Dog waste is still a problem during the summer. A leash requirement is needed to keep dogs in reach so that owners can pick up their waste.
  • There is general confusion around the timing of the leash requirements. A year-round requirement would help prevent that confusion.

Rationale for defining leash area as roughly 200 yards around trailheads

  • Some dog owners are not leashing their dogs in the trailhead area because it is too easy to get on the trail quickly. Consistent direction on the area where the leash requirement applies would help meet safety and resource objectives.
  • Dogs off-leash on the trail typically run ahead of owners and end up off-leash in the trailhead area, posing a safety concern for the public and dogs since the owner is often still on the trail.
  • The lower portion of the Cache Creek drainage is constricted and highly congested with multiple uses, as well as Bar-T5 wagons using the road on summer evenings. Off-leash dogs in the lower portion of Cache Creek have caused conflicts and pose safety hazards.
  • The lower portion of the Cache Creek Road is heavily used by moose and other wildlife year-round, thus extending the leash requirement beyond the trailhead to the end of the boardwalk (roughly 200 yards) Would benefit wildlife and improve safety for dogs.

Nelson Drive Trailhead
Rationale for removing leash requirement at trailhead and adding leash requirement on water tank road

  • Traffic at Nelson Drive Trailhead is light and has not been a major safety issue for off-leash dogs. The majority of use comes from neighborhood residents walking to the trailhead. Thus, the trailhead leash regulation is not as necessary as in other areas.
  • The water tank road directly parallels the winter wildlife closure and dogs have been observed running up the hillside into the closure, chasing and posing a threat to wintering wildlife. The nearby Woods Canyon and Putt-Putt Trails have the leash requirement for this specific reason. Having the leash requirement on the water tank road would be more consistent with the current winter wildlife travel plan and offer more security for wintering wildlife.
  • Seasonal leash requirements would not be applied year-round for the Nelson Drive area since it does not have the same issues as other areas (congestion, traffic, drainage constriction). The leash regulation here would continue to coincide with existing winter wildlife closures applicable December 1 – April 30.

Teton Pass Summit Trailhead
Rationale for applying the leash requirement year-round

  • This parking area/trailhead is part of a very busy state highway right-of-way which poses a major safety concern for the public and unleashed dogs. Dogs here need to be in control at all times, year-round in order to prevent accidents from occurring.

Rationale for defining leash area as roughly 200 yard around trailhead

  • A consistent defined area is needed to ensure that dogs would be leashed both in and before reaching the parking area/trailhead. 200 yards is consistent with requirements in place on the Caribou-Targhee National Forest which administers the western portion of Teton Pass.

Game Creek Trailhead
Rationale for not proposing any change in leash requirements

  • Game Creek trailhead does not have the same congestion/traffic as the other areas, dog waste disposal has improved, and compliance with current leash regulations has been generally high. The leash regulation here would remain as is and coincide with the winter wildlife closure applicable December 1 – April 30.

Decision to be made

Based on public input and resource specialist analysis, the Forest Supervisor will decide whether or not to amend existing Forest Special Orders regarding dog leash requirements.

Comments received in response to this proposal, including names and addresses of those who comment, will be considered part of the public record and will be available for public inspection. Comments must be submitted in writing (either email or letter) by May 15, 2020.

Email comments can be submitted to: Tim Farris, Trails/Wilderness Supervisor at timothy.farris@usda.gov.

Letters should be sent to:
Dog Leash Proposal
Bridger-Teton National Forest Jackson Ranger District
PO Box 1689
Jackson, WY 83001

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