Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y) and its U.S. Program Director, Kim Trotter, having previously created the Island Park Safe Wildlife Passage Initiative (IPSWPI) in 2016, has now created a new front group, Fremont County Citizens For Safe Highways (FCCFSH). Allegedly, this group is comprised of Fremont County citizens, when most likely a large portion is comprised of individuals who spend the summer in Island Park but are not Fremont County residents full time. This group is listed on the State of Idaho campaign finance reports as Citizens For Safe Highways but there is nothing for a scanned report. Lobbying efforts by this new group can be more easily accomplished than Y2Y because of its prohibited lobbying status, in addition to being eligible for donations.
The purpose of this group is promoting wildlife overpasses, which apparently the IPSWPI group hasn't been able to achieve. Taking a look at the FCCFSH FAQ page, it is a continuation of the misrepresentations that has been promoted by other Y2Y front groups over the last year. Here are some of those misrepresentations.
Why are driver-safe highway crossings necessary?
Sadly, wildlife-vehicle collisions have increased sharply.
Truth: Under the Research tab it is clear that Idaho deer collisions have gone down in the last two years. What type of collisions are they referring to? They have manipulated roadkill data by including small animals to embellish numbers, the actual Elk numbers are not that high. The original purpose promoted for overpasses was the poor Elk. Because those numbers DO NOT substantiate the Elk deaths, Y2Y and their front groups are now shifting, or at least trying to shift the focus to other small animals and deer. Don't fall for this ruse, the truth is still the same, Elk WVC are low, and non-existent at Targhee Pass.
Do driver-safe highway crossings work?
Across Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and Canada, driver-safe wildlife crossings have PROVEN to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions by as much as 90 percent.
Truth: To compare different geographical areas to Island Park is illogical, and the 90% is also an elevated percentage. It takes years to offset 20-30 million dollars of overpass costs, in addition to the massive cost of maintaining these overpasses and fencing which has never been answered as to who will pay for it. The overpasses they are referring to are in isolated, primarily flat areas with no development.
Are there cheaper alternatives? Like slower speed limits?
No. Unfortunately, alternatives like flashing lights, wildlife detections systems and highway signs are proven NOT to be adequately effective.
Truth: Studies have shown lower speed limits do reduce not only accidents but also the severity of injuries in accidents. Y2Y refuses to acknowledge this. The Fremont County Commissioners, Sheriff, and citizens have repeatedly asked the Idaho Transportation Department for a speed reduction which they consistently refuse to do. (See Speed Limits article under the Articles tab.)
Who pays for building and maintaining these structures?
Modern, driver-safe wildlife crossings typically account for 10 percent of the entire highway modernization project. They are paid for by federal fuel taxes, which are already collected for this purpose. When crossings are built with road construction, the Federal Highway Administration pays for 93% of total project costs. It’s important to understand that county taxpayers do NOT pay for these highway improvements or for maintaining them.
Truth: The Targhee Pass road upgrade is $12 million dollars, with the addition of overpasses the cost increases to 20-30 million dollars, this is not a 10% increase (See alternative 3). How does this group know the FHA pays for 93% of the total project costs? Is there something in writing that states this, especially since no final approval decision has been made by FHA on this project? Sorry, but the truth is that every taxpayer, including Fremont County citizens, pay for the astronomical costs of overpasses and the ongoing maintenance costs. County taxpayers DO pay for these highway improvements through their federal taxes. The burden for this does fall on every taxpayer, nothing is free.
Will the crossings be unsightly?
Professional engineers and landscape architects design tunnels and fencing are designed for minimal visual impact. Fencing is minimal necessary to do the job – usually about 8 feet tall and ONLY where necessary.
Truth: As reflected, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and there are many who find the overpasses and associated fencing offensive to the land, in addition to the forced hazing of wildlife. There is something that could be considered cruel to force wildlife to abort their natural habitat into something a human wants them to do. As suggested by minimal visual impact, there is visual impact and fencing is necessary to force wildlife to change their path where ever a overpass is located.
Will fencing keep people off public lands or limit hunting opportunities?
No. The Forest Service, Idaho Department of Transportation and Idaho Fish and Game all agree that access to public land is paramount....
Truth: It is very well documented that traffic, recreational use, and development are a "threat" and "disturbance" to wildlife by Y2Y and other large conservation groups. By creating a false wildlife corridor via overpasses, this area will become off limits to all activity by people who currently enjoy it. While ITD and IDFG, and even the USFS make these claims now, it will change as it has in other areas where overpasses have been built, no use.
Will driver-safe wildlife crossings impact property values?
Driver-safe wildlife crossings have been built across the West and there has been no corresponding change in property values.
Truth: While these overpasses have been built in other areas, the majority of them are NOT located in developed areas, they are in isolated and flat land, and often on public land, therefore there can be no changes in property values. There is much development and recreation at Targhee Pass, which is NOT the case in their reference on property values.
Will overpasses will funnel animals for predators?
Biologists in other states say this is not a problem. Wildlife usually keep moving near narrow pinch points, preventing significant increases in predation. Studies have looked at wildlife crossings worldwide and found no significant changes in predation patterns.
Truth: Few studies have been conducted on predatory activity near wildlife overpasses (pg 283). In fact, this is how wolves take an Elk down on an overpass. Like this article points out, wolves can engage in "surplus killing" which was an attack on Elk in a feeding area. Forced into confined area by fencing, there is reason to believe wolves may learn overpasses are a feeding area, for them. Too many variables are in play to make a generalized statement about predatory activity, it hasn't been studied and geographical areas are different. In fact, wolf predatory activity is so devastating to Elk, they have to be destroyed. WVC are NOT the primary cause of Elk mortality, predatory activity is, and to build an overpass for them is illogical. Another reason Y2Y and their front groups are so desperately moving to deer and small animals.
Beware wild exaggerations and misinformation
Unfortunately, we are seeing wildly inaccurate information about the costs of the project, the extent of fencing, and other claims.
Truth: Every statement made on this website and in published articles is verified through links. As one example, false information regarding the costs of overpasses was blatantly published by a IPSWPI member in an Island Park newspaper and had to be corrected the next week with the factual cost graphs from ITD. Here are the factual costs. The data on WVC and numbers of roadkill has also been misrepresented requiring correction. All information on this website is for the very purpose of validating the truth, contrary to the claims by Y2Y, IPSWI, and now this new front group.
While this group claims "...a vocal in Island Park worked to convince the public and decision makers that wildlife crossings aren’t in Island Park’s interest, spreading fear of losing access to public lands, reduced property values, and loss of business.", the truth is many voices have written their objections to overpasses and over 3,000 have signed a petition in opposition of overpasses in Island Park. That is a far greater number than "one" voice. Plus, overpasses do lead to loss of public access, reduced property values, and loss of business because of the eventual "protected" status that eventually comes with migratory corridor designations. All of this is validated documentation on this website.
Also missing within this new group is the fact that overpasses are used for the purposes of connectivity. To be fully transparent, it would behoove them to bring this aspect to their argument. In spite of repeated requests, spokespersons for Y2Y, and Kim Totter, have repeatedly failed to address this. Overpasses are only used for their connectivity agenda, by having the area within the overpass declared a migration corridor for protection and land use regulation following the placement of the overpass. Y2Y understands there is opposition to this and avoids discussing it for that reason.
The truth is, there is a small number of individuals who are attached to Y2Y for overpasses, many of which who do not live full time in Island Park. They have never responded to requests for full disclosure of the connectivity agenda. Most likely, it is because they know Island Park residents would oppose this with a vengeance much like what happened with the national monument issue. Those who truly love Island Park don't want these changes.
However, it appears this group has registered as a 501(c)3, even though it cannot be found on the Idaho non-profit website, and are now soliciting money from you to promote their agenda for overpasses. This is Y2Y operating as there are restrictions on how they can lobby to influence legislation and policies. It is up to the Federal Highway Administration to make the final decision per the Environmental Assessment. The FCCFSH is using your money to influence your vote. That is why they were created.