The best way to learn about restrictions on human activity in the vicinity of wildlife overpasses, underpasses, and fencing is to study existing structures. There are several reports about human activity in the vicinity of wildlife overpasses. One report is from Canada and another is from Washington State. Both reports teach us that human activity in the vicinity of overpasses and underpasses has a very negative impact on animal usage of the over and underpasses. In the Washington State case, the Forest Service actually closed a campground in the area to reduce human activity. The influence of human activity is also documented in information provided by conservation organizations. For example, Beckmann-Roberts-Cramer wrote: "Wildlife over- passes should be closed to the public and any other human activities and roads should not be on or near wildlife overpasses, as it will hinder wildlife use of the structure (Clevenger and Ford 2010). In addition, Tony Clevenger, Senior Wildlife Research Scientist, Western Transportation Institute, stated “Distance from humans is the most important consideration in designing crossing structures for large carnivores. The further the better.”
Curtailment of human activity in the Targhee Pass area of Island Park could threaten many existing activities. Consider that the snowmobile trail to Montana parallels Highway 20 from the Junction of Highway 87 to the Montana Stateline. This trail is used during the elk migration in December. Would this trail be closed? Would the ATV trails in the area be closed? Would camping, snowshoeing, mountain biking, and cross country skiing be allowed? Would the Howard Springs Wayside be closed? Would hiking and photography be curtailed because of the possible negative influence of these activities on wildlife use of the over and underpasses? Would human activities at Big Horn Hills Estates be affected? What about maintenance on the Fall River Electric powerline and substation which are adjacent to Highway 20? Would cattle grazing be affected? IDFG has already indicated that changes to hunting in the vicinity of the over and underpasses will likely be made. As you can see, there are many things to consider. These over and underpasses come with “side effects” which must be considered by the public and decision makers. The devil is in the details! On November 6, VOTE NO on wildlife overpasses and fencing in Fremont County, Idaho. Support common sense, fiscally responsible solutions to safe wildlife passage. (Editorial opinion)
Reprinted with permission IP News
The following testimony was made before the Idaho Transportation Department, Board of Directors, on Thursday, September 13, 2018, at the ITD Offices in Rigby, Idaho:
“My name is Ken Watts. I am the chairman of the Island Park Preservation Coalition. The Coalition is a grass roots organization made up of Island Park and Fremont County citizens. The vision of the coalition is to preserve and enhance multiple use in the Island Park area. The Coalition’s vision and mission are submitted for the record.
As you know, Idaho bridges are rated D and roads C- by the American Society of Civil Engineers. According to ASCE the maintenance backlog for Idaho bridges is $2.2B. The maintenance shortfall for roads is projected to be $3.6B over the next 20 years. The Coalition believes that it is fiscally irresponsible to even consider constructing wildlife overpasses, underpasses and miles of fencing with this liability facing the State of Idaho. Lt. Governor Brad Little agrees. He stated: “Every year, Idaho has a shortfall of hundreds of millions of dollars for the maintenance of Idaho’s roads and bridges. The cost of these wildlife overpasses do not seem like a wise and prudent use of precious transportation dollars.” The ASCE report is submitted for the record.
The Island Park Chamber of Commerce, the Fremont County mayors, the Fremont County Commissioners, the District 35 State Representatives and Senator, the Fremont County Farm Bureau, the Big Horn Hills Estates Property Owners Association, and the Coalition oppose wildlife overpasses and fencing in Fremont County. In addition, the Coalition has collected nearly 4000 signatures of people in opposition to wildlife overpasses and fencing. A County advisory vote will be held on November 6, 2018 to assess the sentiment of the voters in Fremont County on this issue. Lt. Governor Brad Little stated: “Additionally, there are important requirements that must be met for a project of this size. ITD and other state agencies must receive buy in from local stakeholder groups and the citizens most affected by the project. This isn’t the case at this time. Infrastructure improvements should also clearly improve a community and its local economy.” There is overwhelming opposition to overpasses and fencing on HWY 20 in Fremont County.
The overpasses and fencing may have a negative impact on the recreation economy of Island Park. The risk is unacceptable to the Coalition and the groups previously mentioned. In addition, the Coalition believes that the overpasses and fencing will lead to the desecration of the US20 corridor. This is an environmentally sensitive area. The Targhee Pass area has wet lands and a trout stream immediately adjacent to the highway that could be damaged. It is also part of the Nez Perce Trail, the Trail of Tears, which may contain important historical artifacts. Photos of an overpass, under construction, are submitted for the record. The environmental concerns shown in the photos are obvious. The photos depict overpasses currently under construction East of Wells, Nevada. These overpasses are over two lanes of traffic. At Targhee Pass an overpass would be over three lanes. This will increase the cost by a factor of 3 to 5 based on the higher strength required of the structure, not to mention the seismic zone requirements which have not been discussed. It may not even be possible to transport the massive pre-stressed concrete arches required.
To summarize, there is overwhelming opposition to wildlife overpasses and fencing in Fremont County. The Coalition supports common sense, fiscally responsible solutions to safe wildlife passage, like reduced speed limits and active warning signs.”
Reprinted with permission IP News
A few weeks ago Ken’s Korner revealed that the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (Renee Seidler and Gregg Serveen) were working on a grant to get funding for wildlife overpasses at Targhee Pass, between State Highway 87 and the Montana State line. (STRIKE 1) The Idaho Transportation Department (Karen Hiatt) told IDFG that they would not support this effort because they were in the NEPA process on the Targhee Pass Project and no decision had been made to build overpasses (pre-decisional). This was revealed via emails from a public records request. Why should you care? Because this proves that IDFG was not impartial in their support of wildlife overpasses at Targhee Pass.
Just two weeks ago it was revealed that IDFG (Renee Seidler, Gregg Servheen and others) participated on an obscure working group which is promoting wildlife overpasses at Targhee Pass. This group included Y2Y, the Forest Service, the Henry’s Fork Foundation, and private citizens. Again, this was revealed via a public records request to IDFG. (STRIKE 2) Why should you care? Because this proves again that IDFG was not impartial in their recommendations to ITD.
Last week it was revealed that IDFG (Renee Seidler) sent a document to Bio West, the ITD contractor doing the NEPA environmental assessment on the Targhee Pass Project. This document recommended building three overpasses at Targhee Pass. The editorial last week also revealed that IDFG was either not on the environmental assessment team or had been removed from the team. This information came from emails and a personal communication with Andrea Gumm from the Langdon Group (another contractor to ITD). Why should you care? Because if the IDFG had been removed from the environmental assessment team, they should not have been communicating with Bio West who is conducting the environmental assessment. (STRIKE 3! OUT!)
This week we find that Renee Seidler has been working with the conservation group Yellowstone to Yukon (main office in Canmore, Alberta, Canada), to develop talking points for residents of Island Park to communicate to the Fremont County Commissioners. This was revealed in emails between Kim Trotter, Y2Y, and Renee Seidler. Specifically the email from Kim Trotter stated that the talking points would be used by: “residents who will be speaking up at Monday’s county commissioners meeting against the advisory vote against overpasses”. Renee Seidler provided numerous comments and additions to Y2Y’s talking points. Why should you care? Because IDFG should not be influencing advisory votes in Fremont County or any other place. (STRIKE 4?)
The cooperative agreement between ITD and IDFG is for three years and $300,000 of your tax dollars. “The purpose of the cooperative agreement is to use the expertise of IDFG staff to inform and assist ITD project design and support ITD NEPA documents and permitting needed for ITD project development.” This purpose is no longer valid because IDFG has been removed from the environmental assessment process and their input is no longer being considered. Therefore the cooperative agreement should be terminated. Why should you care? Because your tax dollars are being wasted.
Reprinted with permission IP News
Ken Watts and I have been quite busy going through recent record requested information that we have received from the IDFG. Ken has told you already about the ‘quiet’ working group that was directed by Kim Trotter of Y2Y. This group calls themselves the Island Park Safe Wildlife Passage Initiative Working Group and they coordinate with the IDFG and other non-governmental groups. You can also find their presence on Facebook and the related groups noted on that page include groups referenced on the list below.
These are the members list, according to email contacts on the messages:
David Weskamp - The Nature Conservancy
Davy, Elizabeth - USFS Caribou Targhee National Forest
Dennis Glick - Future West
Hannah Jaicks - Future West
Jamie Laatsch - The Henry’s Fork Foundation
Kathy Rinaldi - The Greater Yellowstone Coalition
Nick Clarke - Yellowstone to Yukon
Parmer VanFleet (Mary)
Rachel Caldwell - National Parks Conservation Association
Renee Seidler - IDFG (uses both a .gov and private email address)
Gregg Servheen - IDFG State Wildlife Coordinator
Matt Pieron - IDFG
Kim Trotter - Yellowstone to Yukon
Nancy Goodman (Kim Trotter’s mother)
We found reference to this group in a comment in the scoping report made by Jean Bjerke.
I wish to focus on one document contained in the record requested information we received, and one topic within it.
It is a document produced by Kim Trotter US Program Director-Y2Y and Rene Seidler IDFG.
It is entitled:
Island Park Safe Wildlife Passage - Get the Facts Straight
It is a document that I have never seen published.
It is formatted in two columns, one titled Myth and the other Fact.
While it addresses 21 multiple comparative topics, I will focus on just one of them in this article.
The document states:
MythIdaho Transportation Department didn’t coordinate with Fremont County
ITD’s Bill Shaw convened monthly meetings in an effort to update the US 20 corridor plan to the new iPlan software. This planning group consisted of Liz Davy, CTNF Island Park District Ranger, Tom Cluff, Fremont County Planner, and Kathy Rinaldi, representative of the Henry’s Fork Legacy Project.
Let’s autopsy that information.
◾️Please note as you consider: coordination is a government to government process.
◾️Liz Davy does not represent Fremont County, she works for the USFS and IS NOT an elected representative from Fremont County. Liz Davey has NO authority to coordinate for Fremont County and other record requested info indicates she was an active working group participant.
◾️Kathi Rinaldi is also a regional representative of the private NGO -Greater Yellowstone Coalition. The Henry’s Fork Legacy Project no longer exists, it has been removed from the web, and was never more than a front organization for the safe wildlife passage working group and it’s collaborating partners which included the USFS, the BLM, the Henry’s Fork Foundation, Yellowstone to Yukon, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Future West, and the IDFG. Kathi Rinaldi has NO authority to coordinate for Fremont County, other record requested info indicates she was an active working group participant.
◾️Tom Cluff is an employee of Fremont County and his position is unelected. Other than having his name appearing, associated by the reference made to him by these two individuals, he is not included in any other meeting documentation we have received. Tom Cluff is the Fremont County planner, he has NO AUTHORITY to coordinate for Fremont County.
Keep in mind that this is Trotter and Seidler developing this document, and as they are attempting to do so, apparently trying to rebut opposition points being made throughout these many months of public dialogue on the issue, were they trying to claim that Cluff was the contact in Fremont County, along with Davy and Rinaldi, and that coordination that had never happened somehow did through these people?
One thing is for certain: None of these entities or persons have the authority to coordinate about anything for Fremont County.
In many public opportunities and meetings the Fremont County Commissioners have definitively stated that COORDINATION DID NOT HAPPEN with Fremont County, as is required by multiple federal laws.
Ken has also pointed out in his previous article that Trotter and Seidler also developed the talking points that were given to some Island Park residents, many of which were presented when they appeared before the county commissioners asking them not to hold an advisory vote on this issue.
It appears that Trotter and Seidler have fulfilled many orchestration roles, and disclosure about this private working group speaks to some of their efforts. Trotter directed this group, and it should also be noted that dates coincide with her cancellation of all future meetings of it, right after inquiry was made about it.
This article was published in the IP NewsReprinted here with permission
Making Sense of It All
This blog will help you make sense out of all the information on the website, how it affects IP, previous articles in the IP News, our history, and how efforts continue to put IP into various forms of conservation status.