The following opinion was published on February 22, 2018 in the Island Park News. It discusses the profound adverse effects overpasses would have on nearby residential areas in Targhee Pass. Reprinted with permission by Island Park News and Connie Kincheloe.
There is a small but growing voice in the community of Island Park that has recently been accused of being close-minded to the idea of wildlife overpasses, calling this voice foolish. My husband and I are two of those voices that are trying to show that there is another side of this story. We, along with approximately 40 others, have homes located in the center of the area of this controversy, Targhee Pass.
There are another approximate 30 property owners in this subdivision as well that will be affected. While not everyone
in this community is against the idea of wildlife overpasses, the majority is. And this majority is upset. You see, what is not being said about these overpasses is how much it will affect the Big Horn Hills Estates subdivision and its residents/property owners. We all care about the human and wildlife aspect of this area but are realistic in how much it will affect us by drastically reducing our property values, our livability and our peace of mind. On one aspect alone, we agree with the special interest groups – reducing the speed saves lives. Both human and animal. In addition to being proponents for the reduction of speed, residents are in agreement for cutting back vegetation and implementing animal detection warning systems. ITD’s own study suggests a 1% difference between this alternative and the push for the animal overpasses, for millions less.
But there is also a more human side to this story that is being quashed. What is not being said is that with animal overpasses comes miles and miles of tall fencing. This fencing will surround our subdivision, and for many, will be an obstruction out our front, back and side view scapes. Also for many, it will be less than 100 feet from their residence. This belies the very reason that we live and recreate here – the openness and beauty of the area. If we wanted to live in a prison, we would have chosen different paths.
My husband and I, along with the help of many good friends and family, literally built our home with blood, sweat and tears. We have so many memories of this process. We enjoy sharing our home with our friends and family. So many of us in this subdivision have worked all of our lives to save and plan for retirement and have chosen this area to settle in. In our case, we have planned for our children and grandchildren to inherit this place that we share so many memories with. We love the peacefulness, the history and the solitude this little cove provides. We are not alone in these endeavors. Many others here have done the same. Residents here have the option of stepping outside back doors and utilizing the free access to forest service grounds to the east of us. We hunt, hike, and snowshoe up the valley behind us. We ride our snowmobiles across the road in the winter to access the snowmobile trails which opens up a whole other world; we ride our ATVs around the subdivision to visit with our neighbors and we cut firewood to heat our homes. To our dismay, our research has provided insight in to living within fencing and corridors and is it heartbreaking.
We have discovered that with fencing and corridors comes restrictions. These restrictions will effectively put a stop to
all of the activities I just mentioned. Our livability will be reduced to nothing. Our property values will be worth nothing compared to what we have all invested. For myself and my husband, we find that our worry over what may happen has produced many sleepless nights. I know we’re not alone.
This is what is being pushed for the Targhee Pass area. There are plans for more of these same wildlife over/under passes in more locations along Highway 20 from the Ashton hill to the 87 interchange. In each location, 1 to 3 of these over/underpasses will be installed, provided funding is approved. Each over/under pass is suggested to be 80’-100’ wide, each located within a mile of each other. Remember, fencing comes with these overpasses. Do you see the bigger picture? If the Targhee Pass Project is approved for wildlife overpasses, this is the next phase for the rest of Island Park. If the fencing and restrictions puts a stop to our livability in the Targhee Pass area what do you think it will do to the rest of Island Park?
Fremont County derives approximately $28 million in recreation fees alone from the Island Park area. It is no secret that taxpayers in the Island Park area also fund Fremont County. If you factor in the reduced taxpayer base along with the decrease in recreation fees, this paints a bleak future for Fremont County.
If you do your research, you will find that the push for these wildlife overpasses all relates back to animal connectivity. There are a few loud voices in the Island Park area that are pushing for this connectivity. There are many more from outside pushing as well. The majority of which do not live or recreate here but want to tell us what we can or cannot do. Many that are connected to special interest groups. It is this push to connect Yellowstone to the Yukon that is the driving force behind these wildlife overpasses and these groups. There it is; the big picture for you.
If you feel as threatened as we in the Big Horn Hills Estates community do, please join us and raise your voices against this force by contacting the Fremont County Commissioners and District 35 representatives as well as Idaho’s state transportation officials. It is time that the voices of those that will be affected the most are finally heard. As for the name-callers, remember that they won’t be imprisoned behind the walls they’re wanting to erect…. they’ll be the jailers….
We are also asking that you add your voice by signing our petition: https://www.change.org/p/keep-island-park-targhee-passfree-of-tall-wildlife-fences-and-massive-overpasses.
Big Horn Hills Estates property owner, Island Park, Idaho
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.