Prior to the Advisory Vote on wildlife overpasses there is information that is important to understand. This website has numerous articles and other documented information that explains what the wildlife overpass issue is really about, and how our state agencies have been working with groups who do not live in Fremont County. Here are some of the key issues for consideration.
Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y) has been a driving force behind the building of overpasses along Hwy 20 in Island park. In 2016, Y2Y created the Island Park Safe Wildlife Passage Initiative (IPSWPI), promoting wildlife overpasses to Island Park citizens. Prior to this initiative, from 2010 to 2014, Y2Y participated in Elk and Moose movement studies along Hwy 20 with the Idaho Master Naturalists (IMN) to identify “hotspots” for their movement. Calling this “citizen science”, Y2Y then credited this as citizen involvement. Neither Island Park or Fremont County citizens were notified or included in these studies. Y2Y also participated in the Patricia Cramer studies for placement of wildlife overpasses along Hwy 20.
Y2Y has also been an active participant with the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) in promoting overpasses through their other initiative Henry’s Fork Legacy Project (HFLP). The HFLP members met with ITD in 2016, prior to any ITD announcement of the Hwy 20 Corridor project to Island Park residents. Y2Y specifically targets transportation projects to implement their objectives. This factual information was found in a records release.
In addition to Y2Y collaborating with ITD, they have also been doing the same with Idaho Fish & Game (IDFG). Creating a “working group” with IPSWPI group members, an IDFG contract employee also met with them. IDFG specifically hired a road ecologist, Rene Seidler, who was instrumental in creating wildlife overpasses for Pronghorn in Wyoming, and she was the invited employee to the working group. This was also discovered through a records request.
The reason Y2Y promotes overpasses is for their connectivity agenda. Y2Y believes that wildlife migration routes should be protected through designated corridors. If a migratory corridor is created it can then be placed under protection status which means the area cannot be used for any type of activity such as development, snowmobiling, OHV use, hunting, or other recreational activities. It would have the same protections similar to a designated wilderness area.
With this type of designation, a migration corridor would also serve their objective to use it as “linkage” between other protected areas, in this case linkage to Yellowstone Park. Since Yellowstone is considered a protected area, a migration corridor that starts with a wildlife overpass would then create a potential, protected linkage point from Yellowstone over the Centennial mountains to the Salmon area. Essentially, their goal is to create multiple protected areas from Yellowstone over to the Salmon area, substantially reducing any ability to live in or use those areas. The Y2Y agenda stretches all the way from Yellowstone into the Yukon in Canada.
The data and statistics have been significantly misrepresented by Y2Y and embellished for their agenda. Data from ITD and IDFG on wildlife vehicle collisions (WVC) and roadkill have shown this misrepresentation. The actual numbers show few Elk have been killed by WVC along Hwy 20, and none of those have been at the site for the proposed overpass(s) at Targhee Pass. Initially, ITD proposed 17 overpasses throughout Hwy 20 in Island Park but has since been narrowed down to just Targhee Pass because of its connectivity to Yellowstone. Idaho is actually ranked 28th in deer collisions, only 1 in 172 collisions.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) is the lead agency on this Hwy 20 transportation corridor. By law, the FHA is obligated to Coordinate with local governments on this project. In spite of county officials requesting this Coordination requirement is followed, the FHA as yet has failed to comply. Coordination demands that any federal project “shall” be consistent with local land use policies. Wildlife overpasses are not consistent with Fremont County land use policies or plans.
To give the appearance of not promoting wildlife overpasses, Y2Y is now promoting “Vote yes for safe wildlife passage”. This is a deception. Do not be fooled by this deception. A yes vote is NOT a vote for safe wildlife passage. It is a vote for overpasses and fencing. A NO vote means that massive wildlife overpasses and miles of fencing are NOT an acceptable solution to WVCs.
All of this information is documented on this website, in articles and under the Library tab. If Y2Y achieves their objective of having wildlife overpasses built, there will be incremental attempts to isolate Island Park from use. All Fremont County citizens will be affected by this. It is imperative that Island Park is represented by local elected officials and not by groups who are not Island Park or Fremont County citizens. Citizens of Fremont County must be vigilant to these attacks and not afford them any opportunity to gain the ability in determining the future of the county. That future belongs to the citizens of Fremont County working closely with their elected officials who welcome advice and consent from their constituencies, which is the purpose of an Advisory Vote initiative in the first place.
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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.