Grizzly recovery was the reason the USFS closed nearly 1/2 of the Targhee National Forest to human use in the late 90’s. Massive road closures by ‘tank trapping’ method occurred WITHOUT notification or COORDINATION with the local impacted communities or the elected officials of our immediate region.
In 1999, Helen Chenoweth held a congressional field hearing about it in Rexburg. What the USFS did by massively ‘tank trapping’ (they don't like to use that term anymore) and destructing our roads violated process and protocol, this hearing is fascinating history. A CONGRESSIONAL hearing about this egregious activity was convened in Rexburg, Idaho!!
Below is one testimony, there are many.
The USFS personnel testimonies are very interesting. We encourage you to read it all, history forgotten and not learned from, is bound to be repeated. What the FHWA-ITD-IDFG-USFS-USFWS-NPS and their NGO partners wish to do here now, seeking to establish multiple species wildlife corridors with connectivity back to Yellowstone beginning by inserting wildlife overpasses into a highway upgrade, it can be conjectured invites ‘taking’ the other half. Such will render what remains, i.e. our private lands within and that neighbor forest lands, at risk of restriction-acquisition-loss of value-loss of access-loss of multiple use opportunity. COORDINATION IS THE LAW. BEFORE ANY FEDERAL ACTION IS TAKEN or PROJECT IS APPROVED, full and transparent information and participation IS TO BE SHARED WITH and SHOULD INCLUDE LOCAL JURISDICTIONS. WE ARE TO BE AT ANY and ALL DECISION MAKING TABLES and ARE TO BE INCLUDED IN EVERY STEP OF THE PLANNING and DESIGN PROCESS. A sad precedent was set on the Targhee 2 decades ago. A 30 day comment period DOES NOT QUALIFY MEANINGFUL PUBLIC PARTICIPATION. This was unacceptable then and it remains unacceptable now.
FIELD HEARING ON THE TARGHEE NATIONAL FOREST before the SUBCOMMITTEE ON FOREST AND FOREST HEALTH of the COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES ONE HUNDRED SIXTH CONGRESS
FIRST SESSION on THE TARGHEE NATIONAL FOREST ROAD CLOSURES AND THE TARGHEE NATIONAL FOREST TRAVEL PLANS DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT STATEMENT OF ADENA COOK, PUBLIC LANDS DIRECTOR, BLUE RIBBON COALITION THINKING IN THE BOX: FOREST PLANNING AND MANAGEMENT ON THE TARGHEE NATIONAL FOREST INTRODUCTION. ''Thinking out of the box'' is a popular euphemism for creative problem solving. Tough issues can demand unconventional ways of thinking and processes that reach beyond past methods. Nowhere is this approach more needed than in national forest planning and management.
TARGHEE PLANNING BACKGROUND
When Targhee forest planning began eight years ago, there was promise that the new plan process would attempt new solutions. The supervisor at that time, Jim Caswell, engaged one of the foremost experts in the country on forest planning and public involvement, Dr. Bill Shands, to direct the public involvement part of the plan revision. I had followed Dr. Shand's work, and attended his lectures on several previous occasions. He favored complete public involvement in every step of the planning process. He wanted to take forest planning ''out of the box'' and bring it to the people (this was long before the euphemism ''thinking out of the box'' came in vogue). I admired his thesis. He theorized that if publics were involved through each step of the process, that consensus, or at least comprehension, would result.
Under Dr. Shand's direction, the first couple of years went well with the Citizen's Involvement Group (CIG). Everyone learned much about the Targhee, what decisions had to be made, and why. We knew that it would get more difficult as we got closer to actual on the ground allocations, but many felt that the continuity, relationships, and trust built up over the past two years would help the CIG achieve an unprecedented consensus on many issues.
In 1993, events beyond anyone's control broke this fragile consensus building. Jim Caswell was transferred. Bill Shands passed away. The preservationist direction of the Clinton Administration was gathering steam. The Forest Service was being ''reinvented.'' Yet much information, hard data, and public input had been gathered over the past three years. These would form the basis of Draft Standards and Guidelines, and Management Prescriptions. The general direction of the future of the Targhee would take shape. Members of the CIG wondered how the next crucial step would proceed.
THE BOX REPLACES CREATIVE PROBLEM SOLVING AND CONSENSUS
They were dismayed when out came the box that they had hoped Bill Shands had banished forever. But he was dead. The Forest Service had been reinvented, and there was a big label ''Ecosystem Management'' on the box and its management criteria were blatantly preservation oriented. Locally based solutions and citizen involvement were unimportant. Once the premises from which the box is constructed are accepted, as they are within the Forest Service from the top down, then all answers lie within. Polarization replaced developing consensus. The public was back where they started from five years ago, though much wiser!
The BlueRibbon Coalition has always been a strong advocate of cooperation with land managers. They are our partners. We work in many ways to assist them in protecting the resource while promoting balanced recreation use and public access. Our success stories in achieving this are many, and we have a long history of success stories on the Targhee.
One of the key elements of this success is constructive give and take. Another is a real dedication to on-the-ground problem solving. Very little can be achieved by talking at each other with broad brush platitudes like, ''The Targhee has several thousand miles of road open under our new plan. Doesn't that sound like a lot? Isn't that enough?'' And conversely, ''You've closed enough roads already. We don't need any more closures!''
INFLEXIBLE NEW PLAN STIMULATED POLARIZATION
Yet the inflexible standards of the new forest plan stimulated this polarization, and discouraged on-the-ground give and take. Most traditional multiple uses had such standards applied. Motorized recreation and general forest access were especially affected. These inflexible sideboards give very little latitude for on-the-ground solutions. For example, the new forest plan:
• mandated tough road and trail density standards, not only in the Bear Management Units, but throughout the whole forest.
• counted a single track trail where motorized use was allowed as having the same impact on wildlife as a Federal highway.
• imposed a ''closed unless posted open'' fiat on most summer motorized forest access.
UNWILLINGNESS TO WORK TOWARD LOCAL SOLUTION EMERGES
This inflexibility and unwillingness to work for on-the-ground answers manifested itself in other ways as the process moved forward:
• A multiple use alternative developed by local citizens, included in the draft plan and strongly supported by the surrounding communities, was dropped in the final because, we were told, it failed to sufficiently conform to established parameters.
• A travel plan environmental assessment (EA) and decision was issued shortly after the final forest plan was released. This decision designated open roads and trails on the forest, and decided which would be closed to motorized use. The regional office received 1,276 appeals on this decision. These appeals were upheld because the public was not given an opportunity through a site-specific process to comment on individual roads and trails. Targhee officials were directed by the regional office to go through another Travel Plan NEPA process that afforded the public opportunity to comment on site-specific roads and trails.
• It became apparent to citizens and organizations interested in forest access that the new plan was inflexible and therefore unworkable. Together with local elected officials and members of Idaho's congressional delegation, they urged Supervisor Reese to adjust the plan through an amendment. I attempted to persuade him that addressing access would not constitute a whole new plan revision, but he stated that it would. He refused these requests.
• Supervisor Reese issued a closure order closing the entire forest to cross-country motorized use, effectively implementing that portion of the forest plan in advance of the regional-mandated travel plan process. While this action could be considered reasonable in bear management units, it pre-empted the process for the whole forest.
It was explained that this action would enable the public to get used to the idea, and demonstrate how ''closed unless posted open'' would work on the ground. Yet little public information was distributed, and no signs were posted informing the public.
OVER 400 MILES OF ROAD OBLITERATED WITHOUT SITE-SPECIFIC DOCUMENTATION
The cavalier attitude toward public involvement culminated in the obliteration of over 400 miles of road in the bear management units of Fremont County. I realized that additional roads would be closed in this area, and that this closure could proceed in advance of the travel plan process to accommodate the grizzly bear management strategy. Many of the roads in this area were already securely gated.
However. I was appalled at the discovery that these closures would be accomplished by a massive obliteration effort. As BlueRibbon and Citizens for a User Friendly Forest (CUFF) were preparing to file suit over this lapse of NEPA, the bulldozers apparently were urged to go faster. Supervisor Reese stated that this action was necessary because current closures were not effective, and that he was mandated to reduce the road density in two years. We were unable to engage in a productive dialogue that would:
• Examine gates site specifically and determine whether they were effective or not. That all of them were being systematically violated is not true.
• Determine what additional means were needed to make them effective.
• Detemmine whether informal routes were essential (like Schoolhouse Draw, site of our October rally) and could be traded for other routes.
• Resolve and address concerns about winter travel safety.
• Determine the impact on the non-motorized recreationist.
• Determine if obliterations were necessary in the developed portions of Island Park, where the closures would not contribute to grizzly bear security.
Teton County passed an emergency ordinance that temporarily stopped the earth moving equipment from completing the obliteration in that County. About 22 roads remained to be obliterated. Because our suit was pending, and because the season was advancing, the forest service agreed to stop the work for the season. At a Teton County Commissioners' meeting that preceded this decision, Commissioner Brent Robson showed a video demonstrating that several of the roads on the obliteration list had open and unsecured gates. The question was asked, ''How could the forest claim trespass if the gates were not secured?'' In the ensuing discussion about securing roads with minimum impact, Ranger Patty Bates estimated that 25 percent of the current closures are effective. The group agreed that closures should be effected by the minimum means, not maximum. This meeting was not a part of a NEPA process, but it demonstrated that give and take could still occur. This is increasingly rare, however.
Targhee's current management attitude can be characterized by:
• Unwillingness to seek on-the-ground solutions.
• Breakdown in constructive communication.
We do not accept excuses such as, ''We're mandated by the Endangered Species Act. We'll get sued if we don't.'' These scapegoats represent avoidance of problems, not a commitment to solutions. The Targhee is but one example of how ''thinking in the box'' constrains land management problem solving. Committed to top-down mandates that come in a box, other national forest units face similar difficulties. That's why we are here. We need our Members of Congress to help us toward creative solutions, to help us ''think out of the box'' to plan the management of our public lands.
The tank trapping activity of the USFS 1997-98-99 was done for one species, massive closure to achieve road density protocols defined by a biological assessment document. This is an update to that original Biological Assessment for Idaho forest plan assessments that include the grizzly bear, signed in 2017. The Targhee Caribou management plan revision must be next, look at the map, wherever that bear walks management plans will be affected.
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.