The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) and their contracted Langdon Group have been adamant that public involvement in the Hwy 20 road project has been transparent, open, with no biased involvement by special groups or individuals. Really? How dishonest can they be?
In the Targhee Pass Environmental Scoping Report, released December, 2017, a comment was submitted jointly by the Yellowstone 2 Yukon and Greater Yellowstone Coalition, found in Appendix B, Comment #10, and cites 2 letters of reference written to ITD. Since the report is on a public domain, the information contained in it is also in the public domain.
On July 30, 2016 a letter was submitted for comments on the "Draft Idaho Transportation Department Idaho Transportation Investment Program". The individuals submitting the letter included Renee Callahan, Center for Large Landscape Conservation; Elizabeth Domenech, Island Park Safe Wildlife Passage Coordinator; Meredith McClure, Center for Large Landscape Conservation; Kylie Paul, Defenders of Wildlife; Lacy Robinson, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative; Kim Trotter, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative; Brian Brooks, Idaho Wildlife Federation; Carolyn Fifer, Montanans for Safe Wildlife Passage member; Ryan Lutey, Vital Ground Foundation; Mary Pendergast, Wild Utah Project; Kathy Rinaldi, Greater Yellowstone Coalition; and John Robison, Idaho Conservation League. How can comments be submitted when the Environmental Assessment (EA) comment period had not even been opened up to the public, and the first "public" workshop in December, 2016 had not even been held??? Did the Idaho Transportation Department or Langdon group make any effort to notify Island Park residents, especially during a time when most were in residency, that comments were being sought?
Contained in this letter is promotion of wildlife overpasses, not just at Targhee Pass, but in many Idaho transportation projects. On page 5, Targhee Pass is referenced as Project 14054. It states, "Several of our organizations were invited to a meeting with ITD’s District 6 to review a draft of Dr. Patricia C. Cramer’s forthcoming report, “Idaho Wildlife Connectivity and Safety Solutions on US 20 and SH 87...". These groups and individuals have always been personally involved with ITD and were given a private meeting. Based on this meeting, these individuals asked that "...ITD act on the recommendations made by...the forthcoming Cramer report, and include wildlife mitigation in the planning and engineering process for this project" and "...amend the ITIP for Project 14054 to include project funds to cover the cost associated with implementing mitigation solutions." Recommendations from Cramer's 2014 report were also supported. Which ITD employee extended the invitation?
At the end of the letter are several maps that falsely give the appearance of large numbers of Elk because it covers a 3-4 year period, but on the first map no Elk are even found at Targhee Pass! The best they can do is have maps showing "anticipated potential impacts on wildlife habitat connectivity" at Targhee Pass and other targeted areas. They want millions of dollars spent on the pretense that they are correct. Animal training is another forte of theirs with fencing. Notice the maps state it is about impacts on connectivity, not wildlife mortality. That is because this is not about Elk mortality from vehicle collisions, it is about their connectivity agenda.
This letter was cc'd to Brian Ness, Director, Idaho Transportation Department; Virgil Moore, Director, Idaho Department of Fish and Game; Jeff Gould, Wildlife Bureau Chief, Idaho Department of Fish and Game; and Mark Doerr, Chairman, Idaho Department of Fish and Game Commission. Any claims of no awareness by these departments that there has been no intimate involvement by special interest groups, and that public involvement has been transparent, can be challenged.
In the conclusion, these individuals recommended, "...ITD coordinate any proposed transportation projects with IDFG and other relevant natural resource and wildlife managers, as well as interested stakeholders.", and they "...would be happy conduct site visits with you (ITD) as you continue the design process for the above-mentioned projects." Island Park residents, the very people who live there, must be their other plebeian "interested stakeholders", but it was this group who received the invitation from ITD. Island Park residents were never invited to a personal, private meeting with ITD for their opinion. How does that fit with the NEPA requirements for public participation that involves everyone?
The second letter cited is from the Henry’s Fork Legacy Project (HFLP), dated July 29, 2016. This letter was submitted by David Weskamp, Conservation Manager for East Idaho, The Nature Conservancy; Dennis Glick, Executive Director, Future West; Jamie Laatsch, Conservation and Outreach Coordinator, Henry's Fork Foundation; Kathy Rinaldi, Idaho Conservation Coordinator, Greater Yellowstone Coalition; Kim Trotter, US Program Director, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative; Mary and Parmer VanFleet, Residents, Island Park, Member Idaho Master Naturalists, HFLP, HLF, Henry’s Fork Foundation, The Nature, Conservancy, Teton Regional Land Trust; Renee Seidler, Associate Conservation Scientist, Wildlife Conservation Society, North America Program; and Timothy D. Reynolds, Ph.D., Certified Wildlife Biologist.
In this letter, these individuals also requested that "...ITD include wildlife mitigation in the planning, budgeting and engineering process." It states, "HFLP members were invited to a meeting with ITD..." to also review Cramer’s 2016 draft. This letter also acknowledges, "With close proximity to Yellowstone National Park, this stretch of US-20 is also an important linkage area for migrating elk and moose populations, as well as mule deer, pronghorn, and black bears." Again, this is not about saving Elk, it is about their agenda for connectivity and using overpasses as the first step towards linkages to Yellowstone Park.
It is time that ITD and Langdon are forthcoming about their deep involvement with special interest groups and individuals, and own up to the fact that Island Park residents have not been given even a comparative opportunity to be involved in any decisions regarding Targhee Pass. For ITD and those individuals who just can't understand why their agenda is not adopted, you need to understand you are threatening our home, where we live. If someone were to come into your community and start making plans to change it and how you live, would you sit by and let them do it? Or would you do something about it? Those who live in and love Island Park are not going to accede with your plans to change our home.
Sign the Petition to stop all wildlife overpasses in Island Park on Hwy 20. If you are using a mobile device the link has not been working, please try on a PC, laptop, or iPad. It might also be affected by a weak wifi connection, try again with a stronger connection.
Updated iPlan Now Includes All Hwy 20 Overpasses
While the 1-3 wildlife overpasses proposed at Targhee Pass are at the forefront of the public dialogue, the entire section of the HWY 20 transportation corridor future plan now incorporates the P. Cramer study recommendations for both overpasses and underpasses. It can be viewed at the following link.
Instructions: Click on the above link, go to the far right top under wildlife, or to the menu button-drop down that will show ‘Wildlife’. Click on that tab, all segments of the highway will come up. You can further refine your search by clicking on the individual segments on the left which brings up specific details on the structures. On the map, clicking on the Legend sign at the top right explains the icon and which wildlife structure is being proposed.
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.