Printed in Post Register September 23, 2017
Bryan Clark’s recent article “Wildlife overpasses examined near Island Park” is a real tribute to his blatant bias in support of ultra environmentalists attempting to exert control over this area yet again. Just a few years ago we were concerned about the possibility of the Island Park area being designated as a national monument. Local citizens protested with an advisory vote of 93% NO votes.
This latest attempt is aided by Clark’s article quoting several people who are pushing for multiple $3-4 million overpasses, and the opposition is described as “individuals ideologically aligned with the further-right corners of the tea party and the John Birch Society.”
The Island Park Preservation Coalition consists of private land and business owners, outdoorsmen, conservation enthusiasts and others who work together to find a balanced approach to determine how to best enhance the Island Park area. Ken Watts has been instrumental in spearheading this group, and would be an excellent source for information on the overpasses and other items of interest in this community.
Targhee Pass is scheduled for improvements including passing lanes and replacing the pavement. This is needed and within the scope of the Idaho TRANSPORTATION Department funds, which are to be spent on ROADS and BRIDGES. The legislature passed a gas tax increase a few years ago to address our aging infrastructure. This is what our Idaho citizens expect to see, not some animal overpasses that are not necessary. According to the Fremont County Sheriff’s office, 5 animal-vehicle collisions were documented on this 4 mile stretch so far in 2017. That’s a heck of a lot of money for a minimal problem.
I live in a rural area where moose, deer, coyotes, skunks and raccoons may be on the road. It is part of our life to coexist with wildlife. Our county commissioners and Ken’s group have made workable suggestions to minimize these accidents, including a reduction in speed limits (especially at night); cutting back trees so animals and people can more easily see each other; signs to warn visitors traveling these roads. Keep in mind, many newer cars have accident-avoidance features to mitigate this problem too and in the future this technology will become standard on vehicles.
In order for these overpasses to work, miles of fencing will be required and the maintenance for that fencing; both will also be funded by ITD with our ROAD and BRIDGE money. And shall I mention more limited access and private property restrictions will surely follow as these animals’ movements from summer to winter ranges using these structures will be designated as migratory corridors?
Wildlife overpasses have some drawbacks: hunter camps may set up near these “funnels,” if the grizzlies and wolves don’t beat them to the prey. Wildlife doesn’t necessarily follow the rules and may go around the fences. In Colorado a few years ago several deer and elk did go around a fence and were trapped on the highway side. Many were hit and killed; the road had to be closed, holes were cut in the fence, and eventually 50 people were able to get most of them behind the fence. Wildlife overpasses are not foolproof!
Highway 20 north of St. Anthony is in need of the precious transportation funds appropriated for ROADS and BRIDGES. I have seen the proposals for improvement on several sections. I believe the 7-mile Chester to Ashton segment should be a top priority. Along with local traffic, tour buses and semi-trucks are lined up on this 70-mile-an-hour stretch, and someone is always attempting to pass a long parade of vehicles. This summer a 2 fatality accident spotlighted the immediate need of building 2 additional lanes to improve safety and accommodate the number of vehicles on this stretch of highway.
I encourage taxpayers of Idaho to contact ITD and remind them our transportation dollars are to be spent on ROADS and BRIDGES. The comment period is ending the end of this month.
Representative Karey Hanks—District 35
(The comment period has ended, you are encouraged to contact ITD anyway as they are continuing to evaluate and determine future work on HWY 20)
This article was re-printed 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.