From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 1, Number 51 - March 21, 2002
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Sublette County calls for food order to be rescinded

by Cat Urbigkit

By Cat Urbigkit

On Tuesday the Sublette County Commissioners voted to request U.S. Forest Service officials rescind the expanded food storage order slated to take effect April 1 in the Bridger-Teton National Forest.

The discussion leading into that request was revealing for a group of graduate students from the East Coast who attended the session on another matter.

Three representatives of the Sublette County Outfitters Association spoke with the commission to request the commission opposition to the order. It just so happened that a group of five Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies students were on hand to listen to the discussion. The group, under the supervision of Yale Professor Tim Clark of Jackson, is conducting a case study of large carnivore conservation in the Yellowstone region. When the students began asking questions about management of grizzlies, wolves and mountain lions, and relationships with federal agencies, it opened a can of worms.

Commissioner Betty Fear said while relationships with local agency personnel are generally good, decisions and policies arenít set at this level.

Commission Chairman Bill Cramer said he believes that a lot of what happens with predator conservation isnít driven so much by concern for the species as it is a desire to eliminate other users of national forests. Cramer said those who hold this view are "arrogant" and "intrusive" and have "no regard for historic uses in the West that have occurred for generations."

Cramer said, "I donít blame the wolves or the grizzly bears for being what they are," but added that local governments like Sublette, Lincoln and Fremont counties are "upset, fed up with having things crammed down our throats" and in having local views "being perceived as insignificant."

"People here are being treated as though they donít matter," Cramer said.

Commissioner Gordon Johnston said the food storage order is "idiotic" and is another example of the federal government trying to protect citizens from themselves.

"Somehow, people from somewhere else have the idea that it is okay to come in here and experiment with us and our livelihoods, our way of life, if you will," Cramer said.

Fear said people need to realize that the people of Wyoming havenít been bandits robbing the lands, but have actually taken care of the land.

"What we have here has been pretty well taken care of," Fear said.

Cramer agreed, adding that he is tired of having western Wyoming people being viewed as "backwards rubes and ignorants who arenít capable of taking care of what we have."

Fear said the resolution is that all involved parties need to be at the table together rather than being given federal mandates.

Outfitters Terry Pollard, Todd Stevie and Kim Bright provided the commission with information in opposition to the order. Pollard said outfitters in grizzly bear use areas are using three-strand electric fences and a pack of dogs in order to keep grizzlies out of their camps. He said the forest service order doesnít keep problems from happening, noting that some of the provisions, which are designed to deter grizzlies, may actually increase problems with black bears. He said having the meat poles, which black bears can climb, located so far from camps could increase problems, when he prefers to have the meat hung in camp, so there are people and dogs to deter marauding bruins.

Stevie pointed out that having an empty pop can in the back of a pickup truck could earn a person a citation for violating the order. Bright said the problem is the "Bambi syndrome" in which man is viewed as the evil presence in the woods.

Last week the Fremont County Commission declared both gray wolves and grizzly bears to be "unacceptable species" because they pose "a threat to public health, safety and livelihood." The resolutions prohibit their "presence, introduction or reintroduction."

A separate Fremont County resolution prohibits the implementation of food storage orders within the boundaries of Fremont County. Similar resolutions or public statements in support of these positions have now been adopted by the Lincoln County Commission, and the town governments of Afton, Dubois and Lander.

Food storage regulations have been in place within the grizzly bear recovery zone for a number of years, but Shoshone and Bridger-Teton National Forest officials propose to greatly expand the area covered by the order effective April 1. The order requires that unattended food be stored in bear-resistant containers, hard-sided vehicles or hung above ground out of the reach of bears.

After discussing the issue for about an hour, the commission agreed to request Forest Supervisor Kniffy Hamilton rescind the food storage order for the Bridger-Teton National Forest.

Cramer put forth a motion that, should the forest service refuse to rescind the order, Sublette County would follow Fremont Countyís lead "and just ban those animals which are the cause of their perceptions that the rule needs to be imposed."

No second was offered by the other commissioners (although State Representative Louie Tomassi of Big Piney was in attendance and laughingly offered his second) and the motion died.

Johnston said he didnít support taking action similar to Fremont County because "I think itís counterproductive," and would only serve to antagonize the forest service.

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