From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 3, Number 12 - June 19, 2003
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Food storage meetings held

by Cat Urbigkit

Although the public wasn't allowed to attend or participate, Bridger-Teton National Forest officials held meetings earlier this week in Sublette County with selected community members to discuss the proposed expanded food storage order.

About 20 people were invited to each meeting, with the letter to invitees noting, "Let us again make clear that we do not plan to discuss whether or not a special order is needed." Instead, the purpose of the meeting was to discuss how best to implement the order.

The Examiner was invited, but did not attend.

Sublette County Commissioner Gordon Johnston said he attended the Pinedale meeting and felt several of the local attendees provided very significant input into specific problems that could be caused by the wording of the order as proposed. Johnston said he felt the Forest Service officials attending had learned from their concerns and expects those concerns to be addressed.

State Representative Stan Cooper attended one of the meetings as well. He agreed that significant issues were raised, as were questions about what types of conflicts are occurring in the expansion area.

Overall, Cooper said, it was an informative session, but "we're going down a one-track road" since there is no question that the agency will impose the order.

The informational packet sent to invitees noted that conflicts with bears has increased, and expansion of the food storage order wasn't simply a ploy to force the expansion of grizzly bears into new areas.

Black bears cause problems, as do grizzlies, according to one handout, but since they aren't protected, "many people have told us the solution to conflicts with black bears is to shoot them." But the Forest Service responded, "Simply shooting every black bear that gets into trouble is not an acceptable solution."

The agency also noted it has a responsibility "to protect human safety and to maintain viable bear populations."

The handout noted: "No food storage order is similar to saying we shouldn't have a speed limit on the roads in Wyoming. Many people would voluntarily drive at a safe speed, however, many would not and this creates a safety hazard for everyone."

The handout added that "seldom does it take more than a single instance of a bear obtaining human food" to become a problem, and, "Once a bear associates camps with food, it will likely visit them all."

Both the Shoshone and Bridger-Teton national forest officials have expressed their intentions to expand the area covered by the food storage order in the very near future. Although the entire Bridger-Teton isn't proposed to be included in the expanded order at this time, the Forest Service handout noted proper food storage is encouraged forest-wide and the agency anticipates that the order will eventually be expanded to cover the entire forest.

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