From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 3, Number 27 - October 2, 2003
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Trappers Point group formed

by Cat Urbigkit

State Representative Monte Olsen brought together a group of about 30 concerned entities at the Daniel Community Center Wednesday morning to discuss the Trappers Point migration bottleneck in attempt to create a "bottleneck protection plan."

Attending the session were state wildlife and highway officials, conservation organizations, state and county planning officials and oil and gas industry representatives.

"Industry came to me and posed this idea of bringing people together to talk about the bottleneck," Olsen said, adding he agreed to facilitate the session and chose the Daniel venue as the proper place for the discussion.

Meeting attendees included seven environmental representatives, six state officials, three Bureau of Land Management representatives, two industry reps and two county officials. Although representatives of the local livestock and outfitters' organizations were invited to the session, they were unable to attend. No private landowners in the area were in attendance, nor were members of the real estate business community.

Bernie Holz of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department said the Trappers Point bottleneck, located at the Cora Y, sits amid U.S. Highways 191 and 352, and County Road 110. The natural width of the divide between the Green and New Fork rivers is about one mile, but Holz said the effective width is only about half a mile, or about 320 acres, primarily BLM land. While deer and cattle cross Hwy 191 by using an underpass, antelope won't use the underpass.

When asked by Olsen about whether the discussion should center on the 320 acres, Holz responded, "I think the area that needs to be protected is far bigger than 320 acres."

Linda Baker of the Upper Green River Valley Coalition said the 320 acres is simply a small area south of Hwy 191, and it should be increased to at least include another 640 acres north of the highway that the BLM tried to lease for mineral development.

Olsen asked the group to set a specific parameter of a certain minimal acreage to be discussed, noting perhaps the 320 acres is too small, but 20,000 acres is too large. He suggested 800 acres.

Sublette County Commissioner Gordon Johnston said the area of concern is much larger.

"The scary part of that is, if we set narrow boundaries," Johnston said, there are people who will assume that "everything else is fair game ... They'll pave everything and everything else is condominiums."

Meredith Taylor of the Wyoming Outdoor Council said she feels it is "very dangerous to limit it to a very small area of Trappers Point ... It's a bigger problem of subdivisions, oil and gas development and existing ranching operations"

She said she felt that the size should be bigger than 1,000 acres, but less than 20,000 acres.

Keith Andrews and Kellie Roadifer of the BLM explained that the Trappers Point issue is also being considered in the Pinedale Resource Management Plan revision process.

Petroleum Association of Wyoming vice president Dru Bower said that industry recognizes that the bottleneck is a legitimate concern, and is willing to listen to all of the discussions, they don't want to see the issue blown up to encompass larger issues, like the withdrawal of leases.

"We truly want to do what's right for this area," Bower said.

Fred Palmer with Shell Rocky Mountain Production said that the industry wants to work through this process and perhaps could agree to a protection model in which tight restrictions could be placed on the bottleneck itself, while intermediate measures could be used in a larger radius from the bottleneck.

Wyoming Department of Transportation officials explained that their agency's mission is the safety of the traveling public and it aims to reduce or minimize vehicle big game collisions in the area.

WYDOT also noted that it is scheduled in 2005 to install a prototype flashing light for animal detection on Trappers Point.

Johnston said that although there are plenty of agencies involved, "there is only one agency that can handle these problems on private lands ... only three people can do it and that's the board of county commissioners." He said the county commissioners are the "only ones that have the hammer."

Taylor pointed out that the bottleneck is one of many in this region and noted that it has been "proposed for a national migration corridor, so yes, it is going to be bigger than Trappers Point."

When it came time to brainstorm a list of possible solutions, Taylor suggested that there be no leasing in the bottleneck.

Tom Darin of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance suggested that private lands will be included in the process, so he would like to see a group at the table that can offer conservation easements to landowners.

The group met for two hours and agreed to form a group to meet in the future to begin creating a protection plan for the area and to make suggestions to the BLM. The next meeting is slated for Tuesday, Oct. 14, at 10 a.m. in the Daniel Community Center.

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