From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 3, Number 45 - February 5, 2004
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Trappers Point group reconvenes

by Cat Urbigkit

The informal Trappers Point Working Group reconvened in Daniel last Thursday, complete with a seventh-grade class in attendance to listen to the negotiations taking place for protecting the wildlife migration corridor.

Much of the first hour of the meeting rehashed what the group has discussed and accomplished during the last four or five months of meetings since the group was initially convened by House District 22 Representative Monte Olsen.

Bob Maxam of the Wyoming Department of Transportation noted that plans for the flashing light/deer detection system near the Cora Y highway junction should be completed by July or August and the project should be let in October. The project involves installation of an infrared sensor in combination with a geophone.

In attendance at the Daniel session were representatives of the wildlife, transportation and planning agencies at state level; county, state and federal planners; two natural gas industry representatives; an outfitter; a rancher and two other interested parties, as well as about half-a-dozen environmental group representatives.

Disagreement broke out over where the detection system should be installed, and how fences should be modified.

Meredith Taylor of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition said that she had submitted a proposal to the Bureau of Land Management to make the livestock allotment and drift fence in the area wildlife-friendly.

Rancher Charles Price noted that the cattlemen need to be involved, and will cooperate on reducing hindrances to wildlife migration, but cautioned that alterations to the fences must be done in a manner that permits the fence to do the job it is supposed to do - prohibit livestock movement.

Price said it's important to do the right thing for migrating animals, but emphasized that the fence can't be compromised to the point that it is unusable.

Price said that the cattlemen are willing to work in a cooperative manner, but questioned the environmental representatives present if they are supportive of continued livestock grazing in the area.

Cathy Purves of the Wyoming Wildlife Federation said her group is not opposed to livestock grazing: "We don't want to put you out of business either."

GYC's Taylor answered in a different way. She said that all alternatives "should be on the table" and that just because the drift has historically had a staging/sorting area in that location, that's no reason why it can't be moved elsewhere. Price disagreed with moving the location.

Potential hunting conflicts were discussed as well. Bernie Holz of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department noted that the antelope-hunting season is open during the fall antelope migration, so hunting could disrupt the migration, in addition to a human safety factor in hunting so close to the highway in the bottleneck area.

Holz said in trying to manage these issues, the difficulty is that the state wildlife agency can't predict when the migration is going to occur (even to the week, let alone the day).

Price said the safety issue is probably the more critical of the two problems, since firing takes place toward the highway, at times when there are riders on horseback in the area, in addition to the nearby subdivision.

"I brought that up because I've seen that happen and I'm kind of worried about it," Price explained about the hunting issue.

Purves said safety for hunters is a huge concern and hunters will have to step up to the plate and address the issue.

Linda Baker of the Upper Green River Valley Coalition said the very existence of the working group highlights the importance of the area for wildlife, which may lead some hunters to target the area because of the large number of animals there during the hunting season.

Holz said one solution might be to define a hunting boundary area that would close a few weeks earlier in the year than the rest of the antelope hunting areas.

Purves said for such a season to work, hunters need to be involved in the process and should be given a full understanding of the reason such action is necessary.

The group fielded questions from the seventh-grade students in attendance, ranging from Kathryn Konicek's questions about natural gas development, to Taylor Irwin's concerning private property rights and Mathew Boyce's questions about the impact of snowfall on the remote deer detection system.

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