From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 3, Number 7 - May 15, 2003
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Food storage order brewing

by Cat Urbigkit

As long as there are both bears and humans utilizing the Bridger-Teton National Forest, there will be the potential for conflicts between the two, according to Bridger-Teton spokesman Jay Anderson.

That's why the federal land-management agency is still contemplating expanding its food storage order to encompass most, if not all, of the Bridger-Teton and the Shoshone national forests in western Wyoming.

The food storage order is already in effect within the official grizzly bear recovery zone in the national forests. The order imposes certain food-storage requirements as a way to reduce the possibility of conflicts between people and bears (both black bears and grizzlies).

Last year, U.S. Forest Service officials proposed to expand the area covered by the food storage order, but decided to slow the process down when faced with strong public opposition.

Anderson said in an interview this week that forest officials have been working to install needed infrastructure for the program, such as the installation of meat poles and food boxes, as well as educational and informational efforts to let the public know how to store food properly and why it is so important that they do so.

"We are trying to facilitate food storage for all who want to do it," Anderson said.

The proposed expansion of the food storage order last year generated a great deal of public discussion that federal officials are still sorting through, Anderson said, such as how is a person to accomplish hanging food out of a bear's reach when camping above timberline? Anderson said the order needs to be flexible enough to address tough issues, but practical enough that the order can be enforced.

When questioned about concerns expressed by outfitters regarding the order and the expense it would take to comply, Anderson said his agency has heard those concerns and is trying to address those, adding that electric fences around camps may be the best way for outfitters to keep bears away from temptation.

Interestingly, the standard operating plan for outfitters and guides permitted to use the Pinedale Ranger District has this to say about electric fences: "Electrical fencing is not considered an effective facility for keeping human food, game meat/parts, or prepared horse feed unavailable to bears."

Anderson also noted that his agency must also work to address the issue of consistency between various areas of the forest, as well as various users of the forest. Generally, livestock permittees and outfitters in certain areas of the forest are held to a higher standard than the general public.

As for expansion of the food storage order to the Pinedale and Big Piney ranger districts, Anderson said he couldn't venture a guess when Forest Service officials would sign the order. Some forest users have been concerned that agency officials would impose the order for this fall's hunting season, giving little time to prepare.

"It could be in place and it may not be in place," Anderson said, adding he simply didn't know if his agency would move forward with the order this year or not.

"It's coming, sooner or later," Anderson said. "The issue is never going to go away."

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