Working to Protect Wyoming's Wild Public Lands.
Bridger-Teton National Forest (BTNF)
On Thursday, July 17, 2014, WWA hosted an EcoFlight over the Palisades Wilderness Study Area - a truly amazing experience with stunning views of some of Wyoming's most beautiful wild lands! Currently, the Jackson Ranger District in the BTNF is proposing a Teton to Snake Fuels Reduction Management Project to manipulate more than 22,5000 acres to reduce wildfires withing and outside of the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI). Much of this work is to occur in wild places within the Palisades WSA, possibly having a detrimental effect to this land. Click here to read more about the Palisades and why it is important to protect this region.



* EcoFlight footage coming soon!
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Bridger-Teton National Forest is located in western Wyoming, United States and consists of a total of 3.4 million acres (13,800 km²), making it the second largest National Forest, second to Alaska. The BTNF stretches from Yellowstone National Park, along the eastern boundary of Grand Teton National Park and continues to ride along the western slope of the Continental Divide to the southern end of the Wind River Range. The forest also extends southward encompassing the Salt River Range and Wyoming Range mountains near the Idaho border. Located within the forest are the Gros Ventre, Bridger Wilderness and Teton Wildernesses totaling 1.3 million acres (4,900 km²).

In 2008, the BTNF completed their Evaluation of Areas with Wilderness Potential” and found that 87% of roadless areas contained both “high” and “very high” potential for wilderness recommendations. Over 1.5 million acres of the BTNF qualified as roadless areas, designating 458,030 acres with high potential and 880,395 acres with very high (or “highest”) potential. Citizen involvement is paramount to bringing the highest amount of these roadless acres to wilderness recommendations in the final forest plan revision process.

Other points of interest contained in the forest include Gannett Peak (13,804 ft/4,207 m), the tallest mountain in Wyoming, and the Gros Ventre landslide, which is one of the largest readily visible landslides on earth. All of the forest is in turn a part of the 20 million acre (81,000 km²) Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

While Gannett Peak is the highest summit in the forest, another 40 named mountains rise above 12,000 feet (3,658 m). The high altitudes and abundant snowfall, exceeding 600 inches (50 ft/15 m) at some locations, provides a constant supply of water for streams and rivers. 1,500 lakes also help provide water for the Yellowstone, Snake and Green Rivers, which all have their headwaters in the forest.


FOREST PLANNING AND NEW WILDERNESS

The Bridger-Teton National Forest in the Intermountain Region has suspended the Forest Plan revision process until court decisions on forest planning are finalized. A new timeline has not been announced to date (04/2012).  The BTNF holds the potential for the most new wilderness of any forest in Wyoming with 87% of roadless areas of high wilderness potential!


Roadless areas were identified during the Roadless Area Review and Evaluation II (RARE II) analysis conducted in 1978 and re-evaluated in 1983 to include all areas of at least 5,000 acres without developments and substantially natural in character. The RARE II and subsequent roadless area inventories and evaluations identified twenty roadless areas in the forest. In 1984 with the passage of the Wyoming Wilderness Act, most of the Gros Ventre roadless area became the Gros Ventre Wilderness and Shoal Creek Wilderness Study Area; another roadless area became the Palisades Wilderness Study Area.


Natural areas without roads or developments contribute to the BTNF‘s niche, character and sense of place; they possess attributes of public interest that do not necessarily have to do with their potential as wilderness; the state of “roadlessness” is valuable for recreation as well as its influence on clean water and healthy watersheds, wildlife habitat, and biodiversity, among other attributes. In 2008, the BTNF evaluated areas of potential wilderness which could be recommended to Congress for future designation. Areas not recommended may still be managed under forest plan direction as unroaded backcountry.


Protect Our Palisades!


 
The Bridger-Teton National Forest is planning a project that involves thinning, burning, and logging on a project area of over 79,000 acres including areas in the Palisades Wilderness Study Area and two Inventoried Roadless Areas. This project will impact forest ecosystems, wildlife, air quality, recreation opportunities, and our precious wild areas.

The Environmental Impact Statement Scoping Document is available for review at:
http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/nepa_project_exp.php?project=23638



Reasons for Concern:
  • This project will trammel our wildlands including the Palisades WSA and two inventoried roadless areas. 
  •  This project could imperil the possibility of future wilderness designation for the Palisades.
  • Wildlife will be harmed when workers disturb their habitat.
  • Massive wildfires are fueled by drought, lack of humidity, and wind. Thinning projects will not alter these environmental factors.
  • The Scoping document lacks scientific evidence and citations.
  • The boundary of the Palisades WSA has not yet been legally determined.
  • The Forest Service's own report found that seven years of “thinning” did not mitigate fire behavior in the massive 2010 Fourmile Canyon Fire in Colorado.
  • We all want to protect homes but there are better ways to protect homes. The facts are:  having non-flammable roofs and creating defensible space directly around homes can save up to 95% of homes in the event of a wildfire. Why not use the money allotted for this project to help homeowners make those modifications instead of harming our wildlands?
USDA Forest Service: Teton to Snake Fuels Managment website

WWA Scoping Comments for Teton to Snake Fuels Management Project Environmental Impact Statement (PDF)

For more information:
Contact Matt Herron
307.203.8382
matt@wildwyo.org

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WWA brought George Wuerthner to Wilson for lecture!

On February 8, 2012 ecologist and author George Wuerthner spoke to a packed Old Wilson Schoolhouse in Wilson, WY  about the impacts of fire on forests and wildlife, fire ecology, pine bark beetles, and the value of dead trees in a forest ecosystem.

George holds degrees in botany, wildlife, biology and range science and has written and edited 33 books including Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy and Yellowstone: The Fires of Change. He has spent 30 years studying wildfires and forest ecosystems and has worked as a biologist/ranger for the National Park Service, BLM and Forest Service as well as a university instructor. He is the Ecological Projects Director for the Foundation for Deep Ecology.


WWA invited him to speak to coincide with the Bridger-Teton National Forest’s proposed "Teton to Snake Fuels Management" project in 83,000 acres of forest from Teton Village to Alpine, including the Palisades Wilderness Study Area and two designated roadless areas. The BTNF is scheduled to release an Environmental Assessment on the project this spring, followed by a 30 day public comment period.

 
George was interviewed on Jackson Hole Community Radio. To listen to the interview, click below or click here for more Q&A with George.



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THE 2001 ROADLESS RULE AND AREAS OF POTENTIAL WILDERNESS

Under the Roadless Area Conservation Rule of 2001 inventoried roadless areas of record were fixed in time and place. National forest policy related to this rule holds that inventoried roadless areas contain important environmental values that warrant protection. Accordingly, until a forest-scale roads analysis is completed and incorporated into a forest plan, inventoried roadless areas shall, as a general rule, be managed to preserve their roadless characteristics. However, where a line officer determines that an exception may be warranted, the decision to approve a road management activity or timber harvest in these areas was once reserved to Chief of the Forest Service, but is now the domain of the Secretary of Agriculture. On a project-specific basis, the Secretary, for good cause, may grant exceptions to the reservations of authority upon the written request of a Regional Forester or Forest Supervisor. This has never occurred on the BTNF.

Click HERE for more information on the Roadless Rule.

The BTNF has identified areas within the forest that might be potential additions to the national wilderness preservation system. These are called AREAS OF POTENTIAL WILDERNESS instead of ‘roadless‘ areas to avoid confusion between those areas legally bound by the 2001 rule and those that result from the updated and corrected maps of forest roads and trails. 

See BTNF Evaluation of Areas with Wilderness Potential 2008 - pg 11


THE LAW ON NEW WILDERNESS EVALUATIONS

[The regulations implementing the National Forest Management Act require that,   …roadless areas within the National Forest System shall be evaluated and considered for recommendation as potential wilderness areas during the forest planning process (36 CFR 219.17, 1982).  [Note: Regulations for the 2000 Planning Rule (36 CFR 219.27), not now in effect, require that "…all undeveloped areas that are of sufficient size as to make practicable their preservation and use in an unimpaired condition must be evaluated for recommended wilderness designation during the plan revision process."]  Further requirements for evaluation and designation of wilderness are in Forest Service Manual (FSM) 1923, FSM 2320 and Forest Service Handbook (FSH) 1909.12, Chapter 7.  Roadless and undeveloped areas are also important for the nonmotorized recreation, ecological and other values they help provide.  Some areas also have substantial motorized trail recreation values.

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IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE

Seven of the largest glaciers outside of Alaska are located within the Bridger-Teton forest boundaries. However, glaciers in the region have experienced ongoing negative balances and glacier shrinkage.  Examination of Dinwoody and Gannett Glacier indicated relatively little change in terminus position or areal extent from 1958-1983.  Since 1983 retreat rates have again accelerated on these two glaciers.  There is are no recent field observations of mass balance, glacier thickness or glacier extent change in the Wind River Range, and satellite imagery is the only means to assess glacier response in the region to climate change over the last 40 years.  Of the 15 glacier examined six have experienced insignificant change in glacier margin and ice thickness.  Gannett and Dinwoody Glacier are the two largest glaciers in the range and despite significant terminus retreat, the accumulation zones remain unchanged.

On Fremont Glacier, the change in areal extent is 11%.  Of the nine glaciers in disequilibrium J, Twins, Grasshopper, Minor, Heap Steep, Mammoth and Lower Fremont Glacier exhibit significant new bedrock exposure within the accumulation zone.  Marginal retreat in the accumulation zone is evident on Baby, J, Twins, Grasshopper, Minor, Heap Steep, Helen and Lower Fremont Glacier.   Knife Point Glacier has lost 31 % of its area since 1966, but all the change is in the terminus area of the glacier, 280 m of retreat, and one small tributary chute on its northern margin.  Grasshopper Glacier has experienced 640 m of retreat and 27% reduction in areal extent, with most of the reduction in the accumulation zone.  These examples indicate the difficulty in using only terminus change or areal extent change in determining equilibrium response.  Read more

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