Bridger-Teton National Forest produces its long-awaited travel plan

Big news because this forest is so scenic, recreational and wildlife important-

With the growth in use of off-road vehicles, the travel plan for each national forest has become a bigger and more important decision. After a number of years of work and rounds of public input the Bridger-Teton National Forest in NW Wyoming has finally released their new travel plan.

Forest plan limits ATVs. Environmental groups, motorized use advocates praise formalized trail system, Bridger-Teton staff for response to public comments. By Cory Hatch. Jackson Hole News and Guide.



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  1. Bob Caesar Avatar
    Bob Caesar

    I am totally breathless! As if the air were sucked from my lungs! The environment has actually won one!

    The passage of this Travel Plan is at first glance the single most significant, environmentally sound ruling by the Bridger Teton Natl. Forest in decades! Sure, there are probably a few little problems: conflicts, errors, etc, but on balance the Forest Svc has done one heck of a job in protecting the Nation’s largest, most beautiful National Forest! Protecting it that is from the ever-growing intrusion of off highway vehicles! After all, we just must stop driving anywhere we like!

    The BT staff worked tirelessly to get this done in the face of very strong lobbying pressure from commercial interest, and the “greens”. But get it done they did and my hat is off to them! They have listened to the public and come up with a well balanced plan that provides OHVs the opportunity to ride, wildlife a place to live, hikers a place to hike, bikers to bike. etc, etc. You get my drift!

    Thank heavens “IT” is finally the rule of our Forest!

    What’s next on the list? Bring it on…!

  2. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    I hate to dampen the dance, but when will the BT stop horrendous overgrazing by outfitters in their wilderness areas? All the valleys …from one camp to the next… some 7 miles apart are denuded by herds of 1-200 horses. when will they stop the salting to draw the elk in to the hunters?

    When will they limit the take of cut throats at Bridger Lake/ The heck with G&F regs. This is a wilderness area and thus has the mandate to keep abuse in check.

    When will they start clearing trails so outfitters don’t weave all around…and when will they limit stock use in wet conditions? None has and I see no sign of this being done.

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    As you know, Lee Mercer and I wrote Hiking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.

    When we began the undertaking I believe the Buffalo R.D. that administered the Teton Wilderness had about 3 wilderness rangers/trail crew (or whatever). I think the Shoshone had one. Three years later there were none.

    Of course, this post is about a different matter — the travel plan. In my comments, I told the B-T that it looked great, but what if people violated the travel plan? Were there any rangers to enforce it?

  4. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    I agree Ralph. Any “plan” or regulation is better than no plan or regulation. As you say it is in the implementation of the plan that makes regs effective. To many of those in govt. who initiate “plans”, those who may seem honorable to those on the outside actually care little if the plan is implemented. This is because if they are on the right side of the politics they move up the ladder in our govt. I saw this a lot with different Yellowstone division chiefs and Supt. All one has to do to see real colors is push the implementation needs a bit and if they stall you know you got a career man not an environmentalist to kneel to.
    I was responsible for several regulation changes while at Yellowstone. The first was the change to not allow guns, broken down or otherwise, in Yellowstone’s back country. Before this outfitters, like Jackson Holes Triangle X , would ride into Yellowstone to push elk out of the Park. It wasn’t enough to have clients with guns outside the boundary, No, the cowboys rode miles into the Park travelling laterally to the boundary with rifles in scabboards swooping back and forth….but with the bolt out. I caught a number of his men poaching while doing this supposed Yellowstone “sight seeing”, but without the evidence being caught red handed other rangers had to let them go.

    I took the head of Yellowstone law enforcement on a trip showing what was happening, plus showed him how sheep poachers were travelling and glassing all day on the Park side of knife ridge boundaries … all with the bolts out but in most places the only place one could stand to shoot being the Park side. These hunters then would “wander” in a bit further circling high to get sheep out of the Park. No law broken or proof of hunting that would stick up in court. I was the only one to ever catch a sheep man but what is a single notch when lots of Park animals were being killed.

    Thus, the federal hunting reg now saying no guns. Implementation did not go across easily, however. Loop holes were made so some outfitters and other private hunters could travel through to their camps. Access was the issue and the Park capitulated where it should have put the ball in Forest Service hands to provide better trails if they wanted outfitters as permittees. With these loop holes poaching goes on in these areas.
    Another reg change involved the salting issue. After all the national turmoil was over and Wyoming G&F capitulated with a no salting reg ….and nothing was being done about it on the Wyoming Game Warden end ….Chuck Swatrz of Inter Agency Griz told me at least it was on the books. Well it had been on Bridger Teton Wilderness books since 1991 and Bridger Teton administrators not only didn’t enforce it, but tried to deny, in the biggest newspapers of America, it wasn’t happening. It was actually rampant with outfitter air drops of 2000 lb. of salt blocks for then pack horse distribution to kill spots.

    It is still all going on, except they now use loose salt. It causes packing from the trail heads but do you think the BT has anyone out there checking?

    In other words, all this I compare to the ineffectiveness of govt laws prohibiting traders from bringing Indians whiskey. we all want to believe it will eventually turn out ok but with the Indians it never did. Rv’s will be easier to spot than poachers or salters but as you say, who will they have out there to enforce it. If those “planners” aren’t pushing for funding one has to wonder how much earnesty at higher levels is actually happening. But…. a plan is better than none…and if those folks are going on to higher positions without true conviction then i suppose one can say it worked…except these folks will always follow the ways of career instead of being honest.

    Of course when it comes to action actually happening, one has to remember what cows keep doing to public lands illegally environmentally ….and there is no enforcement from FS and BLM. That is why sites like this one are needed.

    I say’ lets be careful of putting some of these govt. planners on a pedestal, however. We all want to believe in heroes but a lot of those getting recognized for supposed good deeds, those with the signature on the bottom line, are in reality suppressing those with high ideals who are actually the ones writting the plan up.

  5. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    All I can say, is that it certainly matters who the National Park Director is going to be and whether Suzanne Lewis keeps her job as super

    – – – –
    Another issue you raised, Bob, namely the importance of herd social structure. The same is true of wolf pack structure. The wolf studies in YNP show that wolf packs there are large and multigenerational. The packs in Montana and Wyoming are about 6-8 wolves only and suffer high human mortality. As a result their ecological effect is probably different than Yellowstone wolves.

    This is something — pack structure — that “bean counter” biologists like Valerius Geist and Dave Mech seem not consider important.

  6. Salle Avatar

    It seems that group social dynamic sensitivity isn’t afforded consideration when it comes to anything beyond a human trait, especially for those who feel that the human specie trumps all others in that realm. Anthropomorhism is one thing, facing facts is quite another. All animals and probably most plants are aware of the group patterns that occur among them naturally. Humans seem to have become masters in destroying any recognition of it for some species and, in so doing, are able to create myths to the benefit of human domination by pointing to the natural negative responses to such disruption as the rationale.

  7. Bob Caesar Avatar
    Bob Caesar

    YO! We’ve drifted far from the newly adopted TRAVEL PLAN!

    The reason I am so excited about the new plan is prior to this anyone could ride any thing, any place (except Wilderness), and any time they saw fit, with very few restrictions. Now at least there is a plan. A “RULE”. There are restrictions. The Forest Service being in the position to post a sign, or publish a map saying, “THIS AREA CLOSED TO OFF HIGHWAY VEHICLES” is a major step!

    Enforcement – Yes, the biggest problem for the Forest doesn’t have the staff to begin adequate enforcement, and there appears to be little on the horizon. However; at least with a plan, With regulations, With signs and maps perhaps a good many people will start doing the right thing. Hopefully anyway! We are now so far ahead of where we were a few weeks ago. We can’t just say, “don’t pass laws cause we don’t have enough cops to enforce them”!

    And Ralph, on the subject of rangers in the woods. As you know Bette and I have horse packed deep into the BTNF, wilderness and not, for twenty years. We have not seen a single Forest Service or G&F employee any kind in all that time. Certainly, they are there – but don’t show themselves cause they don’t want to intrude on our wilderness experience…:-)

  8. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    One good thing about having a good travel plan, Bob, is that you can use your cell phone to call their LE agent.

    Before the plan, there was no violation.

    I’ve done it here in Pocatello, cell phone and photo.

  9. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Yo, BobO,

    Those forest service back country types must be phantoms, ya, thats it. Ready to pop out behind any tree, anytime day or night. Bobo, I suspect you must be partaking in a bit of irony when you say they they must be there ….. since there hasn’t been a govt. paid ranger at Hawks rest since Ray Wilson was forced out with horse related injuries 15 or so years ago.

    Otherwise, it is just volunteers and a trail crew ….who have lots of country beyond and in the Thorofare region. To have the most important and symbolic FS wilderness post in the US of A wilderness vacant, Hawks Rest, says everything of the bridger Teton forest administration.

    Even if they had someone there no laws of importance would be upheld. The BT boys and girls in Jackson throw out most tickets issued by any back country FS type. Especially if it is someone they feel is politically connected, ie. Triangle X. Hawks Rest ranger gordon Reese caught Don Turner tossing steaks out of a plane to the Turner guests near Bridger lake. Do you think wilderness rules and regs stood? Nope.

    I had one BT trail crew/ ranger in 2002 tell me if he went to an outfitter camp (Triangle X in this case) and the boys there were a bit surly he said his good byes and left …. even when he saw major camp violations. He left without a mention of the violations not because he was out gunned but because he would get no support to go back into those camps to do something about it. talk about demoralized public servants!!! The only ones I knew at BT not that way were the cowboy types…. those who went native or dreamed they were Clint Eastwood while throwing a leg up over the saddle. this is the BT I knew. I think the last pride left in the 70’s.

    This is what I think of the govt. and operations of BT.

  10. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Didn’t have time to finish up on my last comment. Rushed the last couple sentences and then sat down to some mighty fine food.

    I wanted to end this comment Bob, with a bit of upside.Yes, I think it is really good BT passed this plan. Just the fact there can be signage, as you stated, and added enforcement by the public as Ralph pointed out, will have spin off impact on other violations deeper in the woods. Cell phones are great for public participation. The slimmy’s behind the desk will have to squirm a bit more.

    My overall assessment is any BT plan passed now favoring the environment was in response by FS careerists who calculated they could climb the ladder during the present Wash. administration. Now hold them to the writings before they pass up this ladder and a newby is left with the frustration of no funding to carry out the PLAN.

  11. Bob Caesar Avatar
    Bob Caesar

    Very interesting thought about climbing the ladder!

    Frankly, there were several proposed trails seemingly cast in stone from the very begining. Then, w/o any indication, they just didn’t appear in the final rule. My guess is the motor heads were VERY surprised. I know I was!!! Pleasantly that is!

    But, Jackson Ranger Dale Dieter does listen to what everyone has to say, seems like he really wants to protect the forest and is the best Jackson District Ranger We’ve seen in 20 years! Then again these folks are always caught in a “balancing act”.

  12. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Hopefully mr. Dieter is of a different ilk. But I learned long ago to be cafeful of those govt. employees so full of empathy but then have hidden agendas to squash everything. They are the worst because people depend on them to take action and it is always for one reason or another they tell you “it takes time” or whatever the excuse. Their false empathy and concern stalls out processes that need to be acted on sooner than later.

    One can bring out true colors when you make any govt. employee personally accountable for what they say. Have them write it down … and sign…what they say to you or your group. If they truly are what they say, they don’t mind anyone, in or outside their profession, know what they think or stand for. they will even be proud that you want their identity on their spoken words.

    They will already have discussed these issues with their peers and supervisors if they have convictions. Without a govt. employee willing to write it down then I say be wary.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan