I sat in an informative meeting tonight concerning the idea of a wildlife fence and overpasses going into the Island Park, Idaho area. Before I get into the proposals let me give you some background on myself. Wildlife is my passion and my business. I am both a wildlife photographer and an owner of a tour company “Tied To Nature”. This is a new business, just starting to operate in the spring of 2018, although the idea did arise during the summer of 2010. I have been traveling through Island Park since the time I was about 16 so for about the last 17 years. I am a current resident of Island Park and this is where I am raising my family, there is where I recreate, and there is where I have decided to start my business.
Now, there is a proposed fence for a five-mile stretch of highway on what is know as Targhee Pass. If this section of fence is successful at going in: then additional fencing will occur from the Idaho state line at the top of Targhee Pass to the Ashton Hill a 45 mile stretch of highway. The reason for this proposed fence from what I have gathered is to limit vehicle animal collisions and because highway 20 is believed to be a barrier to wildlife corridors and migration routes.
So if you have not already gathered this I am opposed to this proposed project. I am not a scientist I have not researched this as others have, I have tried to inform myself and listen to research presented by others. Below I will give my common sense approach as to what I see is going on.
People like animals. I would actually say people love animals. I have taken people on multiday trips through Yellowstone who have spent thousands of dollars to see wildlife. That is why there are some people that want to have this fence and wildlife overpasses put in place, because they love wildlife, I understand that.
People live in Island Park because of the wildlife; I live in Island Park because of the wildlife. People have uprooted to move here, build summer homes, and people start business here. This is all because they want to see the wildlife and enjoy the unobstructed views that this area offers. That is why there are so many people in Island Park that do not want to have a ten-foot or higher fence lining their backyard.
Now the common sense breakdowns, five animals a year are reported being hit on the five-mile stretch of highway that is first up for this fence. That is per year, 5 animals per year and we are looking to spend $22,000,000 to save those 5 animals. Now I understand it is more than this fence that this $22,000,000 will go towards and it is more than saving the 5 animals a year. The funds will also provide some road improvements and up to 3 overpasses for animals to cross on. Well, either that or they will just meander down the road a mile and cross anyway. They believe these 3 overpasses will also help with animals migrations and corridors. Now remember wildlife is my business and if there is no wildlife I don’t make money. So I should be about saving the wildlife. I should be all in for wildlife corridors, for safe migrations, and for the safety of our wildlife. Now I don’t want to put this too lightly. I am for all those things; I believe that migrations routes are important, I believe that having corridors for wildlife is important, I understand the need for genetic diversity. I understand we have sensitive species in this area, those that are or have recently been endangered and or threatened. These animals are important and preserving them should be a priority.
I also understand there is a lot more going on here than wildlife. Years ago when John D. Rockefeller Jr. was touring what was to one day become Grand Teton National Park with Horace Albright he recalled, “Rockefeller asked why telephone lines were placed west of the road, detracting from the view of the Teton Range.”After an explanation from Albright “Both Mr. and Mrs. Rockefeller expressed dismay over the unsightly commercial developments in this area and asked if there was some way to stop them.”Residents of Island Park feel this same dismay, to say the very least. People come to Island Park to get away from fences, from barriers, from people telling them that they cant do something. And that is exactly what a ten foot high fence is going to do, it is going to tell people, “No”. It is going to tell the locals that they cant enjoy the beauty of where they live, it is going to tell them not to access the forest, it is going to say your ATV’s, your snow machines, your horses are not allowed. It is going to tell people they cant go hiking here, it is going to say you can’t access the river here, you can’t go fishing here. As the thousands of visitors drive though Island Park this fence is going to tell them not to stop, it is going to tell them we don’t have wildlife to see, it is going to tell them don’t take pictures here, don’t spend your money, it is going to tell them to take their money somewhere else. A fence is going to say to people we don’t want you to build a house here, and we don’t want you to vacation here. A fence says we don’t want to fix our roads and our bridges. A fence says we care more about the life or an animal than we do our own lives.
The people in Island Park love wildlife that is why we are here, but we also love the scenic beauty, we love the freedom. We have families, we have jobs, we have a way of life, and we have so much more. We do not want to give up everything because there is five deer hit a year on a five-mile stretch of road.
Northern Lights on the Henrys Fork
For more information and what you can do visit – http://www.islandparkpreservationcoalition.org/targhee-overpass.html