Teton County continues to fight forest merger
By Kevin Huelsmann, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
December 11, 2012
Teton County commissioners are re-doubling their effort to stop a potential merger of the Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee national forests after their Lincoln County counterparts changed course.
On Monday, county leaders said they plan to write a new, more “robust” letter to Forest Service officials opposing the proposed merger. They signed another letter last week hoping commissioners from Sublette and Lincoln counties would do the same.
But only Sublette County commissioners are expected to join the fight against merging the two forests, Teton County Commissioner Paul Vogelheim said. Lincoln County commissioners decided not to lend their names to the proposed letter. Vogelheim said commissioners in that county might be hoping a new office would be located in their county.
“As we looked at the merger of the two forests, it didn’t make sense,” he said. “They’re saying maybe it will make sense if the office relocates there.”
Lincoln County commissioners did not return messages or emails seeking comment.
The idea of merging the two forests has generated a lot of criticism over the last several weeks.
Regional Forester Harv Forsgren ordered his staff in October to study the proposal, six days before he announced his retirement.
A letter that Teton County commissioners voted to sign last week said the potential merger would make for an unwieldy organization that would be stretched too thin across two distinct cultures.
Though it doesn’t cripple their opposition efforts, the loss of Lincoln County commissioners leaves Teton County officials without a unified front, Vogelheim said. Lincoln’s change of heart means that Teton County won’t have the state County Commission Association behind them.
“We’re still confident that the Forest Service will see that the merging of these two forests is not in the best interest of the public,” he said.