Study: Moose-Wilson path reasonable option
Grand Teton says it will review study, especially possible effects on wildlife, habitat.
By Mike Koshmrl, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
January 30, 2013
Grand Teton National Park’s research suggests constructing a path along the Moose-Wilson Road would be a “reasonable” option, a new study contends.
The study, commissioned by Friends of Pathways, assesses four academic papers the National Park Service funded that measure how park pathways affect wildlife. Using the research, the study finds that a wildlife-friendly pathway could be built along the Moose-Wilson corridor if it’s designed and managed correctly, author Roy Hugie said.
The park’s four-phase transportation plan does not call for a path along the 3.3-mile section of the Moose-Wilson Road from the Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve to Moose.
“In the end, what we wanted to see is could this be done?” Hugie, a consultant with Pioneer Environmental Services, said. “By and large, it was my conclusion that yes, the pathway could be constructed and used with minimal impacts.”
Hugie laid out nine recommendations to the park in the 24-page assessment. They critique alleged shortfalls in the park’s wildlife research and propose designs that could mitigate habitat loss.
A copy of the document is available at FriendsOfPathways.org.
Biologists hired by Grand Teton National Park studied black bears, antelope, elk, mule deer, moose and six songbirds. The research focused on the 10-mile “phase 1” pathway that runs from Jenny Lake to Moose.
When the studies were released in August, Grand Teton biologist Steve Cain said they proved pedestrians and cyclists have a substantial effect on wildlife movements.
Differences in habitat complicate using the studies to assess a separate pathway, Grand Teton spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs said.
“It would be like comparing apples to oranges, because the Moose-Wilson pathway would go through dense forests puncuated by wetlands,” Skaggs said. “It wouldn’t have the open views that the phase 1 pathway has.”
In 2016, portions of the Moose-Wilson road north of the Rockefeller Preserve will be moved to the east onto sagebrush flats. The reallignment would make a pathway more feasible, Hugie said.
“A wildlife-friendly pathway from the LSR to Moose would take advantage of keeping adjacent to the realigned road,” he said.
The Hugie study confirms that Friends of Pathways is advocating for the “right project,” its director, Mike Welch, said. Cyclists will continue to use the narrow, partially dirt road if a pathway isn’t built, he said.
“We can anticipate safety issues if there is nothing done from LSR to Moose,” Welch said. “It’s so desirable, and it’s something that will need to be addressed.”