The Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance: Drop forest merger
By Mike Koshmrl, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Date: December 21, 2012
The Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance and Teton County commissioners are calling for the U.S. Forest Service to drop a study that could lead to the consolidation of the Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee national forests.
County and town officials weighed in on the potential merger at a public meeting Thursday at the alliance’s office. The meeting came on the heels of a letter county commissioners wrote to Regional Forester Harv Forsgren.
“We are writing to request that you do not pursue an effort to combine the Bridger-Teton and the Caribou-Targhee National Forests,” commissioners wrote in the Dec. 19 letter. “We believe that any merger of these two large forests would seriously impair the current efficient operation of the forests from both an economic and operational perspective.”
In late October, Forsgren directed Bridger-Teton Supervisor Jacque Buchanan and Caribou-Targhee Supervisor Brent Larson to study consolidation as a cost-saving measure. Forest Service officials expect to decide whether to greenlight the idea by the end of January.
Trevor Stevenson, executive director of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, also is asking the Forest Service to end the merger study.
“We think the merger study is a huge waste of public resources,” Stevenson said. “It’s so clearly a bad idea.”
“According to many sources, this is another attempt to use budgeting as an excuse for trying to move the supervisor’s office away from Jackson Hole for mostly political reasons,” he said.
A group of Bridger-Teton officials who had said they would come to the alliance meeting did not show up as planned, Stevenson said.
Jose Castro, the Bridger-Teton’s deputy supervisor, did make an appearance. The deputy supervisor discussed the process for making a decision whether to meld the forests.
“My understanding is I go in at the end of January with this report finalized,” Castro said. “I don’t believe they are going to tell us to do anything further until the new regional forester comes on.”
Management at the Forest Service’s Region 4 office may be in flux at that time because Forsgren is retiring Jan. 4.
As planned, Larson, the Caribou-Targhee supervisor, will step in as acting deputy regional forester. Buchanan will be acting supervisor for the Caribou-Targhee National Forest.
A new regional forester has been chosen, but the appointment has not yet been publicized, Castro said.