An Expansion of Grand Targhee Would Severely Impact Wildlife
Wildlife habitat needs change with the seasons and they need to be able to move between suitable habitat areas throughout the year. Wildlife also need areas where they can find refuge from human disturbance. When these needs are not met, wildlife populations decline. Grand Targhee’s proposed expansion into South Bowl and Mono Trees threatens these basic necessities for many wildlife species. These species include ungulates such as bighorn sheep, moose, and elk; carnivores such as bears, wolverines, and mountain lions; and birds such as the Northern goshawk, and boreal owl.
Wildlife living in proximity to Grand Targhee Resort have already lost substantial habitat to human development and recreation. The proposed expansion would erode what habitat is left and exacerbate the pressures local wildlife face.
South Bowl provides important winter range for many ungulates, including bighorn sheep, moose, mule deer, and elk. Many of these species also give birth and spend summers in South Bowl. Notably, South Bowl contains such high-value habitat for imperiled Teton bighorn sheep that the Teton Bighorn Sheep Working Group - consisting of Park Service, Forest Service, and state wildlife agency biologists - has identified much of the area as a Teton bighorn sheep winter conservation area. Backcountry skiers are encouraged to stay within designated travel routes in order to reduce disturbance to wintering sheep. Yet, Grand Targhee would like to turn this same critical habitat into a developed ski resort. South Bowl is also within the federally identified Teton Creek Lynx Analysis Unit, which denotes important habitat for Canada lynx, a species that is listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. Both South Bowl and Mono Trees also provide habitat for grizzly bears, another threatened species. If South Bowl were to be developed into a commercial ski area wildlife would face direct and indirect habitat loss. The undeveloped, undisturbed terrain that wildlife currently utilize in all seasons would be lost. In addition, Grand Targhee plans to conduct extensive avalanche control in order to facilitate safe resort skiing in South Bowl. This will pose a physical risk to wildlife and create significant noise disturbance.
Mono Trees provides important security habitat for ungulates and nesting habitat for sensitive bird species because of its thick forests and low levels of human activity. It’s also classified as winter range for moose. Developing Mono Trees into a commercial ski resort would eliminate one of the last remaining refuges for the winged ghosts of our forests - Northern goshawks, great gray owls, and boreal owls - and push moose, elk, and deer into less suitable areas where they are more likely to be stressed by human activity.
Wildlife habitat in South Bowl and Mono Trees is currently protected by forest management prescriptions in the 1997 Targhee National Forest Plan. In the winter, both South Bowl and Mono Trees are closed to motor vehicles. The purpose of these closures is “to protect wilderness or wildlife in winter ranges and cross-country ski areas.” that are intended to preserve scenic qualities and quiet winter landscapes. Both areas are also designated as “2.1.2 Visual Quality Maintenance” (scenic areas) in the forest plan, which requires the Forest Service to:
- Manage these travel corridors to protect their natural visual quality
- Manage these lands in an environmentally sensitive manner to promote the productions of non-commodity resources at varying levels, and limited commodity production.
- Manage these lands to provide various dispersed recreation opportunities.
- Maintain stand vigor by controlling tree density.
To approve Grand Targhee’s expansion plans, the Forest Service will need to amend the forest plan to change South Bowl and Mono Trees from areas zoned as"Visual Quality Maintenance" o "Special Use Permit Recreation Sites." This amendment would take away protections that are already in place to protect wintering wildlife and human-powered recreation. It will allow for the building of lifts and roads, and logging to create ski runs.
WolverineWolverine tracks found on the west side of the Tetons.
Clark’s NutcrackersClark’s nutcrackers live in remote, and often hard-to-reach places at high elevations where whitebark pine grow. The tree exists through obligate mutualism with Clark’s nutcrackers: whitebark pine can’t survive without the birds because they open the tree’s cones, remove the seeds, disperse and bury them. A single Clark’s nutcracker can hide up to 100,000 seeds a year.
Moose that live in Teton Canyon