Require vaccinations

To prevent further spread of the coronavirus, we should require everyone to get fully vaccinated (including a possible third dose) unless exempted by a sincerely held religious belief or medical condition. We should write to our legislators and executives at all levels of government.

Alvin Blake

Jackson

How can we reduce traffic?

Everyone who lives/works in Teton County agrees that traffic has become a nightmare. How we solve this complex problem is equally complex.

The Indian Springs development was given the green light in 1992. Simultaneously, an easement for a connector road to Highway 22 was granted. Just because there’s an easement doesn’t mean the Tribal Trail connector is mandatory or inevitable.

Lots of things have changed since 1992. Grand Teton and Yellowstone have seen visitation soar. Our town and county have seen unimaginable development that continues to impact all of us and our wildlife. Some folks feel it’s only a matter of time til 22 becomes four lanes — that wildlife will figure it all out.

I urge our elected officials, and all of us citizens, to gather more information on the effects of building Tribal Trail before we proceed. What is Grand Teton’s plan for reducing traffic? What is our goal for bus service? What are the effects on wildlife when roads are widened? What brought all of us here in the first place?

Jean Barash

Jackson

Heartbreaking griz dilemma

It is heartbreaking that grizzlies are killed because of irresponsible residents who attract them with garbage and other sources of human-produced food. Because most humans believe that our lives are more valuable than the lives of grizzlies, we always win in cases of intractable human-grizzly conflict. On the other hand, some people believe that in cases of grizzly-human conflict there ought to be solutions that always end in a win-win outcome for both groups. It is apparent that some humans do not understand the moral exigency here. Thus, one effective solution would be to promulgate law that mandates substantial incarceration and hefty fines for individuals who use inadequate garbage receptacles and store other food in ways that attract grizzlies, resulting in euthanizing them (euphemistic for anxiety-killing). Because many humans do not understand the negative effects of our own over-breeding and rampant colonization of many grizzly-rich ecosystems like the Jackson Hole area, we must now rely on the strong arm of the law to modify their behavior.

It is difficult to understand how a perceived “right” of irresponsible human behavior outweighs the right of five grizzly bears to live near Jackson Hole. Let’s not forget that collaring grizzlies is often the first step in killing them.

Kevin Boileau

Bozeman, Montana

Deny Targhee growth

The proposed Grand Targhee Ski Area expansion looms, with plenty of discussion — and rightly so — about projected impacts on Teton Valley, Idaho. What has been mostly neglected is discussion of impacts on the adjacent 123,451-acre Jedediah Smith Wilderness.

Noise pollution, light pollution, blowing trash, motorized rescues of lost skiers, illegal trespass by mountain bikes and snowmachines plus other impacts emanating from the resort are already a problem in the wilderness. Expansion will exacerbate these problems.

As one of the folks responsible for getting the Jed Smith designated wilderness in 1984, I am also a retired outfitter who led backpack trips in the Jed Smith for 41 years. And I have experienced these problems firsthand. For example, on one trek, while camped along the Teton Crest above Granite Basin, loud rock music began before dark and continued until around midnight. Our clients were appalled, thinking that their wilderness experience would also include the sounds of silence so critical to solitude, an important wilderness value. Thereafter, for many years, our trips to the central Tetons had to be scheduled around planned music events at Grand Targhee.

I have found and documented wolverine tracks in the Jed Smith, and one of our clients had a lynx walk past his tent. I wonder if anyone is planning to study the effects of increasing noise and light pollution on such rare and endangered species, not to mention effects on more common critters such as mule deer and moose. Which, by the way, already suffer from a long history of poaching in the Jed Smith.

In addition, expansion of ski runs and lifts southward into the Peaked Mountain and Teton Canyon areas will destroy the wild character of a roadless potential wilderness addition.

We have all heard apologists for industrial recreation claim that ski areas and other mechanized recreation lands are compatible with surrounding wildlands. But the inevitable endless quest for endless expansion makes a mockery of such claims. Grand Targhee’s proposed expansion would further reduce a valuable roadless resource and would further de-wild one of the iconic wilderness areas of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, right in the heart of the Tetons. And there is no reason for this except unadulterated, unmitigated greed.

Please tell the Forest Service to say “no” to Grand Targhee expansion.

Howie Wolke

Emigrant, Montana

Preserve counseling

I am a first-year master’s student in the mental health counseling program at the University of Wyoming. I was raised in the wonderful town of Jackson, and as most of us have either seen or experienced ourselves, it is one of the many Wyoming communities that is desperate for mental health resources. I am sending out this email as a plea for support and a potential opportunity to spread the word as the university is finalizing an academic restructuring proposal to dissolve the Counselor Education and Supervision Ph.D. program. We believe that these actions would be a critical misstep by the administration, not only harming the vitality and integrity of the master’s program in both the short and long term, but it will also impact the mental health resources available to the University of Wyoming, the Laramie community and the rest of the state.

The doctoral counseling program educates, trains and provides direct supervision to master’s level students like myself, who work with clients across multiple degrees of mental health concerns. Each first-year master’s level student completes a minimum of 40 hours of unpaid direct client counseling, whereby a cohort of 25 students yields 1,000 hours of free community mental health services annually. Doctoral students provide supervision to each master’s student, over five hours per week, to maintain ethical and optimal treatment for our clients. The support and supervision of the doctoral students are critical to ensure that the master’s counseling program operates more efficiently. Cutting the doctoral program would have a detrimental effect on the community, as masters students will not be able to serve clients seeking mental health services. If the program is eliminated it will also decrease the annual number of students accepted to the masters program, which will lessen the number of mental health care providers entering the field.

It is critical that we continue to serve the mental health of UW and Wyoming communities.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America for adults and is the second leading cause of death in adolescents. In 2020 181 Wyomingites killed themselves. That’s a rate of 31 deaths per 100,000 residents, up from 29.4 in 2019, the highest suicide rate in the nation. In addition, suicide not only takes an emotional toll but a financial toll. An individual suicide averages $1,329,553 (sprc.org). These include medical costs for individuals and families, lost income for families, and lost productivity for employers. Changes to the counseling program will reflect increased suicide rates as fewer people are able to obtain mental health services in Wyoming and ultimately, cost the university and the state millions in financial loss.

A decrease in the number of students graduating from either the masters or the Ph.D. programs would also negatively impact the state when trying to fill counselor positions, especially because it is harder to recruit and retain qualified counselors from out-of-state, particularly in our small rural communities. We believe that the discontinuation of the doctoral program will damage the master’s program and diminish the availability and quality of mental health services across the state.

Sign a petition to UW’s leaders here: Chng.it/Nwnn48njh7 Hopefully, our voices will make a difference and we can convince the administration to prioritize the mental health of their students, faculty, and the state of Wyoming. The board of trustees will be presenting the final proposal Nov. 17-19.

Paige Johnston

Jackson

Boycott over bears

I am an avid traveler and photographer who has spent tens of thousands of dollars visiting Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park at least once a year, if not twice, for the past decade. I come to photograph wildlife. Period. That is why I have, over and over again, chosen to spend my very hard-earned money in your state. Over the past year or two, however, I have seen increasingly disturbing activity in regards to how wildlife is “protected” by both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as overzealous and underinformed, undereducated park rangers. I have been present at times of completely inappropriate hazing of bears who are doing absolutely nothing wrong and seen the distress on their faces and heard their cries. I am also well aware that since the hazing of Blondie, a bear who was seen almost daily, she has disappeared. This aggressive hazing of bears that are literally just doing what bears do and not posing any harm or threat to people is completely unacceptable to me. I am also well aware of the recent murders (sorry not sorry but the word euthanize is reserved for putting animals out of pain and misery from illness, not this) of four young bears just this year, two of which were mere babies. Focus is being put on the wrong target.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife recommendations: “Livestock owners and homeowners should take measures to prevent or minimize losses from predation through good husbandry and strategic use of proactive deterrent methods such as electric fence, guard animals, and human presence.”

The people of bear country in Wyoming who fail to follow the recommendations should be held 100% responsible for these deaths. Bear conflict regulations must be updated immediately to prevent any more pointless deaths of innocent animals. Until these changes take place, my hard-earned money will be spent in places other than Wyoming. I will do everything in my power to share this message far and wide with all of my photography friends throughout the country and the world so that they too will band together to save these beautiful animals. #BoycottWyoming #ForTheBears #ForFelicia #Save399

Laura Oliver

Earleville, Maryland

Letters to the editor should be limited to 400 words, be signed and include a town of residence and a telephone number for verification. Letters are due by noon Monday. No thank yous or political endorsement letters. Guest Shot columns are limited to 800 words. Email editor@jhnewsandguide.com.

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(1) comment

Dan Grassetti

The ongoing slaughter of mountain goats in GTNP needs to stop. Recently it was announced that 2 individuals shot to death 20 of these innocent creatures. This, on top of the 50 or so that have already been killed by folks in a helicopter and other folks who had earlier traipsed up into the high country to kill park inhabitants.

Why is this happening? Because nobody took issue with a seemingly innocuous environmental assessment (EA) that made the argument that the existence of these high country inhabitants could potentially threaten another species, the big horn sheep. This EA made it clear that the preferred method of addressing this issue was to capture and remove goats and only employ lethal means once these animals became wise to the removal of their compatriots. This never happened, with GTNP instead hiring an Oregon firm to shoot at these creatures from the air. This tactic was apparently viewed as so appalling that someone in a position of authority put a stop to it. Again, the EA makes it clear that these animals were to be relocated, not killed....yet there have been zero animals relocated.

But, why was this horrific idea proposed to begin with? Because the assertion was made in this EA that there was the POSSIBILITY that the existence of these goats could POTENTIALLY harm the struggling big horn sheep in the Tetons. While there were no instances of actual interactions between these species noted in the EA, and there are no reports of sheep sightings by the folks who are currently shooting at them, nevertheless the simple possibility that there could be interaction and the big horn sheep MIGHT become infected by some pathogen that MIGHT be carried by these goats was enough to justify their slaughter.

I want big horn sheep to thrive as much as anyone, but the idea that one can rescue a species that has suffered mightily from human development outside the park and may in fact not survive in the long run by killing another species is ludicrous. This is likely the most extreme case of nativist scapegoating we have ever seen. If one is serious about helping the bighorn sheep then we should be focused on fixing the habitat that was destroyed by human development in the area. Killing another species in the area isn't going to do that. In fact, it's just a lame excuse for not being serious about actually fixing the real causes of the decline of these sheep.

In every communication on this matter GTNP takes pains to highlight the fact that the goats are non-native and invasive....and that somehow this makes slaughtering them acceptable. This argument is specious. The fact is that the whole construct of native versus non-native is almost completely subjective. How long does a species have to be in an area before it's considered native? How large an area does one consider when one assesses the appropriateness of a species in an area? Does anyone really believe that humans can (or should) interfere with nature in this way? Yes, programs to replace bad fish with good fish in Yellowstone are cited as being a model for human involvement in nature, but the slaughter of these goats is completely different. In short, appropriateness of a species in a small area is a subjective assessment.

What about the assertion that they are "invasive"? While this sounds terribly serious, what does it actually mean? Does anyone believe that there will be thousands of goats inhabiting the Teton high country if brave folks with guns weren't out there shooting at them? No. The simple fact is that the environment these beautiful creatures inhabit simply can't sustain large populations. So much for the "invasive" argument.

So, what are we left with? A policy that was developed based on input from one interest group whose dedication to the big horn sheep is so strong as to turn a blind eye to the slaughter of another species that most of us who hike and climb in the Tetons would be elated to experience. Had folks at the time of this EA been aware of what was being proposed and how GTNP was going to ignore the preferred (non-lethal) alternative selected in the EA, this idea would have been discarded at the outset. Unfortunately, this snuck through and GTNP, in trying to uphold a part of its stewardship mission is currently allowing folks who seem to enjoy killing other animals to go on a death-fest.

While GTNP does have a role to play in preserving species within the park, they also have a role to play in ensuring that GTNP doesn't become a place where animals can no longer be safe from people with guns and cars. GTNP has the responsibility to those who want to coexist peacefully with nature not have to be warned about gunshots, and not have to encounter people in camouflage carrying weapons...or come across skeletal remains of animals that were slaughtered for no good reason.

I shudder at the thought of hiking in the high Tetons and coming across the remains of a mother and kid who were killed by these people. I have to wonder how benign it really is for the other animals that inhabit these areas to experience this terror.

Bottom line is that this policy is not only morally reprehensible, but is extremely unlikely to accomplish what it seeks to accomplish.

And what's next? Are we going to authorize these same brave folks in camouflage to shoot marmots because they might encroach on pika habitat as the pikas move higher due to global warming?

As a result of the efforts of 2 men with guns a few weeks back the remaining herd of mountain goats was reduced by 20 members, leaving just a handful. This has got to stop. This is not ok. This is morally reprehensible.

This program is damaging to the entire park ecosystem, is diminishing the quality of the Teton experience to those of us who venture high, and worst all of is unlikely to make matters any better for the big horn sheep.

If you agree please let GTNP know how you feel. This policy should never have been allowed to be implemented and needs to be shut down. We can do better than this.

Dan Grassetti

Victor, ID

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