Last week was tough. A compilation of events and their realizations sadly left me reminiscent of the 1961 country music classic “You’re the Reason” (I Don’t Sleep at Night) by Bobby Edwards.
First came news that a very special gentleman quietly passed from a blood cancer condition at 92, in Hailey, Idaho.
I met Don Keirn and his boss, Jack Weber, in September 1974, when they were wrangling the annual Kaiser Steel Client Appreciation event at Jenny Lake Lodge after the summer season. Kaiser shuttled steel purchasing executives from the likes of General Motors, Campbell’s Soup, DelMonte, Continental Can and many others for golfing and fly-fishing float trips on the Snake.
Thanks to John Simms’ convincing Johnny Becker, then the Moose Tackle Store head guide, to add me as a fishing guide extra, an unfortunate raft accident helped my rowing start in Grand Teton National Park guiding. Jack Weber dictated that guides concentrate on teaching his hand-picked customers to use dry flies. I straddled the rule by letting my charges twitch around floating Muddler Minnows. Reports of this success suddenly found Don and his fishing partner, Niels Peak, pulling me aside to schedule an “off the record Muddler trip!” I was flattered and from then on have remained in touch with the “Kaiser Survivors.” Niels notified me of Don’s death last Friday. Don was a cheerful friend and sensational mentor.
Cleaning up Reclamation’s mess
Things descended beyond the low point of Don Keirn’s death as I discovered that despite broken fingers, personnel on COVID-19 quarantine and frigid weather, relentless local Wyoming Game and Fish biologists and impassioned volunteers floated and traversed the Snake River conducting heroic emergency rescues of trout and other fishy companions from Wilson Bridge upstream into Grand Teton National Park.
This riverine Dunkirk resulted from the recklessly navigated irrigation season ending and too abrupt a shutdown of Jackson Lake Dam by the Bureau of Reclamation. Adding insult to additional injury, flow strangulation was further abetted by gate screwups during dam maintenance, thus piling up even more riverbed death and destruction in the bureau’s stubborn, ham-handed wake .
If delivered by a private entity, Reclamation’s destructive bull’s-eye on the future health of Wyoming’s portion of the Snake River, especially within Grand Teton National Park and through a Wild and Scenic River designation corridor, people from the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Teton County authorities, every federal, state, county and friend-of-the-court environmental group like Trout Unlimited from here to Washington, D.C., and “60 Minutes” would be sharpening their attorneys.
After learning that Wyoming’s elected stalwarts will huddle in special Cheyenne session to combat the tyranny of Wyoming facing a life-saving preventive federal vaccine mandate aimed at businesses of more than 100 employees, a thought occurred to create yet another joust championed by our conservative knights.
Only this job would involve real conservation and take on really damaging federal tyranny by funding an Environmental Impact Statement to prevent continued reckless drawdowns of Wyoming water courses. Such would invigorate a worthwhile governor, our federal delegation and Wyoming G&F with information to demand “federal agencies are required to do no harm to other federal properties” stipulated by the Wild & Scenic Act.
Tragically obvious is seeing Grand Teton National Park continue to “sit on its hands.” Therefore, drying out of wildlife and fisheries resources must be protected by the game’s real players, the Wyoming G&F Department.
Bear-proof my cans
The approaching winter and lax residential behavior continue to encourage roaming wildlife — especially bears, foxes and raccoons — to foray into local neighborhoods like ours on Pine Drive.
Therefore, how many times do all of us who repeatedly profess our love of wildlife need to be retminded by the G&F and country regulations that bird feeders, barbecues, pet food storage and trash containers must be kept inside or higher and out of reach? And pets must be under control!
Not often enough, it appears. Bears and foxes are still getting rewards, which is simply signing their death warrants.
The beauty and tragedy of wildlife coexisting in Teton County and the town of Jackson’s ever-growing footprints continue to be at odds. And so I will continue my rants on the subjects of driving and loose pets.
Last week I was further flabbergasted by another ridiculous automobile driving stunt: Being passed on deer-rich Snow King Drive’s piped 25 mph double line nightmare by a speeding white local Pontiac Grand Prix.
Ignorant animal crossing and migration zone-challenged speeders continue performing at their worst in the Snake River Canyon, Teton Pass, East Broadway and on sagebrush shrouded Grand Teton National Park straightaways. While not being on the road as often as usual, the collection of smashed deer, bears, skunks, badgers and porcupines and even coyotes and foxes that I’ve recognized is demoralizing.
Kicking the elk-feeding can again
My inner personal argument continues unexpressed while Wyoming Game&Fish, biologists, environmental groups, outfitters, ranchers, hunting authorities and now the federal court all weigh in on the future of Wyoming elk feedgrounds.
First designed to keep wildlife from munching ranchers’ cattle feed and separating livestock from game, the Wyoming winter hay feed grounds and the National Elk Refuge have accounted for Wyoming’s elk herd prosperity.
The growing threats of transmittable diseases that concern a variety of entities are considerable. Chronic wasting disease is affecting deer herds and has Wyoming G&F doing extensive testing of harvested deer in specific areas.
My internal argument deals with elk, deer and antelope being herd animals by and large, and even outside of organized feedgrounds they will gather together in productive and appropriate groups.
Ergo, the diseases will spread naturally. Owing to the distances Wyoming big game migrate for winter survival, I’m not sure elk especially are going to suddenly begin to trek to the Red Desert.
More likely the elk will initially move into more domesticated areas, river bottoms, south-facing hillsides, and their populations will deplete, but not in a way that many people can stomach. Envision Charley Russell’s “Last of the 5000,” frontier sketch of a lone starving cow during a brutal winter, for this scenario.
Teton County’s growing population, animal-proof highway fences and diminishing open space isn’t adding more winter habitat.
Perhaps if you believe in the global warming as fact, harsh Jackson winters are in the rear-view mirror and a goodly elk population will learn how to winter out when the courts and lawsuits close up the winter feeding shop.
A lot of bull
Friday was finally rescued when an efficient public health nurse’s needle gifted my right shoulder with a welcome 2021 senior flu shot. That came just before Emanuel, the pleasant, giant UPS Store clerk gently rearranged Jean’s two ground package contents to fit boots I forgotten to pack!
Back at my desk I attempted to escape from my above described gloom by staring at a shimmering aspen pair — carotene orange and gold tinted — almost within reach.
That’s when a starkly black and bulky bull moose clomped and nibbled across my front yard!