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Public land trail density, connective core habitat for grizzly bears, and grizzly bear distribution in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Map author: Brooke Regan

Locals to speak at Bozeman symposium

Several Teton Valley residents have been tapped to lead discussions on the present and future of recreation in the region at Our Shared Place, a symposium held by the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.

The region of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, which includes the Tetons, is growing rapidly both in population and tourism. Many of those visitors and residents came to recreate, and while the region has ample resources, they are finite.

“We live in a really special place—we still have all the same flora and fauna from Lewis and Clark’s time,” Kathy Rinaldi, of the GYC, said. “The question is, how do we get ahead of pressures on the system? We can’t solve this problem alone, which is why we’re bringing together voices to talk about why they value the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.”

That’s why valley residents Wade Kaufman, Linda Merigliano, Joe McFarlane and Ellie Dunn, along with economists, scientists, rangers, and politicians, are gathering at Montana State University on April 23 and 24 to help come up with some answers.

Kaufman will be representing Skyliners Motor Club in a panel discussion about collaborative groups. Kaufman has participated in the Wyoming Public Land Initiative committee that is seeking a recommendation for the Palisades and Shoal Creek Wilderness Study Areas.

Merigliano and McFarlane will represent the Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee National Forests, respectively, in a discussion on helping agencies face challenges. During her career as a recreation and wilderness supervisor for the BTNF, Merigliano led the development of management plans for all the local wilderness areas and is a key consultant for the Teton County WPLI committee. McFarlane has been managing recreation in high use forests for almost 20 years.

McFarlane said that experience gives him a good perspective of expectations and what does and doesn’t work in managing recreational demand.

“I have also worked primarily in a time of declining budgets, which provides me considerable experience working with partners to accomplish common goals,” he added.

High school senior Dunn, who has been a competitive mountain biker on the Teton Region Composite team for three years, is going to speak about youth cycling and its benefits as well as the way mountain biking brings different generations together.

“I hope to provide the perspective that mountain biking is a positive use of our public lands,” Dunn said. “I know that I’ve gained a lot from getting out and riding my bike, and I am excited to share those experiences with others.”

Rinaldi said that in recent years, because of increased visitation numbers and short-sighted legislation, user groups have splintered into tribes, forgetting that everyone enjoys the outdoors for the same reasons. That’s why GYC values bringing both the superintendent of Yellowstone and a high school mountain biker to the table; dialogue is the first step to crafting a regional master plan.

GYC has spent the past year taking an inventory on recreation, because, said GYC project organizer Brooke Regan, there is a surprising lack of quantitative recreation information in the region, and public agencies are often making decisions based on anecdotal evidence rather than data. The inventory determined that some of the same places where recreation demand is high are also important habitats and migration corridors for wildlife, especially grizzlies.

Rinaldi invited Teton County Commissioners to the symposium. The US Forest Service has to consult with community leaders during forest planning, but counties don’t need to work with the Forest Service during their master planning process. She thinks the process needs to go both ways.

“Recreation is good for economic development, and that sector is growing,” she said. “We need community buy-in for front country trail access. That’s a great place to build without cutting off migration corridors.”

Rinaldi thinks, or hopes, that some concrete actions will come out of the conversation. She said solutions don’t need to be grandiose. She remembered seeing the grizzly sow that spent time near 38 Special at Grand Targhee last summer.

“Grand Targhee did a great job of shutting down those trails, providing good signage, making sure people were prepared. Those are real solutions,” she said.

Other success stories include winter wildlife closures. Closures like those in Horseshoe Canyon in the Big Holes and Sand Creek in St Anthony are vital for migratory elk, deer and moose.

“I think we’re going to learn a ton but we do want to have some actions come out of it,” she said.

For more information on the symposium and to buy tickets visit greateryellowstone.org.

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