by Chelsea Carson, Alliance conservation program manager
As a resident of the Idaho side of Teton County, I cherish the amenities that come with living on the “quieter side of the Tetons,” like the slower pace, more affordable housing, and rural community character. Grand Targhee Resort has always been an integral part of that feeling, with its legacy of a community ski hill and uncrowded slopes. It has even used that phrase as a marketing tactic to attract people to visit. However, the proposed expansion would turn our quiet side into a bustling resort with the same capacity and terrain size as Jackson Hole.
It is imperative that we speak up as a community to protect the wildlife habitat, dark skies, natural resources, and local communities of Teton Valley and ensure that development occurs in a sustainable way. We ask that the Forest Service considers the cumulative impacts this expansion would have on our ecology, community culture, and economy.
Grand Targhee Resort sits primarily within publicly leased forest service land within the Caribou Targhee Ranger District, with 120 acres at the base privately owned and under the jurisdiction of Teton County, WY. The 2018 Grand Targhee Master Development Plan consists of a base area expansion and resort development into public lands in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. The base area expansion was approved in 2008 and amended in 2018 by Teton County, WY and included approval for 450 units and 150,000 square feet of commercial and resort services. Targhee’s special use permit (SUP) with the CTNF currently includes ~2,400 acres of USFS land, five chair lifts, 96 accommodation units, and 37,700 square feet of commercial development, as well as additional base services and amenities. The expansion proposal includes building additional lifts and realigning existing lifts, terrain enhancements and road/trail improvements for both winter and summer seasons, developing on-mountain restaurants and guest amenities like warming huts, yurts, and restrooms, and increasing lodging and base services significantly.
The current Comfortable Carrying Capacity (CCC) of Grand Targhee is ~3,000 guests/day; the proposed expansion would increase the CCC to ~7,000/day (which, for perspective, is equal to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort).
This proposal will impact the local economy, housing, and conservation of Teton County. The Master Development Plan includes expanding the current SUP boundaries by 1,200 acres to border the Jedediah Smith Wilderness Area, which has been identified as within the Canada Lynx area of influence and as critical habitat for isolated populations of bighorn sheep and grizzly bears, among other species.
We need to see a full analysis, including an overview of species-specific and cumulative impacts, that this expansion will have on the winter wildlife range within Teton Canyon, which includes the mineral lick visited by the threatened Teton Bighorn Sheep herd.
We also want the Forest Service to consider the impact on visual resources, like our dark quiet skies and undeveloped mountainous views. The potential impacts range far beyond concerns for wildlife and our natural resources; there are many socio-economic issues raised with the expansion proposal as well. While it has the opportunity to provide stable employment, benefits, and housing for locals, it will also significantly impact the scope, frequency, and type of visitors to our public lands, which will negatively affect traffic and parking, downstream water quality, the community character, costs of living, and energy consumption of Teton Valley. As well, as a result of the expansion, skiers and riders will have increased access to what is now backcountry terrain and remote public lands, causing Teton County Search and Rescue to be apprehensive of a possible increase in backcountry accidents. An expansion into Teton Canyon and the Mono Trees will open the area to paying resort goers and displace backcountry skiers and split boarders who currently enjoy the solitude and remoteness of these public lands.
It is time to find what issues matter to you and get involved!
We are currently in the 45-day public scoping comment period (deadline is October 12) of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process where all members of the public have the opportunity to provide letters addressing the issues they want considered in the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Although CTNF is the governing agency in this proposal, they have contracted the SE Group to conduct the EIS process. On a basic level, what happens to our public lands within the CTNF will depend largely on you, the public. The options include 1) A no build option, 2) A middle option of no build/full build, or 3) a full build option.
Learn more about the expansion proposal in the Story Map created by the SE Group.
To see what other community members are concerned about, visit the public scoping comment library here.
Please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.