We Took a Stand for Whitebark Pines, Forest Service Follows!

We Took a Stand for Whitebark Pines, Forest Service Follows!

Released Yesterday, More Analysis Needed for JHMR Projects

We are grateful to share that our objection submitted in January combined with comments at a meeting in March with the Forest Service, provided the needed input for officials to arrive at a more informed decision regarding JHMR proposed projects. As a result of our efforts, attention was drawn to the need for further environmental assessment of these projects, specifically the need for increased scrutiny of impacts to whitebark pines and the immense value of the mature, cone-bearing trees.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (JHMR) operates on Bridger Teton Forest Service (BTNF) land and all of their further developments are dependent on approval. One could easily assume that any future expansion or development is put through a stringent assessment, however, without advocates like the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, the ecological impacts of Federal projects are often inadequately addressed.

An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was prepared by the BTNF in 1996 to analyze the effects of development proposed on the mountain, of which most projects were completed by 2000. As a result, all development on the mountain and at the base since then has been authorized by a series of Findings of No Significant Impacts (FONSI) and categorical exclusions, which bypass critical environmental review. Given the level and pace of development by JHMR of these public lands, it’s hard to believe that 23 years of development projects have not had a significant impact on the human and natural environment.

In the 2023 Recreation Enhancements Projects, JHMR proposed 34 projects within their operating boundary that involve moving tons of earth and hundreds of boulders, removal of trees (including the federally listed threatened whitebark pine) and other vegetation, filling of protected wetlands for recreation purposes, construction of miles of new trails and roads, a new chair lift, construction of a via ferrata infrastructure and major terrain modifications that reshape and smooth natural topographic features, to list a few of the known impacts. All of which contribute to fragmentation and removal of wildlife habitat.

In January, the Alliance submitted a formal objection and we are pleased to report that our advocacy has made a difference! On April 11th, Chad Hudson, Bridger Teton National Forest Supervisor, responded to the project objections with remedies to the environmental analysis required before a decision will be made.

Hudson has called for the exclusion of 5 of the projects within wetlands for further environmental assessment and analysis in a separate decision. For the remaining 29 projects he has called for numerous remedies suggested by JHCA and other objectors, which are summarized below.  These 29 projects will now need to:

  • Analyze the effects on whitebark pine, specifically, additional analysis  about the intensity of effects by detailing the number of cone-bearing whitebark pine trees affected, both lethally and non-lethally.
  • Honor our request to consider impacts on whitebark pine at a local scale, rather than distribution-wide, he required specific analysis of the percentage of the Teton Range whitebark pine habitat that would be impacted by this project.
  • Rationalize and explain the Findings of No Significant Impacts (FONSI) that failed to consider an alternative to reduced whitebark pine, wetland and stream channel impacts.
  • Ensure compliance with numerous hydrology related standards including effects on the Fish Creek watershed, wetland and riparian resources.

You can read the full letter here.

We thank Chad Hudson, Bridger Teton National Forest Supervisor,  Todd Stiles, Jackson District Ranger and all of their staff for hearing the concerns of the community before proceeding on these projects. We also thank Protect Our Water Jackson Hole and other objectors for being our partners in promoting sustainable public land management. We will keep you updated as this story develops. 

Phone: (307) 733-9417
685 S. Cache St. PO Box 2728
Jackson, Wyoming 83001