SUBLETTE COUNTY – A group from
county, state and federal agencies met Dec.
14 at the Pinedale Fire Hall to choose a direction
after the recent Roosevelt Fire affected
some of its planned habitat and fuels
The Sublette County Forest Collaborative
meets publicly with the goals of applying
for and using Joint Chiefs of Staff
grants and other moneys to benefit forest
and wildlife health, water quality, recreation
and habitat improvements.
The group includes Sublette County
Weed & Pest, Sublette County Conservation
District, Sublette County Unified Fire,
Bridger-Teton National Forest, Bureau of
Land Management’s Pinedale Field Office
and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Members of the public also attended the recent
The “Monument Ridge Vegetation and
Recreation Management Project” was introduced
to about 20 part- and full-time
Hoback Ranches and Bondurant residents
at an April 19 public meeting at the Bondurant
Fire Hall. It is in the Big Piney Ranger
At that time, BTNF’s Rusty Kaiser explained
the agencies were working together
to thin conifers, repair the Clark’s
Draw road to the fire lookout, treat invasive
weeds, reduce wildfire risks, prescribe
slash burns and move a year-round trailhead
along Highway 191 across from Jack Creek
Road to the Hoback Guard Station.
Some parts are started, some are completed
– and some burned up with the recent
Roosevelt Fire that destroyed the
Kismet Peak cell tower, 55 homes, fences
and plenty of wildfire fuel.
First on the Forest Collaborative’s Dec.
Rusty Kaiser addresses the public and other partners in the Sublette
County Forest Collaborative in April at a meeting in Bondurant. Those
priorities have changed to deal with the impacts from the Roosevelt Fire.
14 agenda was the question – “Is there a
priority shift in projects due to the Roosevelt
Monument Ridge in the Hoback Basin is
its main project with prescribed burns and
mechanical treatments previously scheduled
for the near future. The project area
has a “categorical exclusion” designation.
Big Piney District Ranger Don Kranendonk
related the “situation on the ground
there” as having social and economic impacts
to residents from the Roosevelt Fire,
with homes burned, people displaced, grazing
and hunting postponed and trails and
roads breaking down.
“I think Monument Ridge is still an important
project,” he said. “Relevant and
viable. The question I have is what our
partners’ and the community’s sentiments
are on that.”
Rebuilding and stabilizing the Clark’s
Draw dirt road, accessed from Highway
191, is ready to proceed with $70,000 from
Joint Chiefs’ grant put toward that. Kranendonk
said the county is helping; he expects
that to cost as much as $100,000.
“I will add more (money) to that road,”
he said. “We had an agreement for the road
up to Monument Ridge from the parking
lot. We removed vegetation and graded out
the trail – that left a lot of vegetation treatment
that is needed.”
Kranendonk said he wanted to “go forward
with the Joint Chiefs (funds) by shifting
some requests for vegetation treatment
to mitigating” impacts on trails and roads
for recreation and water quality. As for the
entire Hoback Basin watershed, a $500,000
grant was approved elsewhere for a study.
Of mechanical treatments, Kranendonk
wanted first to evaluate the wildfire’s aftereffects.
For example, livestock grazing permittees
will be “displaced for two years” so the
burn can recover. That could affect where
and what treatments take place.
SCCD Manager Mike Henn said Monument
Ridge is still a valid project with a lot
of federal money already spent. He advised
delaying prescribed burns for two years in
consideration of the community’s feelings.
He pointed to the adjacent Cliff Creek
Fire of 2016 that also displaced grazing,
hunting and recreation for two years.
“What are the feelings of the biologists
and specialists here about migration corridors
being impacted in the future?” asked
SCUF Chief Shad Cooper. “One of the benefits
(of the Monument Ridge Project) was
to enhance mule deer habitat. Will the Roosevelt
Fire change that pattern and habitat
for mule deer?”
Kaiser said the burn might change stopovers
slightly but vegetation will grow back
“Mule deer have a ton of fidelity to almost
walking in their footprints from the
year before,” added Game and Fish habitat
biologist Jill Randall, adding “important
habitat” was burned.
Also, moose need more tree cover than
mule deer, something to consider with conifer
treatments after so many trees burned,
“It calls for more of a scalpel approach
than broad treatments,” she said. “But there
are still conifer-encroached aspens, which
was a lot of the original reason to go there
(with proposed burns).”
The fire also changes plans for a small
Monument Ridge timber sale, according to
BTNF’s Paul Swenson. “What was viable
is burned up.”
BLM’s Mark Thonoff said hazardous
fuels near Kismet Peak
“are all taken care of
now” and the transmission
The county has an insurance
check to rebuild
BTNF’s Paul Marone
said the fuels
group still wants to
make Bondurant “more
resilient to wildfire.”
The Collaborative generally
wildfire risks east
of the Hoback Rim toward
the Upper Green
and other areas.
Henn said, “The east
side of the Rim is still
a priority of this collaborative.”
Ranger Rob Hoelscher
said he needs to know
very soon where to
focus next – Monument
Ridge or other places
where fuels reduction
needs to be done.
“If I have 10 people,
am I going to put those
10 people on Monument
or do I put those
10 people on Packer
Miner?” he asked.
of Natural Resources
voiced “social” community concerns for
proceeding with Monument Ridge projects
like prescribed burns. She is working
with several Bondurant grazing permittees;
also, she and Weed & Pest’s Julie Kraft
helped about 30 homeowners look at how
to prevent erosion, what to plant and how
to safely reclaim their properties.
“Fire on that landscape – that has to be
Jill Randall speaks with Tom Rooks in April about the Monument Ridge Project.
Joy Ufford photos
way scary for them that there are still fire
risks,” she said. “How could we explain to
them we are still interested in doing this?”
Kranendonk said the collaborative has
to decide – soon – what specifically is
“Sitting down to have that conversation
is a priority now,” he said. “The impacts
of the fire to me are social. The social aspect
is number one right now in my opinion.”
He suggested “bumping out the timeline,”
spacing Monument Ridge fuels
treatments and having public meetings in
Bondurant. “Have them think about if this
could work after getting past the initial
All agreed that the next growing season
could give local residents a little hope
and a chance to see what vegetation returns.
As for roads and trails, Henn and
BLM’s Mark Thonoff talked about current
off-road use that tears up disturbed soils.
Signs ordered are delayed due to a typographical
error, Kranendonk explained.
BTNF’s Chad Hayward said Bucky’s
Outdoors is “ready to engage” clients and
educate forest users about not traveling on
the burn area.
Another element of the Monument
Ridge Project is the BTNF’s invasive
weed environmental impact statement
process, announced at the start of 2018.
Hayward said the draft EIS should be out
in about two months with a comment period
to follow. Kranendonk has requested
about $250,000 to implement it.
The Forest Collaborative plans to finetune
its top priorities for Monument Ridge
at its next meeting, set for 9:30 a.m. to
11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 6, at the
Pinedale Fire Hall.n