In the Nov. 20 edition of the Sublette Examiner a “Letter to the Editor” highlighted environmental concerns in the Bridger Wilderness.
I am 90 years old and have been taught since I was a little kid about how important it is to respect and protect the land and mountains that we were live in, then and now. This was long before the Wind River Mountains and other areas in Sublette County became wilderness areas.
Our Dad built a dude ranch on Soda Lake and operated it until 1940 and then was in the outfitting business after World War II. He had six sons who all spent time when they were growing up helping our Dad in the outfitting business. I believe he taught us to be conservationists. In 1956, my brother Bob and I bought our dad’s business and started Skinner Brothers Wilderness Camps and School. Three of the younger brothers joined us after college and for the next 50 years the Skinner Brothers and their siblings taught and guided young boys and girls from all over the world how to respect and protect the wilderness, environment, ecosystem area no matter where they live.
Mr. Hoffman stated in his letter that he has visited the area many times since 1989. I will say to Mr. Hoffman since the Wilderness Act was passed in 1964, it is a shame that he didn’t have the chance to see the high country and what it was like then.
I was an outfitter for 50-plus years and the rules that the Forest Service give to a legal outfitter change every year and I will admit that those rules are hard to abide by. What I do know is that an outfitter cannot have a seasonal camp in the summer. That outfitter was breaking the rules.
In all the years that I traveled in the Wind River Mountains – notice I don’t call them the Winds – when an outfitter is traveling with a moving camp you could see three or four rakes and shovels tied on the top of the packhorses. Sanitation is an important concern and portable toilets are hard to pack, but a good outfitter knows how to solve that problem. All horses are tied up on a trump line a little distance from the main camp. The trails that the gentleman talked about started in a lot of the places by ranchers years ago trying to dam some of the lakes which they did with great success. This project added more water for the summer irrigation in the lower country.
Mr. Hoffman seemed to have a dislike for horse manure and outfitters. Legal outfitters are licensed and have to pay use-day fees. This means the outfitter paid a fee for each horse that was used to pack in the Hoffman party. Unless there was different contract that was not mentioned by Mr. Hoffman he should have been dropped at a suitable place on Crescent Lake, 200 feet from the shore or stream and 100 feet from a trail. Since I am not active in the business any more I may be wrong on that statement. Mr Hoffman did not state on the type of contract he had with the outfitter, drop camp or full service, which means that he only paid for the one day and he could of stayed in the area for nothing.
In the busy part of the summer, I have seen a dozen horse trailers at the Scab Lake entrance all big and fancy that would hold six or eight horses and not one outfitter trailer. This is Wyoming and horse country, so first class citizens do not have to pay any fee to use the forest and wilderness areas. People who have permits to use the forest like outfitters, cattle and sheep ranchers all have to pay a fee for putting their livestock on forest and wilderness areas.
I want to emphasis that allowing access, whether it by horse or foot is important for the continued protection of the Wind River Mountains. If access to this area is to strictly limited, people will not know its beauty and specialness and will therefore not have incentive to advocate for its protection.
I look at our beautiful Wind River Mountains every day and thank God that I know most of the people living in Sublette County and Wyoming are aware of protecting our environment.
Monte Skinner, Pinedale