Over-Snow Winter Use Map Updated for Sage Grouse

The Bridger-Teton National Forest Jackson Ranger District has issued a Decision Memo which updates the Over-snow Vehicle Use Map (OSVUM) on the Blackrock and Jackson Ranger Districts, frequently referred to as the “Teton Division”. The new OSVUM adds winter closures designed to protect critical sage grouse leks and wintering big game habitat in the Gros Ventre near Breakneck Flats and lower Cottonwood Creek. The added closure is closed to human access (foot and motorized travel) during the period the OSVUM is in effect in this area, annually December 15 to April 31.

The Sage Grouse Record of Decision from 2015 provides 33 standards, 66 guidelines, and·6 desired condition statements pertaining to land use activities in sage-grouse habitats on Forest Service lands. After reviewing the amendment’s new standards and guidelines, the Forest determined that these were necessary in order to implement the sage-grouse decision.

“The need for the sage-grouse update offers the opportunity to fix some fine-scale mapping errors that have been on our existing winter travel maps.” said Jackson District Ranger Dale Deiter. The mapping errors erroneously indicate that areas are closed to the public during the winter, despite the fact that they were intended to be-open based on winter travel planning completed in 1990. “This will also give us the opportunity to be clearer with the language used on our maps about the restrictions and opportunities for new modes of winter travel such as tracked ATVs and electronic bikes, which were not present in 1990, but are increasingly used by the public,” Deiter said.

“We believe that these changes, albeit minor in scope, will improve protections and local habitat conditions for sage-grouse and assure better compliance with the OSVUM by more clearly communicating legal access for users of National Forest System lands,” he said. 

Fixing of the mapping errors and legend refinements are included for public disclosure and maintaining a record of changes to the OSVUM, but can be done administratively since they do not require a change to the 1990 winter travel management decision. 

The Forest began working on this issue of how to implement the Greater Sage Grouse Amendment in April, 2016 and removed potential closures in the areas of lower North Fork Fish, Bacon, and Redmond Creeks from the proposal closure based on public responses. 

Other changes to the OSVUM include adjusting the boundaries for mapped crucial winter range at the mouth of Dog Creek (Prichard), near Rodeo Wall (Astoria), and near Dry Hollow (Flat Creek) to clarify public access. The corrected map will now clearly indicate that the public may legally access the Dog Creek trail head from Highway 89, and may travel alongside the highway from the parking lot at Prichard and the Forest Service work center at Cottonwood. The Rodeo Wall that was open to climbing, but incorrectly located on the original map will be correctly located showing that it is available for non-motorized use during the winter. The adjustment at Flat Creek will allow hunters on the National Elk Refuge to walk on a 100-yard length of road (foot travel only) that passes through the Bridger-Teton National Forest and accesses Refuge lands in Dry Hollow and Long Hollow after December 1.

The Decision Memo is available at https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/btnf/maps-pubs

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