Delegation wants Grand Teton to keep road open

WyoFile staff report
— July 29, 2014

Wyoming’s all-Republican congressional delegation told National Park officials it’s “a serious waste of taxpayer funds”to consider restricting traffic on the popular Moose-Wilson Road in Grand Teton National Park.

U.S. Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, and U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, said the federal agency must make an accounting of $2 million allocated for a traffic study. They say the park continues to study closures even though easements require one end of the road to stay open.

“Spending $2 million for an (Environmental Impact Statement) with pre-determined conclusions before the EIS is completed is unacceptable if not illegal,”the letter says.

At issue is a narrow, winding byway that runs from Teton Village on the park’s south boundary to the park headquarters area near Moose. The park has closed the Moose-Wilson Road at times, including once when a grizzly and her family were foraging there.

Residents, visitors and businesses see the road as part of the valley-wide transportation network used for commerce and getting around, not just for visiting Grand Teton. The park considers the area the road bisects valuable wildlife habitat and a quiet corner of Grand Teton that might be oversubscribed.

Park officials said they haven’t yet responded to the letter, which they said they received on July 11. The copy WyoFile obtained had no date.

“The National Park Service is in the process of developing preliminary alternatives that will be made public in the next month,” spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs said in a statement. “These preliminary alternatives will be open for public review and comment, and we will use those comments — plus data from visitor use studies currently being conducted by Utah State University and Penn State University — to develop the draft alternatives that will be included in the draft Plan/EIS.”

Part of the road must stay open, the delegation said.

“Existing publicly recorded easements on the Moose Wilson Road give the public access rights on the southern section,”the letter said, “so we want to make sure that the EIS is studying alternatives that comply with these legal requirements.

“It is a serious waste of taxpayer funds for the NPS Intermountain Regional Office to study or propose closures or limitations of public access that are outside what is in fact legally required on the Moose Wilson Road.”

The delegation said park officials have mulled closing the road or making it one-way. “We understand GTNP officials, in advance of any alternatives from the EIS, have said that it is a foregone conclusion the Moose Wilson Road will close directionally if not entirely,”the letter said.

Skaggs rejected the charge that Grand Teton has decided to close the road. “The NPS hasnot identified a preferred alternative at this time,” her statement said.

“There is considerable skepticism regarding the motives behind the EIS,”the letter states. “The Moose Wilson Road EIS scoping commenced under the former superintendent,”the letter said, without naming that superintendent, Mary Gibson Scott.

“Having tried to close the road directionally prior to retirement, this individual is now on record opposing 2-way access on the Moose Wilson Road and a pathway for non-motorized travel on the very federal scoping she signed and issued.

“To ensure that taxpayer funds are being spent to protect, not degrade, the legally required access to GTNP, we are asking for an accounting of the $2 million to make sure that the NPS is not spending public funds outside of the legal scope of public rights on the Moose Wilson Road,”the letter said. “We want you to assure us that this EIS is fair and is studying management alternatives of this corridor within the framework of the law.”

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