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Backpacker Magazine – August 2001

Hike To Protect Wilderness From Drilling

How many miles of trail or acres of wilderness will we sacrifice for a tank of gas? Here's a look at eight threatened wildernesses and what you can do to stop the drilling.

by: Jeff Rennicke


Montana
Teton Peaks-Choteau Mountain Wilderness Study Area

Wildlife thrives here: There are more than three dozen active eagle and falcon nests, mountain goats drift like morning clouds on the sunlit face of Mt. Frazier, and grizzlies migrate to winter den sites through Blackleaf Canyon. Hikers do well, too, what with five major routes leading into the Bob Marshall Wilderness from this 61,000-acre wildland.

Unfortunately, oil companies have left their tracks. Even though 95 percent of the Rocky Mountain Front is already open for oil and gas leasing, at least six exploratory wells have been drilled and then capped (with no production). Included in at least eight wilderness proposals since 1984, this area will need that federal designation if the only future tracks are to be those of hikers and wildlife.

Hike it: Try a high, rugged loop by connecting Headquarters Creek and Route Creek Passes with trails along the Middle and South Forks of the Teton River.

Save it: Not a single acre of federal wilderness has been designated on the Rocky Mountain Front. Contact your congressional delegation and ask for protection for the Teton Peaks-Choteau Mountain area as well as other Rocky Mountain Front wildlands.

Contact: Montana Wilderness Association, (406) 443-7350; www.wildmontana.org. The Wilderness Society, (800) 843-9453; www.wilderness.org.

Wyoming
Bridger-Teton National Forest

Blessed with high peaks, evergreen and aspen forests, and abundant wildflowers, Bridger-Teton still hosts species that lived here in pre-European days, including wolves, grizzlies, wolverines, and lynx. It's also summer home to Greater Yellowstone's elk herds. But the oil industry wants 370,000 acres.

"These areas form a crescent around the Gros Ventre Wilderness," explains Franz Camenzind, Ph.D., executive director of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance. "If this were to be leased, it would isolate the Teton Wilderness, the Gros Ventre Wilderness, and the Wind River Mountains from each other and the rest of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem," to the detriment of solitude and wildlife.

Hike it: From WY 26/287, take Trail 3079 south up Split Rock Creek to Maverick Creek. Off-trail side trips up Tripod Peak and Two Ocean Mountain offer good overviews of the disputed country.

Save it: The Forest Service will soon decide whether to prohibit oil and gas leasing, as requested by 98 percent of the more than 13,000 citizens who commented on a pending management plan. Call your congressional representatives and the Forest Service.

Contact: Bridger-Teton National Forest, (307) 739-5500; www.fs.fed.us/btnf. Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, (307) 733-9417; www.jhalliance.com.

"This is a major part of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. If we can't protect this, here, there's no place left to protect."


-Franz Camenzind, Executive Director, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance




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