Photo by Sofia Jaramillo (@sofia_jaramillo5) of splitboarder Zeppelin Zeerip (@zeppelinzeerip) in the Teton backcountry
Do you ski, ride, or ice climb in the Tetons? An online survey is now available for backcountry skiers, riders, and climbers to share their perspectives on Teton Bighorn Sheep conservation and backcountry winter recreation. The survey asks winter backcountry travelers about options for managing important sheep habitat, the extent and need for specific closure areas, future bighorn sheep research, and the willingness of backcountry travelers to participate in citizen programs for bighorn sheep conservation and to observe closures.
The survey was developed and is administered by the Teton Backcountry Alliance, the Teton Climbers Coalition, Winter Wildlands Alliance, the Access Fund, and the American Alpine Club.
Wildlife monitoring indicates that the Teton bighorn sheep population is perilously low and at serious risk. In an effort to address conservation of Teton bighorn sheep, the Teton Bighorn Sheep Working Group convened a series of public workshops in 2020 to share information about sheep biology and to gather information from users on winter backcountry recreation. Subsequent to those meetings, Grand Teton National Park, the Bridger-Teton National Forest, and Caribou-Targhee National Forest implemented seasonal voluntary closures in areas deemed of highest importance for bighorn sheep.
On April 20th Grand Teton National Park initiated an environmental review (NEPA) process to determine a long-term plan for managing winter recreation in Teton bighorn sheep habitat. The results of the online survey will help to inform our engagement in this NEPA process. The survey results will also be shared with the public and the land management agencies. The names of all those taking the survey will remain anonymous.
“This survey provides an important opportunity for Teton backcountry skiers and winter climbers to be heard by agencies, and I strongly encourage all backcountry skiers and winter climbers to participate,” says guidebook author, Teton ski mountaineer, and historian Tom Turiano.
In addition to taking the survey, we strongly encourage everybody to visit the Park Service’s Bighorn Sheep Habitat Protection Plan project webpage to learn more about, and comment on, the management strategies that the Park Service is considering implementing to protect Teton bighorn sheep winter habitat. Comments are due May 20th. We will be providing more information about the Park’s proposal soon!
It’s our hope that the experience and knowledge of backcountry skiers and winter climbers will shape and ultimately improve the final management plan. If you have questions about the survey, contact us!