Wildlife alliance group forms in Fremont County

A calf moose nuzzles its mother while standing in the Henry’s Fork (Getty Images)

(Originally published in the Post Register on June 21, 2019)

By Jerry Painter, Post Register

A wildlife advocacy group in Fremont County with the aim of increasing and sustaining wildlife in the upper Henry’s Fork watershed was organized this week.

The Henrys Fork Wildlife Alliance has set as its goal to educate and advocate on issues that impact wildlife in the Island Park area and surrounding region.

The group announced its launch this week at an Island Park Safe Wildlife Passage volunteer appreciation dinner at Harriman State Park. More than 70 people attended.

Jean Bjerke, one of the group’s founding committee members, said that most of the organization’s members rallied around the cause to create wildlife crossing structures on U.S. Highway 20 through the county, but that issue is not its sole purpose.

“That is not our main issue,” Bjerke said. “We really have a much broader goal which is to conserve the native wildlife throughout the area for enjoyment by the public, including hunters, photographers, people who see wildlife in their backyard. We believe there has been a lot of misinformation and things are not well understood.”

Bjerke said other issues the county faces could be rampant development, loss of habitat, increasing highway traffic and dealing with animal migration. She also mentioned a need to create wildlife fences that don’t hinder migrating deer, pronghorn and elk. Every late fall and spring, elk from the west side of Yellowstone National Park migrate through the area to and from wintering grounds west of St. Anthony, according to Idaho Department of Fish and Game reports.

“(Wildlife) migration seems to be a hot topic even nationwide,” she said. “This spring and summer we have the Trump administration issuing directives about preserving wildlife and migration corridors,” she said.

Bjerke said the group plans to expand its outreach on issues through different forms of media, including printed newsletters delivered to Fremont County residents.

“Wildlife issues may be the last nonpartisan issues left in our country,” says Brian Brooks, executive director of the Idaho Wildlife Federation, who was at the organizing meeting. “There is no such thing as a Republican elk or a Democrat mule deer. All they need is food, habitat and the ability to get from point A to point B. Partisanship and misinformation keep us from having substantive conversations and good policy. Bringing folks together to inform decisions that keep Island Park and the Upper Henry’s Fork a great place to live, visit and hunt is critical now. (Henrys Fork Wildlife Alliance) will be a uniting organization with this in mind.”

Bjerke said besides locals, people from around the country care about Island Park and are welcome to join the organization.

“We want to be here in 30 years, we want to become a sustainable organization that stays around,” she said.

The group is in the process of obtaining nonprofit status. To join, go to henrysforkwildlifealliance.org and click the “join us” button.