By Shaun Ward
ST. ANTHONY – On Monday, August 7, 2023, Fremont County Commissioners met in the courthouse and unanimously voted to take the bear-resistant container ordinance under a 60-day advisement seeking further information after listening to testimonies of Fish and Game representatives, elected officials, and concerned members of the public.
The county commissioners’ room was full as testimony was given by several members of the community calling for the proposed bear-resistant container ordinance to be enacted in select parts of Fremont County. The proposed ordinance was originally introduced over a year ago and would require homeowners who store garbage outdoors to use bear-resistant containers in order to protect bears from becoming food conditioned. After the 60-day advisement period ends the commissioners plan on hosting a public hearing in which members of the public can voice their opinion on the issue.
“I firmly believe we need to do something,” Commissioner Chairman Scott Kamachi stated regarding the container ordinance. Commissioners Rick Hill and Blair Dance agreed with Kamachi admitting there is an ongoing problem in the area. The commissioners’ main concern with the proposed ordinance was the enforcement and the burden it might bring to understaffed county law enforcement. Fremont County Sheriff Len Humphries was in attendance and answered questions from the commissioners. Idaho Fish and Game Regional Supervisor Matt Pieron explained to the Commissioners that they would be willing to provide county law enforcement with proper investigation and documentation of violations of the proposed ordinance once in effect.
Those who gave testimony in the meeting included; Mayor Mike Bogden, (City of Island Park), Tracy River, (Henry’s Fork Wildlife Alliance Board Member and retired Law Enforcement Officer), Ella Paini, (Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center Intern and daughter of grizzly attack survivor), Kathy Rinaldi, (former Teton County Commissioner and current deputy director of conservation for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition), Matt Pieron, (regional supervisor for Idaho Department of Fish and Game,) and Charlie Lansche, (Island Park resident and nature photographer). All who gave testimony spoke in favor of the proposed ordinance.
Commissioner Kamachi asked former Teton County Commissioner Kathy Rinaldi about Teton County’s bear-resistant container ordinance that was enacted over a decade ago.
Kamachi inquired about how Teton County was able to enforce the ordinance. Rinaldi responded by explaining enforcement wasn’t the main issue they faced, lack of awareness was. Once people understood the ordinance, the majority of people complied.
Fremont County Sheriff Humphries admitted that there is an ongoing problem with grizzly bears but expressed that he was concerned with some aspects of how the ordinance was written and the enforcement of it. He also suggested that a restriction on the importation of grizzly bears be added to the ordinance stating “We don’t need more fuel for the fire”. Matt Pieron the regional supervisor for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game clarified that the problem bears the Sheriff was referencing were not imported into the state, however, they were two yearlings that have not been ear tagged.
Other members of the public who spoke at the meeting included Idaho Fish and Game Officer Chris Johnson who patrols the Island Park area. Seasonal Island Park resident Curtis Sandau spoke and raised concern that he didn’t want to be forced to pay for a bear-resistant container for his home, but acknowledged something needed to be done. He followed his comments by stating he actually hadn’t physically read the ordinance yet.
In closing, Commissioner Chairman Kamachi stated that the proposed ordinance needs more refining and called for a motion to take the ordinance under advisement. Within 60 days, public announcements would be sent out and a date for a public hearing will be set sometime in the fall. Ultimately commissioners agreed with the recommendation of Mayor Bogden that they wanted to pass some version of a bear-resistant container ordinance by the spring of next year.