Weekly News Roundup: Friday, Dec. 17

Miss the headlines this week? Catch up on a new resort in Sublette County, meat processing in Eastern Idaho and local grizzly bear advocacy.
Famed Grizzly 399 and her cubs are reportedly denned up for the winter after an eventful summer and fall. (BlueBarronPhoto/Shutterstock)

by | Dec 17, 2021 | Weekly News Roundups

Bear Advocates Speak Up as 399 Dens Up

Numerous wildlife advocates attended a Teton County Planning Commission meeting Monday to testify in favor of imposing stricter land development standards in an effort to reduce human-bear conflict. 

“The problem is we are baiting both grizzlies and black bears into our neighborhoods by having unsecured trash and other food attractions, presenting a significant public safety and public nuisance issue,” said wildlife photographer Savannah Rose Burgess.

“It’s amazing to me that a human has not yet been seriously injured or even killed by a bear or other large mammal here while they protect human food sources,” said Renee Seidler of the Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation.

Proposed amendments include prohibiting the feeding of all local wildlife, upping requirements for bear-resistant trash containers across the county, and asking for better fencing and protections around gardens, bird-feeders, livestock feed, and other areas frequented by bears. 

After extensive technical difficulties, the planning commission had to continue this discussion to later in the month before approval. After that, the changes will be passed onto the Board of County Commissioners. 

This discussion follows news that Grizzly 399, arguably the most famous grizzly bear in the world, is reportedly at her typical den site with her four cubs following an eventful summer and fall. The family was all over Jackson Hole in recent months, leaving their usual range in Grand Teton National Park and making stops near Josie’s Ridge, Highway 22 in Wilson, residential neighborhoods south of town, and even the streets surrounding the police station in downtown Jackson.

The 25-year-old sow and her cubs also had to be monitored and tracked by the federal government following numerous reports of the bears eating livestock feed, trash, and other human-produced food—and wildlife managers will once again be dealing with the situation when the family emerges this spring. The mama bear’s location in a remote area of the Tetons was confirmed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

TCSD Settles Sexual Assault Case

A $270,000 dollar settlement will be paid to a former Teton County student who alleged the local school district ignored and disregarded her reports of being sexually assaulted back in 2017, according to the Casper Star Tribune. A lawsuit filed last year claims the now-former student, who has not been publically identified, was discriminated against by school staff, administrators, and other students after she accused a classmate of raping her. The case has now been closed following the settlement, but prosecuting attorneys said this doesn’t erase the extreme trauma their client endured when she was just 14 years old. 

New Resort Approved in Bondurant

Sublette County Commissioners reached a landmark decision recently allowing a local billionaire to develop his ranch adjacent to the Hoback River in Bondurant. TD Ameritrade founder and bison rancher Joe Ricketts wants to build an exclusive, 56-acre retreat with 64 rooms and several cabins, arguing it’s the only way for his land to yield wealth across several generations. Local residents, the county’s planning and zoning boards, and a minority of commissioners all argued this development would have negative impacts on wildlife, local housing, and the rural character of Bondurant. But a majority still chose by one vote to approve Rickett’s request, according to the nonprofit publication WyoFile

Idaho Ranchers Meet to Discuss Meat

An Eastern Idaho rancher is trying to bring greater meat processing capacity to the region. The beef, poultry, and mutton industries are growing in Teton and Madison counties in the Gem State. But actually turning those animals into food on the dinner table? That’s increasingly becoming a challenge for folks. Food systems educator for the University of Idaho Jennifer Werlin said during a local food and farm coalition meeting last week that nobody would bat an eyelash if a new facility came online tomorrow. 

“I don’t think that is going to be any sort of competition,” Werlin said. “There’s more demand than there’s actually, like, facilities and infrastructure at this point. We just need more. We need more of it. People are driving hours and hours just to process their animals.” 

To make matters worse, the main U.S. Department of Agriculture facility in Rigby, Idaho, that usually handles local, independent ranchers was recently bought out by Smith’s. The rancher interested in bringing a new facility to the region is currently scouting locations in Eastern Idaho and gauging community interests on both sides of the state line as she figures out capacity, scheduling, and permitting with the USDA. 

Cancer Coalition Seeks Information

The Wyoming Cancer Coalition is asking the state’s cancer survivors to participate in a survey about patient needs both during and after treatment. The goal of the survey is to better serve state residents affected by cancer in the future. Adults aged 18 and older who have received a cancer diagnosis in the past six years are specifically encouraged to give their feedback. A link to the 10-15-minute-long survey is available at wyomingcancercoalition.org.

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