Thursday, May 19, 2016

Yellowstone Country Safety * Spike Strips *

It seems like the side-by-sides are getting larger and faster! I had several “very large” four-seaters drive by my cabin last week. Apparently even though they are as big as a car, they aren’t concerned with the speed limit because they are off-road vehicles. Anyone know where I can find a good deal on spike strips?

Thinning the Herd

The tourist season hasn’t even officially begun and already several examples of Yellowstone Park idiocy have made their way to YouTube and news outlets. My first indication of a long and dangerous summer was when I watched a YouTube video of Asian tourists standing within arm’s length from the buffalo so they could take selfies with the animals. If that wasn’t dangerous enough, there was a video posted of visitors to the park attempting to pet the bison.

The ultimate display of idiocy occurred when an adult male Canadian tourist thought that a buffalo calf appeared cold, loaded it into his SUV and carted it off to the park rangers. Shamsah Kassam of Quebec was cited for disturbing the wildlife… and the calf was put down after attempts to reintegrate it into the herd were unsuccessful.

Every year several individuals are killed or seriously injured by park wildlife. I know from my experience in Island Park that many visitors have no clue that the animals are wild. I have heard people inquire as to when the moose will be released each day. Others have called Fish and Game to complain the animals are out and eating the flowers in the yard, demanding that the officers retrieve them. Yellowstone Country apparently has the reputation of being the world’s largest petting zoo!

Some individuals laboring under this illusion are in for a very rough summer, perhaps their last. All of the animals of the Yellowstone bite, kick, gore, trample or eat you! Despite the programs on the National Geographic Channel showing the bears, elk, moose, bison and wolves as cute and sympathetic creatures, they consider humans either an annoyance, a danger or dinner… none of these classifications are good from a visitor’s prospective.

Those of you who wish to interact with the wildlife, I would recommend against it, but it is your choice. The next person to hoist a buffalo calf into his vehicle may find that he is face-to-face with momma! Being careless around the critters may result in the removal of your DNA from the gene pool. That’s Mother Nature’s way of saying that a few less idiots procreating may result in a safer environment for humans and wildlife. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Yellowstone Country Safety * Heavy Shutters *

I was removing some shutters from a cabin this week that were constructed with 1X6 tongue and groove and 2x4 framing. Just a note of advice; if you are shuttering a six to eight foot picture window, use lighter material or plan on hiring a crane!

Local Candidate Forum Held in Island Park

I attended a candidate forum last Tuesday at the EMS building. The candidates for State Representative seats 35a and 35b, two Fremont County Commissioner positions and the Fremont County Prosecutor were in attendance. They were each given the opportunity to explain why they should be considered for the position and each responded to a few related questions submitted by the audience. Here are my impressions of the candidates based on the forum.

State Representative 35a
Van Burtenshaw (incumbent) was very much aware of the state budgeting process and expressed a commitment to take care of state workers and teachers. He also was proud of his assistance in opposing the Island Park National Monument by introducing the resolution in the state legislature.
Daniel Davis emphasized that he was a strict constitutionalist which would be great if he was running for national office. He proclaimed that according to the constitution, the federal government had no right to own any property and that all the national forest lands belong to the states. I have bad news for Mr. Davis, that ship sailed well over a century ago. Without presenting any specifics on what he would do if elected, I am not sure he would be an effective state representative.

State Representative 35b
Paul Romrell (incumbent) was also obviously very seasoned in the state budgeting process. He has been working to use the increase in the state gas tax to repair Highway 20 through the caldera. While this year is going to be only patching, chip and seal, he hopes to have the road rebuilt within the next couple of years.
Karey Hanks is a local school bus driver who also identified herself as a strict constitutionalist. She spent most of her time telling of hours spent with local school children, conveying the importance and her love of the constitution. She was less clear about what she hoped to accomplish if elected.

Fremont County Prosecutor
Karl Lewies (incumbent) is a polished attorney who spent his time addressing the complaints issued against him by his opponent. He explained that he handles the criminal prosecutions and that his deputy handles the civil actions, including the Commissioners’ meetings. He does case preparation on Mondays for upcoming trials and the meetings are also on Mondays. Regarding his private practice, he advised that since Fremont County is not the hotbed of criminal activity, he has intermittent time that is available. He uses the time productively to practice law in his private practice. 
Marcia Murdoch presented two issues regarding Mr. Lewies that she felt needed to be addressed. First, Mr. Lewies does not attend the County Commissioners’ meetings but delegates that duty to his deputy. Second, Mr. Lewies maintains a private practice while serving as county attorney. Ms. Murdoch promised to attend the Commissioners’ meetings personally and not maintain a private practice. Regardless of whether one thinks that these issues are important, at least someone studied and found areas to distinguish themselves from their rival. 

Fremont County Commissioners
The county commissioners have made several mistakes over the last few years that have caused many to question their judgement.
Let’s pick three:
The county commissioners hired Jan Brown and Tom Cluff. The two of them got involved in what amounted to encouraging outside organizations interested in establishing the Island Park National Monument. Residents throughout Fremont County have spent hundreds of hours working to offset the damage caused by the county employees.
The 150 percent increase in the landfill fee was a result of a failure to act in a timely manner. The closing of the Saint Anthony landfill has been pending for almost a decade and some of the expenses involved in that task should have been foreseen. A modest fee increase several years ago dedicated to that task would have avoided such a burdensome increase.
The City of Teton declined an application to rezone a rural property in a residential area near the river to allow a multi-acre open gravel pit. The County Commissioners overruled the local planning/zoning committee and allowed the pit. The City sued the County and the County lost. It cost the County $13,000 for the legal fees of the City of Teton.

Fremont County Commissioner
Leroy “Lee” Miller (incumbent) discussed the procured grant to widen and improve the Yale-Kilgore Road. He also discussed the commissioners’ commitment to opposing the national monument. He also admitted that the county made a mistake in approving the gravel pit and getting stuck with Teton’s legal fees.
Larry Singleton is a rancher who expressed a desire to add the perspective of the agri-businesses of Fremont County. He was concerned about spending but left little meat on the bones when discussing the inadequacies or mistakes of the current commissioners.

Fremont County Commissioner
Jordon Stoddard touted his on-site supervision of the county employees and his personal response to county residents’ concerns. He defended Jan Brown and Tom Cluff, disagreeing with the characterization of their involvement in the national monument fiasco.
Val Hammond is also involved in agri-business and seemed to be well organized. The increasing county budget was also his main concern. He discussed the thirteen thousand dollars that the county had to be after losing a lawsuit filed by the city of Teton over a zoning mistake made by the county.

Idaho has the advantage of being a conservative state. None of these races are as dramatic as picking between Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz. All of the candidates are good people. Local voters have some interesting choices in the upcoming primary election. Good Luck!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Yellowstone Country Safety * Avoid Hitting Spring Animals *

With the disappearance of the snow comes the increase in large animals migrating across the roadways. Slow down and drive cautiously. Animal/vehicle collisions can be deadly for a vehicle’s occupants, as well as the animal.

The Summer Residents are Arriving!

With the melting of the last vestiges of winter come the summer’s residents of the caldera. Some are wanted and appreciated, while others are detested. Some provide vital functions to the area, while others are simply nuisances. There are even a few summer residents that are destructive and should be shot!

I know what you are thinking. How bad are his neighbors? I’m talking about the returning wildlife to Island Park.  The first summer residents were the flocks of birds that began emptying our bird feeders daily while waiting for the ground to clear of snow. The flats greeted the returning herd of antelope with its emerging grass, on which they could be seen grazing. The elk and deer began moving to the caldera from the lower elevations where they wintered. Raptors have begun constructing nests on the man-made platforms installed for their convenience.

On the flip side, the seagulls are back. The winter’s congregation of ravens has been overrun with the flocks of seagulls that descend on the county landfill. The dominating gulls also overrun Big Springs, consuming any food offered to the ducks or trout. One has to almost push them out of the way to walk on the bridge walkway and avoid their white, post-modern impressionist graffiti that they have applied to the bridge.

The pelicans have also returned. They are large and somewhat majestic birds but gluttons. Each gorging themselves on hundreds of pounds of trout, conservation has never been their concern. All that matters to them is that they satisfy their insatiable appetite.

Life in the caldera is always in an ebb and flow. The enjoyment of spending time here is watching the transitions occur. Nature always finds its balance but I am not adverse to those who offer a little assistance in maintaining that balance.  I am just saying …..

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Yellowstone Country Safety * I found My Trailers *

I found my utility trailers this week. I knew they were under one of the snow mounds in the yard. I just wasn’t sure which one!

Sometimes I have to Tune Out

The wrap up of the presidential primaries can’t come too soon for me. It is getting indigestibly stupid. The Republican front-runner Mr. Trump continually hurls insults at his competitors, apparently auditioning his best impersonation of Don Rickles in case this political thing doesn’t work out.

Hillary Clinton leads the elderly socialist, Bernie Sanders for the Democrat Party nomination. She alternates between screaming monotone rants and disingenuous attempts at being hip or funny. Both approaches create the same reaction as fingernails on a chalkboard and remind me of an ex-wife that I’d rather forget.

Fortunately I have the option of turning off the media and spending time in the forest. It is an irrefutable fact that the high country has the ability to calm one’s nerves when they are being rubbed raw by politicians. I am concerned that as the political silly season continues, more of this country’s citizens will discover this truth while vacationing in Island Park this summer. They may decide to not return home and seek sanctuary in the caldera. The increase in population will shatter September’s calm and screw up the bow hunt!

If residents begin hearing visitors contemplating the move to Island Park, I suggest that you emphasize the cold winter weather, deep snow and frozen water pipes. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to remind them that there is little shopping in the caldera and no movie theaters. I realize that this may appear selfish but remember that you are doing them a service!

After their first winter, they many will flee back to the flat and the glut of cabins on the market will drive down real estate prices. They will have to sell their property at a loss. Make their financial well-being a priority and discourage tourists from moving to Island Park. It is your humanitarian duty.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Yellowstone Country Safety * The Grizzlies are OUT! *

With the receding snow comes an increase in activity and range of the grizzly bears. Be cautious about storing garbage or leaving dog food outside.    

Damage Uncovered by the Receding Snow

As the warm weather chases away the last winter’s snow, cabin damage is unveiled. It is not unusual to see a piece of shredded metal roofing protruding from a melting pile of slide-off.

Last week while checking a few unoccupied cabins, I came across a partially collapsed roof over a hot tub and a framed-in chimney. Last week while checking a few unoccupied cabins, I came across a partially collapsed roof over a hot tub and a framed-in chimney that had torn away from a cabin’s roof. 

 The damage in both instances had Last week while checking a few unoccupied cabins, I came across a partially collapsed roof over a hot tub and a framed-in chimney. Last week while checking a few unoccupied cabins, I came across a partially collapsed roof over a hot tub and a framed-in chimney that had torn away from a cabin’s roof. 

Living in Island Park year-round provides a unique opportunity to witness the stress that winter inflicts on building in the caldera. Shopping for properties in Island Park usually occurs in the summer months. The area presents itself as a forested paradise, with no hint of the harsh winter months ahead. Cabins are built or purchased without consideration of snow-load, ice dams, snow removal or other equally important realities.

The newly-purchased cabin is enjoyed until Labor Day and then winterized. The owners return in the late spring to find that the cabin has been damaged and in need of repairs. It is far less expensive and emotionally draining to make arrangements with local residents to watch after the unattended cabin during the off-seasons and report any possible problems. Quick action can avoid or limit damage to the structures.

During the summer months, local contractors can also evaluate a property and suggest any changes that may help the structure winter safely. Prevention is always the cheapest way to deal with the caldera’s winters.

Island Park has its own set of unique challenges and the sooner one familiarizes oneself with them, the more enjoyable the stay.