November 2017

Hello folks,

We are a bit behind on getting this quarter’s newsletter out and we apologize for the delay.  The entire staff here at Yellowstone to Uintas Connection has been working incredibly hard this summer and fall. I want to say how proud I am of our team and the work that we are doing.  

Yellowstone to Uintas Connection will be celebrating our 5 year anniversary this fall. We have come a long way since we received nonprofit status in 2012. We now are working on close to thirty different projects, all of which you can see on our recently updatedwebsite. To celebrate our anniversary, we are putting on a Five Year Anniversary Fundraiser at Crumb Brother’s in their brand new addition on December 8th, 2018 with live music and signed albums from Earthestra and signed copies of author Beckie Elgin’s book ‘Journey: The Amazing Story of OR-7, the Oregon Wolf That Made History.’ Purchase your tickets for the event soon before they are all gone!

This year we went from four to six staff members and more than doubled our budget. We are on track to meet our budget, but we need your help. Our goal is to raise $5,000 by the end of the year in donations from you! See our new donation page where you will find that you can make a general donation, donate to a specific project, purchase equipment that we use in the field or make a donation in someone else’s name (in which case we will send you a card to give to them). You can also purchase Y2U merchandise from our store.

We are excited to announce the latest members of the Y2U team, Casey Brucker and her dog Cedar! Casey graduated from USU in the spring of 2017 with a BS in Conservation and Restoration Ecology and minor in Statistics. She joined us in July as our Ecological Technician and has already been a tremendous asset to our organization preparing an extensive E. coli report, monitoring predators with game cams in the Bear River Range, meeting with Forest Service and BLM staff and much more! We are proud to have Casey on our team and encourage you to view her profile on our website for more information.

Y2U continues to engage in a great deal of outreach with private landowners, Forest Service, BLM and State agency staff, environmental organizations as well as farm and ranch organizations and the community. We seek to educate ourselves about all of these stakeholders to better inform our work in the corridor. Some highlights of our recent outreach efforts to engage these groups include attending and presenting at the Speak for Wolves conference in July, attending the Restoring the West conference in October and touring the John Wood Forest Management Project with the Caribou National Forest Silviculturist Wayne Beck. We also presented at Cache Valley’s Green Drinks event, tabled at the Logan Pride Festival, tabled at the Patagonia Outlet Store, and put on a screening of Born to ReWild at Utah State University.

Newspaper publications - Y2U was recently featured in two articles including one in The Utah Statesman and one in the Herald Journal. We also wrote a Letter to the Editor about our new, more collaborative approach. Check out all the links above to see the articles and letter. Additionally, on Friday, Nov 10th, I received the Cache Democrat’s ‘Be The Change’ award for our work with Y2U.

As many of you know, Y2U has been working diligently over the last year to change our approach and work more closely with the Forest Service, BLM, landowners, environmental groups, and others to achieve collaborative solutions that benefit both people and the corridor. Below are some of our most recent successes with this approach.

Road Closures - In September, 2017, on a field trip with a District Ranger, he mentioned that there were many roads that were closed to motorized travel in the Forest Travel Plan but that the Forest Service does not have the funding to physically close the roads. Having recently retired from the landscape industry and having sold some of the equipment to Kiesha's Preserve (KM Ranch), the wildlife preserve that we manage in Southeastern Idaho, I asked the District Ranger if he would be willing to let Y2U assist the Forest Service with closing roads with our equipment and operators. He accepted the offer. During two field trips in October, 2017, we successfully closed off 6.2 miles of unauthorized motor vehicle trails in the Bear River Range. It seems better to get out and help these agencies rather than demand that they take action when the reality is that they don't have the funding or staff to accomplish many of their own goals. Now we're thinking outside of the box!

Bloomington Corral Project - This year, Y2U submitted comments on a scoping letter for a plan to build a cattle corral in Paris Canyon. The corral was 3/4 of mile out from where cattle needed to be driven and Y2U was concerned that the project would spread invasive weeds and livestock waste on public roadways, private property, and public lands closed to grazing. After several meetings we recently reached a collaborative solution with the Forest Service which conceded the coral in exchange for protecting 175 acres of Paris Creek headwaters, three monitoring exclosures, and collaborative monitoring on Forest Service land surrounding Kiesha’s Preserve. We are finding that these kinds of solutions are often far more productive than costly litigation.  The road closures above would not have been possible either if we were in engaged in litigation with this District of the National Forest.  When we are involved in litigation we lose the ability to have positive influence or actively work on collaborative solutions within the District that we are suing. 

Wildlife Friendly Fencing Project - Private land makes up a significant portion of the corridor and many people rely on these lands for their livelihoods. In 2018, Y2U will work with Wild Utah Project and other professionals to conduct a GIS analysis helping determine wildlife bottlenecks and impedance points in the corridor, particularly on private land. This will help inform Y2U's on-the-ground outreach campaign with private landowners to retrofit existing  fences with wildlife friendly fencing. We established relationships with several potential program participants this year and will be incentivizing program participation by helping landowners write grants to provide free or reduced cost wildlife friendly fencing.

Trespass Cattle Monitoring - Since 2013, Y2U has been monitoring trespass cattle in closed allotments and wilderness in the Uinta Mountains. We also monitor cattle in open allotments surrounding the closed allotments to determine whether the Annual Operating Instructions for permittees are being followed. In early 2017 we met with both Forest Supervisors (Ashley and Uinta-Wasatch-Cache) to discuss what actions the Forest Service intends to take to prevent additional cattle trespass. In summer 2017 we continued monitoring the Burro Peaks, Thompson Peak, and West Beaver Allotments that were closed to grazing in the 2003 Forest Plan Decision for trespassing cattle. We reported  trespass cattle to the Forest Service and continued politely and persistently encouraging the agency to maintain the standards set forth in Annual Operating Instruction (AOIs). This year, Y2U was mentioned as an organization helping monitor allotments in the Hickerson Park and Commissary Park AOI’s produced by District Ranger Rowdy Muir from the Ashley National Forest Vernal District! We are continuing to work with Rowdy as well as District Ranger Rick Schuler from the Evanston-Mountain View District. In 2018, we will expand this program to include citizen scientist volunteers who will help monitor closed allotments. We will then engage in joint monitoring with Forest Service rangeland specialists on the open allotments.

OHV Dust and Noise Monitoring - Prior to 2017, Y2U collected over 100 days of sound data on snowmobiles, ATVs, dirt bikes and other vehicles.  Over two thousand records of observations were entered into the database to date.   In summer of 2016, there was a large  increase in traffic with sound levels recorded at over 100 dB, so we decided to delay our sound report to allow for additional data collection in 2017.  In summer 2017, we worked with Dr. Randy Martin from Utah State University, as well as an undergraduate intern, to collect both air quality and sound level data. Currently we are adding additional sound data records to the database and preparing a final report. We are also analyzing opportunities to expand our data collection in 2018 and generate a map of Bear River Range Corridor to show areas impacted by sound from OHVs. Eventually, we will distribute the updated sound report to the Forest Service staff on the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest and the local County Commission to propose changes to their speed limits, road maintenance and law enforcement. If you are interested in helping with this project, see our donation page where you can help us continue leasing equipment for monitoring air quality (particulates), video with stereo sound, speed radar, and sound (decibel levels).  

E. Coli Monitoring - In summer 2017, Casey and two summer field technicians visited grazing allotments in the Logan Ranger District to collect stream water quality data. The project also expanded this year to include monitoring of North Rich, Saddle Creek and South Cache Cattle Allotments in addition to White Lakes, Millville and Providence Grazing Allotments. Our staff monitored water quality for comparison to drinking water and recreation criteria as these are Municipal watersheds. In October 2017, we prepared an E. Coli report which was submitted to the Forest Service. We will continue this monitoring in 2018 and are organizing site visits with the Logan Ranger District to allotments with riparian E. coli levels that are above drinking water and recreation criteria.

Successful Activism Trainings - We are continuing our work to empower citizens to become advocates, not only for environmental causes but for whatever issues interest you! Join us on Saturday, January 13thfor the first annual Successful Activism Training for 2018. The training will be from 9 am to 2 pm at Squatters and includes brunch at 11 am. There will be a two-hour workshop on effective communication for advocates, a lobbying skills training and presentations on environmental and social justice issues in Utah, many of which you can lobby for or against in the upcoming 2018 Utah State Legislative Session. Tickets are just $5 for students (high school and college students show student ID at door) and $10 for everyone else, to help cover our costs. We hope to see you there!

Remember, your donations make our work possible. Check out our new donation page or purchase Y2U merchandise from our store to help us raise $5,000 by the end of the year.

Thanks for your support!

Jason Christensen - Director