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A portion of the Caribou Targhee National Forest lies within the southeast boundaries of Lemhi County. In an effort to keep lines of cooperative communication open, yearly meetings have been established between local officials and Caribou-Targhee personnel.

This yearís meeting was included in the April 28 meeting of the Lemhi County Commissioners as Ron Schlader, Dubois District Ranger for the Caribou-Targhee Forest, met with the commissioners to update them on events of the past year.

He said that there was not much fire activity last year however, based on the lack of snow in the Birch Creek area and the early dryness of ground cover fire is more likely this year. Schlader said decisions on whether or not to implement suppression measures depend on prevailing conditions, the time of year and the fireís location. He said the highest risk is on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) areas populated with Sage Grouse and sage brush. There can be no pre-season burning to reduce fuels on those lands because of Sage Grouse habitat. Burning in the higher elevation beetle killed forests present terrain related accessibility issues. Vegetation management measures are being used for some beetle kill areas.

Fuel burning is an issue in other areas of the Caribou-Targhee. Schlader said residents of Island Park donít want any burning done close to town and non-resident out-of-state property owners donít want any trees cut. As a result there are barriers to fuel reduction burns. He said public meetings have been held and there is a burn plan in place that may be carried out this year around the back side of Ashton.

Schlader said no forest roads were closed due to the Travel Plan. He said the BLM will be starting development of a Travel Plan which will be addressing redundant roads and in the interest of continuity the Forest Service will be involved in plans regarding existing loop roads.

Schlader and the commissioners agreed passage of the Farm Bill has opened the door to some possible recreation projects. The question now is whether the recently introduced Crapo/Wyden legislation will succeed in having the forest fire fighting expenses put under the general fund. If that happens it would eliminate the present seasonal removal of monies from the Forest Service budget which would free the agency from never knowing how much to allocate for recreational and forest management planning.

Schlader said the issue of Big Horn Sheep versus domestic sheep is building. He said there is a small sheep grazing allotment in the county and a small Big Horn Sheep population just south of the Caribou-Targhee Forest boundary in the Peterson Canyon-Skull Canyon area. Schlader said protection of the small number of Big Horn Sheep has gone to court and the court ruled in favor of protection so the issue is still unresolved. Commissioner Rick Snyder commented that itís the sheep raiser that is endangered.

At certain times of the year there may be some co-mingling of the sheep. The protection issue is fear that disease could be transferred from the domestic sheep to the wild sheep. As a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Commissioner Bob Cope said so far no one has proven to him that strains of Pasteurella from domestic sheep are any more likely to migrate down through the tracheal tract and colonize pulmonary tissue, than the strains that are already in sinus cavities of Big Horns. He said, ďI still think you need a predisposing factor and either way you wind up with Pasteurella colonizing pulmonary tissue and youíre going to get pneumonia in sheep whether that strain is native to domestic or native to the Big Horn.Ē Even if there is a possibility of transfer Cope maintains there still has to be a predisposing factor which he thinks could easily be pestiviruses which, by the way, are also carried by deer and elk.

Schlader said the Fish and Game is collecting a good amount of data on that areaís Big Horns and the Forest Service is looking at alternative sites for the existing sheep grazing permits.

Some road maintenance is going to be possible this year and the priorities will be the road to the Charcoal Kilns and a couple of roads leading to trailheads. Schlader also mentioned there are a couple of cabins available for purchase in the Spring Mountain Canyon. He said they havenít sold because of difficulties related to getting them out of the canyon. They are located on an unpatented mining claim and even though they are in pretty rough shape he said heíd hate to see them burned. Anyone wanting more information on the cabins may call the Caribou-Targhee National Forest office at 208-524-7500 for more information.

The next meeting of the Lemhi County Commissioners will be May 12 in the Commissionerís Meeting Room of the Brooklyn Annex.

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