Skip Navigation

Winter range closures remain in effect

04_03_14_AreaClosures_Article

Two areas of the National Elk Refuge will remain closed to the public through April 30. The closures provide wintering animals protection at a time when their energy reserves are low and abundant new vegetation growth, or green–up, is not yet widely available for foraging.


April 3, 2014 (NER 14-11)

Refuge Manager Steve Kallin has issued a reminder that two areas of the National Elk Refuge will remain closed to the public through April 30. The closures provide wintering animals protection at a time when their energy reserves are low and abundant new vegetation growth, or green–up, is not yet widely available for foraging.
 

From December 1 through April 30 each year, winter closures limit public travel on the Refuge Road. Traffic and pedestrian use is only allowed on the first 3.5 miles of the Refuge Road, from the Refuge entrance on Broadway Avenue to the Twin Creek subdivision. Access to the Refuge beyond the Twin Creek subdivision is restricted as part of an area closure to protect wintering wildlife and is coordinated with the Bridger-Teton National Forest.  

The Refuge Road will reopen for public travel beyond the Twin Creek subdivision on May 1, giving public access to the Curtis Canyon and Flat Creek Roads and adjoining National Forest. Access regulations are available for individuals traveling through the Refuge to the Bridger-Teton National Forest on or near May 1, including a printable PDF version with a map.

The section of the North Highway 89 Pathway from Flat Creek to the Gros Ventre bridge also remains closed through April 30. The 5–mile segment of the pathway is subject to an annual closure as part of a condition of the agreement between Teton County and the National Elk Refuge for pathway use on U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service property. Unlike neighboring federal lands with multiple recreational opportunities, the National Elk Refuge is mandated to prioritize habitat conservation and wildlife management, adhering to a “wildlife first” mission when considering or allowing public uses. The seasonal closure of the pathway maximizes benefits to important wildlife habitat and migration corridors and allows the Refuge to be in compliance with its mission and purpose. 

The National Elk Refuge announced last fall it would develop criteria allowing flexibility to open the North Highway 89 Pathway prior to May 1 on years when spring arrives unusually early. The Refuge will be testing criteria this spring, which includes looking at the number of animals remaining on the Refuge and the potential for conflicts with migration. GPS collar data shows that peak spring elk movements occur during the second and third weeks of April. “If our surveys show that numbers of elk on the Refuge have dropped to the May 1 long–term average, we would consider opening the pathway as early as April 15,” Kallin explained. “It’s really dependent on elk dispersal and location.” 

The pathway seasonal closure dates, based primarily on elk movement data, will be placed in the Draft Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan, which will become available for public comment later this year. 

For further information on road or pathway seasonal closures, please call the National Elk Refuge administrative offices at 307.733.9212. 

 

Last Updated: Apr 22, 2014
Return to main navigation