Open Letter to the Teton County Board of County Commissioners regarding the proposed boundary expansion of Grand Targhee

Dear Teton County Board of County Commissioners,

I am writing to urge the Teton County Board of County Commissioners (TCBCC) to provide written comment on the proposed expansion of Grand Targhee Resort to the United States Forest Service; to ask that the Board of County Commissioners be designated as a cooperating agency under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA); and to meet with the Teton County, ID, Board of County Commissioners from to coordinate a regional response.

Public lands comprise 97% of our county. They are the foundation of our ecological integrity, which in turn is the engine of our economy. The Board of County Commissioners has an obligation to protect those lands over the profit of private industry at all cost.

As this is something the Board has declined to do with Snow King Mountain, I am concerned that failure to do so with Grand Targhee as well would represent a lack of commitment to preserve and protect our public lands that could have severe implications for all public lands currently permitted for private business in Teton County.

The proposed expansion of Grand Targhee Resort would add approximately 1,200 acres to the resort’s permit area. These 1,200 acres fall within sensitive wildlife terrain. Wildlife analysis and mitigation must be prioritized in any review of the proposal, which would perpetuate a pattern of habitat fragmentation that has direct implications for the longterm health of native species and their ability to roam. 

These same 1,200 acres are also currently open to human-powered outdoor recreation. Should they be added to the proposed boundary expansion, the permit owners would have the right to prohibit public access to those public lands. 

The citizens of Teton County have a keen understanding of the value of both the wildlife of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and our public lands. In 2019, the Teton County Board of County Commissioners declined to provide written comment on the proposed expansion of Snow King Mountaion to the Unitied States Forest Service. This decision has empowered Snow King Mountain to develop public land for private gain. 

We must not make the same mistake with Grand Targhee. The expansion is, in essence, a land grab, at a time when state and federal agencies are chronically and intentionally underfunded and being directed to remove barriers to development by private interests.  

The proposed Grand Targhee expansion would similarly profit private owners, who, having secured the necessary rights to expand the boundary of their operations, would be in an improved position for a future sale of the resort. Similar to Snow King Mountain, securing development rights that maximize resale value has long-term implications for the residents of Teton County, as it could drive up our property taxes, increase demands on our infrastructure, distort our community character, and potentially displace our community members.

For these reasons, I urge you to provide written comment on the proposed expansion of Grand Targhee Resort to the United States Forest Service, request that the TCBCC be accepted as a cooperating agency under the National Environmental Policy Act and meet with the Board of County Commissioners from Teton County, ID, to coordinate a regional response.

Sincerely, 

Christian Beckwith

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@ 2020 Christian Beckwith for Teton County Commissioner.