Wilderness Watch is urging the Forest Service to abandon its plan to re-construct the large Hawks Rest bridge over the Yellowstone River in the Teton Wilderness in Wyoming. The Forest Service is proposing to use helicopters and other motorized equipment. The Teton Wilderness lies within the greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and this part of the Wilderness has the unique distinction of being the most remote area in the lower 48 states, in terms of distance from a road.
In our scoping comments, we offered several alternatives to rebuilding this structure. We suggested two fords downriver as well as alternative routes to reach Bridger Lake. If the bridge is to be rebuilt, we urged the agency to use traditional, non-motorized tools and means to accomplish the work, and to look at more appropriate locations for a bridge.
We are asking the Forest Service to complete a full National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis rather than the Categorical Exclusion (CE) it has proposed. We believe a CE is unlawful for a project authorizing multiple prohibited uses in a designated Wilderness, including the construction of a permanent structure that will remain on the landscape for decades, and the use of the helicopters and motorized equipment to complete the project.
In September 2017 the Forest Service announced it would be dropping its plans for now to use a helicopter to drop a 172-foot steel bridge at the site. It remains to be seen what the final bridge looks like and whether or not it is helicoptered in. Wilderness Watch will continue to work to protect this part of the Teton Wilderness.
• Read our comments.