fire impacting trails; cost at $2.8 million

Update 9/19: The cost of fire suppression has risen to $7.1 million.

A crew battles the Little Horsethief Fire earlier this week south of Jackson.

As the Little Horsethief Fire burns for a seventh day behind Snow King Mountain, the total number of personnel combating the blaze has swelled to nearly 600, and the cost has exceeded $2.8 million. The fire has burned 3,300 acres.

Bewilderingly, residents continue to set illegal burns. During last night’s community meeting, Sheriff Jim Whalen announced that an illegal burn had just been reported up Game Creek. A deputy was dispatched to cite the offender, the sheriff said.

Fire managers expect a little more activity from the blaze today, with breezes from the south and southwest. But efforts are focused on the southern flank above Game Creek; on the northern flank near Cache Creek, crews are mopping up and securing the control line.

Besides the obvious concern for homes in the vicinity of the blaze, residents have asked how the fire is affecting trails. The greater Snow King area, including Cache and Game creeks, is one of the most heavily used recreation areas in Wyoming, especially for hiking and mountain biking. Hunters and equestrians use the area as well. With 43 engines and two bulldozers assisting firefighting crews, there has been a significant impact on these trails.

Friends of Pathways issued the following update:

Linda Merigliano, the BTNF Trails Program Manger, said that the fire has impacted trails in Wilson Canyon, from lower Wilson Canyon where the fire started, through the 5-way area of Wilson Canyon up to just below Ferrins saddle, but that Ferrins saddle has not been impacted. Also, West Game Creek trail was substantially burned over.

Addiitionally, suppression work done in protecting Snow King and the Town has included the construction of bulldozer lines that have impacted trails in the Cache Creek drainage/Hagen area. The Skyline Ridge area has seen heavy fire and fire suppression activity, as well. Leeks Canyon was improved to allow for access of heavy fire fighting equipment into Wilson Canyon and has also had ‘dozer lines added to the area.

… Preliminary rehabilitation plans are already in the works and the BTNF hopes to get a good jump on trail rehab work before the snow flies. However Linda estimates that rehabiliation work will last well into next year. The rehabilitation plan will address the effects of the fire and the suppression effort (‘dozer lines) on the trails, the prevention of erosion and evasive weeds in the affected areas, as well as improved drainage and dead tree harvesting.

As of Wednesday, Merigliano said it was still too early for the Bridger-Teton National Forest to estimate when the emergency closure might be lifted. The agency is trying to establish “trigger points” that could allow for trails to reopen, FoP reported. Merigliano advised hikers and cyclists to check out other areas of the Bridger-Teton in the meantime.

(Photo by Sargent Schutt)


Posted under Environment, Ski Resorts, Sports

25 Comments so far

  1. JWL September 14, 2012 11:42 am

    Once this fire is out, let’s help rebuild a better habitat and trail system.

  2. Chad September 14, 2012 1:43 pm

    Good time to reconsider the Skyline Trail, scuttled by hyper-environmentalists last year.

  3. Sr September 14, 2012 3:40 pm

    How about putting a trailhead right next to the origin of the fire in Anderson’s backyard… Horsethief to Skyline Ridge would be a great interpretive trail and a missing link…

  4. dave September 14, 2012 4:50 pm

    there is already a trail there Sr, but it starts by LVE, and connects with several trails on the back side of snow king.

  5. yeehaw September 15, 2012 7:10 am

    The skyline trail is going to be the best outcome from the fire.

  6. BR September 15, 2012 8:07 am

    The misuse of the names of the canyons on the west side of the Greater Snow King Area has annoyed me since the beginning of the fire. According to USGS quadrangle maps, Wilson Canyon is where the fire started and where it ran up to the 5 meadows area. Little Horsethief Canyon is to the south of Wilson Canyon. The subdivision where the fire started is Little Horsethief Canyon Subdivision. Smith Canyon is where the animal shelter is located. Not sure why the County (and others)call this Adams Canyon. Anyone know?

  7. Jim Stanford September 15, 2012 10:34 am

    The fire originally was called the Little Horsethief Fire, after the subdivision where it started. That’s the name I’ll continue to use. Horsethief Canyon is indeed farther south, by the dump.
    Also, the cost has risen to $3.8 million. The massive air and ground effort is costing about $1 million per day, apparently. A total of 651 personnel are working on it, along with nine helicopters, 43 engines and three bulldozers.

  8. Colleen September 15, 2012 11:27 am

    I would just like to add that the firefighters, at the Thursday meeting, said they are aware of our area’s sensitivity and are using as light a hand as they can, while still doing their job.

  9. david September 16, 2012 8:06 pm

    Chad: It’s not hyper environmentalism, it’s just environmentalism, to raise concerns that wildlife habitat is being braided by multiple, parallel trails.

    I don’t believe every geographic feature in and above Cache Creek needs a groomed mountain bike trail, something to which a lot of people apparently agree.

    But I’m happy to hear the reasons there should be a trail there.

  10. Brad September 17, 2012 12:07 am

    BR – I am not 100% sure about this, but there is no actual “Adams Canyon” geologically speaking. The fire and EMS facility in that location south of town is named after Adam Denton, tragically killed in an accident in 2007.

  11. dave September 17, 2012 10:53 am

    i remember adam denton very well. but i think adams canyon was being called by that name for many years before his accident.

  12. Brad September 17, 2012 12:26 pm

    Dave, I believe you’re right and I stand corrected. As I said I wasn’t 100% sure.

  13. Courtney September 17, 2012 12:50 pm

    I believe Adam’s Canyon the other mini canyon where the trail Y’s. We actually call it Adam Smith’s canyon as a joke when we do it as a loop.

  14. brice September 17, 2012 8:32 pm

    It’s been called Adams canyon for decades.

  15. Chad September 17, 2012 10:21 pm

    David – appreciate the opportunity. I consider myself an environmentalist, however the objections to the skyline trial are a bridge too far, and here are my advocacy bullets:
    -Wildlife (esp. ungulates) are already acclimated to human presence in Cache
    -Cyclists are less easily identified by wildlife as a threat (vs. hikers) and in turn cause less stress
    -A primitive trail already exists. Dont know if its game or manmade, but regardless; a new one would better account for habitat and erosion
    -Use would be light. The ridge isnt that easy to get to.
    -Use would likely decompress on the rest of the trail system as a handful make their way up top.
    -Sparsely wooded ridgetops dont seem to be prime wildlife real estate. Layman observation.
    -Wildlife overall seems relatively sparse in Cache. Again, an observation.

    I believe the Cache area going back to Game should be better utilized as a recreational/educational parcel adjacent to town, subject to regular zone and seasonal closures. By exposing and educating visitors to the wealth of resources inherent in our forests, we develop advocates the world over. Additionally, the zone would create a soft buffer in front of the wilderness – a type of DMZ – to help keep the large predators away from the back yards of east Jackson. From a business standpoint, the town needs a better SK/Cache to stay competitive.

    Again, sensitive to the objections, but choose your battles and dont disregard the user community – we’re typically advocates for conservation and sustainable use. In other words, avoid making an ally apathetic to the cause.

    Sorry for the massive tome. Carry on with canyon nomenclature.

  16. CC September 18, 2012 9:20 am

    david, chad -Are there reasons a trail should be anywhere? Or why are the trails we have, are there in the first place? Could you imagine if the first “trail” that went into the national parks was a walking or biking trail, not a driving trail? Before the building of the bike path into the park I suggested creating the trail independent of the road to allow for a bigger buffer between the cars and our fragile bodies and I was lambasted for trying to think the “park as playground.” And yet you can put powerboats into Yellowstone Lake, a lake that was stocked with non-native trout a long time ago before people were aware of the concept of stewardship or simply environmental impact, in a park that is more like a safari than a sanctuary. Or the fact that our roads and highways are what cut off the migration routes for the herd animals and have created the delicate state of imbalance that we have today, that pellets can’t fix. Or the confused stances with the wolf “issue.” Or the fact that you can ride horses into the “wilderness areas”, which may or may not heighten the spread of invasive weeds amongst other pollution they bring. I bike, I ski and I ride horses occasionally, and I hunt and I consider myself an environmentalist and a steward. So if I sound full of contradiction, it is because I am, and we are as people full of contradictions, especially when we develop laws or introduce new ideas. I think people can come up with strong arguments for both sides of putting in the trails or not putting in the trails. My stance is not, we have screwed the environment already so put the trail in, but I do feel utilizing and locating the trails in the front country is a good idea. And I think, with this particular potential trail location, the migrating animals might be better served with human presence between the already existing paths rather than being constantly flanked by users just on the current paths. I know, it sounds like a weak argument but I’d rather see the animals pushed deeper into the backcountry where they thrive, than constant intermingling with people and town where it is usually the wildlife that loses out.

  17. Jim Stanford September 18, 2012 5:12 pm

    Most of our trails originated as game trails, and we have improved them. @Chad: There is more wildlife up Cache Creek than people realize, although a winter closure for biking might lessen the impact.
    The Bridger-Teton just revised the closure for Snow King-area trails. Now open are the Snow King trail to the top of Cougar lift, Sink or Swim from Snow King Resort to Josie’s Ridge, Josie’s Ridge below 7,200 feet, KC Trail and other spur trails between Snow King Resort and Josie’s (known as Shade Monkey, Wildlife Lane, Flat Creek access points). Continued closure of other trails is “necessary to facilitate continuing fire operations including helicopter flights and fire camps,” according to press release. BTNF anticipates opening more trails by the weekend.

  18. Xander LeJingo September 19, 2012 6:24 pm

    Fantastic ideas. I’d like to buy one of those bright sleeve-mounted environmentalist-bicyclist patches if they’re still available. After one man torches the whole region and squeezes the animals further into a shrinking ecosystem (or squirts them out into suburbia), let’s build a whole boatload of new trails, starting with Skyline. Yee-haw Wild-r-ness! Once a trail is gouged out along the ridgeline, it will only a matter of time before the round-heeled staff at BTNF falls heels over head in love with some hastily drafted concept plan for a few years of fervent trail-building “Pathways for the Peeps”. It will be great, but those trails better be double-wide for all the baby-carriages and motivated 50fpm climbrate mamas and I want Fir-mounted garbage cans for all the bags since the Green-Bag Pickup Fairies flew north to British Columbia. WHerever there is an obvious, or at least possible, place for a downhill line, we’ll put in a trail, some of those boardwalks in muddy spots, plenty of jumps for those of you swinging 8″ of travel, and a bunch of Mayor-endorsed, taxpayer-funded signage to help the navigationally-compromised set find their way. Some of you are putting your recreational needs ahead of the environment, and likely represent the Jackson City majority…oh well, fun while it lasted. Soon we can be like Boulder, but I’m betting we’ll be bigger, richer, better-looking, with larger calves, quads, and higher VO2 max to boot. I’m waiting for the intravalley-monorail myself so I can lug my neon SUP (watch the abs as I work the core at 1-3mph) to the planned web cafe, waterslide, and Mongolian bbq at Goodwin Lake. So fight for your trails, squeeze all of the dodgy data you can to support your fun workouts and wildernetworking business opps….the oil and mining industry does the same thing to justify a distinct brand of leave no trace….but at least one could argue that their efforts are productive, if harmful. The existing trails here in the valley are more than enough. If you want to burnish your enviro-creds, vote to expand the Wilderness.

  19. Brad September 20, 2012 8:20 am


  20. Vinnie September 20, 2012 8:59 am

    Jim, hire Xander as your speech writer/advisor post haste. He is the Bob Morris of our age. Pure genius.

  21. Brad September 20, 2012 3:33 pm

    Adams Canyon is not noted on any USGS or USFS map, standard or travel plan, I sourced. So, where did the name come from?

  22. Mike V September 21, 2012 7:14 am

    Yeah Xander! That is one of the BEST posts EVER on JHU!!!

  23. Andy Davis September 21, 2012 10:57 am

    Xander gets my vote! Hilarious and sadly true.

  24. ransas September 23, 2012 7:29 am

    Yeah lets all gang up on trails and recreation. Nothing makes me feel better then keeping people out of the woods. Lets shut down all trails everywhere so people can stay at home and improve their xbox scores. Better yet for fun they can go for a drive and see how many animals they can run over with their car, still very legal thank god. Let’s all sit around and mock those who care about their bodies and access to the wild-r-ness cuz those who love being surrounded by nature are the ones who secretly wish to destroy it. Once we get all the peeps out of the woods then their will be nobody to stop the oil and gass company from cleaning up all the hideous resources mother nature strews around.

  25. Chad September 26, 2012 10:26 am

    Xbox champions make for excellent wild lands advocates. Thanks for the support ransas.

    Xander, your brand of hyperbole, though entertaining and not completely off base, is rooted in impossible cynicism. It’s a trail dude. Extrapolating an inevitable Mongolian BBQ at Goodwin lake and comparing trail users to the oil industry is, as stated originally, example of hyper environmentalism.

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