Gros Ventre Project



Pronghorn swimming the Gros Ventre River 2011

Gros Ventre Project - A Cooperative Project with the U.S. Forest Service & Nature Mapping

In January 2009, the Bridger-Teton National Forest issued a new travel and use plan that affected road use throughout the forest including in the Gros Ventre drainage. Forest Service staff did not have the resources needed to adequately cover the monitoring needs therefore creating an ideal situation where volunteer citizen scientists could assist to collect critical information that will inform decisions and engage people in a timely and meaningful wildlife project. The spring of 2011 represented the second year of this data collection effort. The project is expected to continue through 2012 or 2015 (3-5 years total).

Project Background

  • The Gros Ventre drainage is critically important for many wildlife species and was a primary focus during the motor vehicle planning process. The new motor vehicle designations made some significant changes in this drainage to reduce impacts on wildlife, reduce maintenance costs and improve the ability to enforce travel regulations.
  • One change was a new seasonal restriction prohibited public motor vehicle use until June 1st in the upper portion of the drainage beyond the Slate/Crystal Creek junction. This change was primarily intended to protect the native soil road surface in the upper portion of the drainage thereby reducing road maintenance costs and to benefit wildlife during the transition from winter to summer range.
  • Existing data shows that the drainage is important for elk calving, pronghorn antelope migration, bighorn sheep, as well as sage grouse leks.
  • The USFS and Nature Mapping wanted to establish a baseline and gain more knowledge about how animals were distributed in the drainage during the critical spring transition from wintering to summering grounds.
  • Gathering this information consistently each year provides critical information on the efficacy of the seasonal restriction.

Badger photo by John Hebberger

2011 Highlights

  • 25 Volunteers Participated in 14 Field Days
  • Approximately 344 Field Hours Contributed to Project. The Equivalent of 43 Technician Days.
  • 708 Observations Made
  • Vegetation Monitoring Techniques were Added in 2011 to Measure for a “Green Up” Effect
  • Many amazing sightings were enjoyed by volunteers including the first pronghorn of the year, grizzly and black bears, badgers, thousands of elk, wolves and beautiful sunrise views of the Tetons and Red Hills.
  • A report on the first two years of this project should be available here by the end of 2011 so please stay tuned. The analysis takes a bit of time!