Monday, August 31, 2009

Be wary of the moose

Teton County, Wyoming officials are fighting one of the oldest battles in transportation. They don't want the state to widen a stretch of Highway 89/191 because they fear it will result in more vehicle collisions with wildlife.

Elk range in the area during the winter. The highway is not far from the Grand Teton National Park and is south of Yellowstone National Park, some of the most beautiful country I have ever seen.

I recall seeing a majestic moose in the Uinta Mountains, south of the Tetons, and it amazed me how big this creature was. His shoulders were easily higher than the top of my car and he must have sensed I was no threat because he glanced at me and then sauntered slowly into the brush.

I took my children snowmobiling in nearby Idaho and we took a drive to Grand Teton National Park where the children experimented with snowboarding and tubing.

We visited the National Elk Refuge near Jackson Hole where 5,000 elk winter. You can take a wagon ride through the elk herd and see these majestic animals up close and personal. My son even got to handle the reins for a while, an unusal experience for a Florida boy.

So whether it's black bears in Florida or elk in Wyoming, the ever expanding human population will continue to encroach on the natural environment and the habitat of animals who have been here for centuries.

There is no easy answer. Highway improvements save lives and boost the economy. Federal requirements mandate that impacts to natural resources be mitigated. However, the end result is often a compromise falling somewhere between what we should do and what we are required to do.

When all is said and done I hope we can preserve the majesty of those creatures and the habitat they occupy.

David Fierro is a transportation public relations consultant. He is a former newspaper and magazine editor and worked for the Florida and Virginia departments of transportation. He resides in Sanford, Florida.

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