Wildlife Protection Society winds down
Ryan Summerlin January 28, 2014
Wildlife Protection Society ("WPS"), a Park City nonprofit "dedicated to the protection and preservation of wildlife for future generations by identifying migratory corridors and conserving vital habitat" in Summit and Wasatch Counties, is winding down its operations and will soon be shutting down.
Founders Judy Perry, Tom Fehr and Jackie Fehr recently discussed WPS’s origins, accomplishments and struggles with The Park Record.
When Perry moved to Park City in , she realized she had a lot in common with her new neighbors, Tim and Jackie Fehr. They started discussing all the roadkill they had been seeing.
"We got to know each other and started talking about the fact that there weren’t even any wildlife warning signs in town or immediately around town," Perry said. "None, zero. So one thing led to another and we determined there was a need to try to deal with the municipalities involved, to get wildlife warning signs put up in areas where there were animals were crossing the roads a lot, where there were migration routes, primarily."
Tim Fehr took the lead in mapping deer and elk migration routes in the area.
"There’s two kinds of migration," Tim said. "There’s seasonal migration and then there’s almost daily migration. We get impacted by both."
"The first aspects we looked at were more the seasonal migration, areas that had both a heavy migration during the particular season, where you’d see hundreds of animals coming through, but some of those also had daily migration going back and forth," Tim said. "A good example of that is I-80 near the Mountain Dell Golf Course. That stretch there between the Mountain Dell exit and up to Lamb’s Canyon and up to Parley’s Summit — in that whole stretch there’s a major migration that goes through there.
"Roadkill in the area was really high, but a lot of it was daily migration from the slopes down to the golf course to get to the areas around the golf course — what you and I would call rough the animals would call dinner."
Other high-roadkill areas WPS focused on were along State Roads 224 and 248. Tim Fehr described those corridors at the time as "painful to us."
So, WPS did something about it.
"We finally were able to convince the city that if we purchased road signs and put flashing lights on them that could be turned on when the animals were actually migrating or crossing, they would actually install them," Tim said. "So we did that for S.R. 224 and then we did the same thing for S.R. 248 that used to be a heavy kill zone as well."
Putting up signs might not sound like a big deal, but it’s a time-consuming project and the costs are significant. Tim estimated that the final cost of each sign is around $2,000. Why so much? "Getting a highway-approved sign, the highway-approved post, concrete," Tim said. "And then you had to have a bonded contractor that was approved by the state and that just took the cost to double what it was before."
"We couldn’t get any money from UDOT, we couldn’t get any money from anybody to buy these signs," Perry said. "So we started having a fundraiser once a year. At Thomas Mangelson’s gallery, a silent auction to raise money, and we would speak at the Rotary Club and other organizations. And we raised money to purchase and pay for installation for all the wildlife warning signs in and around Park City but we also had to work with UDOT to get the permission to install the signs, even though they weren’t paying for them.
"I think that was one of our biggest accomplishments."
"And we did the same thing with the county, some places over near Rockport Dam, and Wanship, that area. In Coalville."
Park City assisted WPS with installation of the signs because it was already a bonded contractor, which would help lower costs.
"That was the first City-WPS cooperation thing," Tim said. "That’s continued up until just very recently."
"The task force consisted of someone from the Planning Department from Park City, someone from the Planning Department for Summit County, someone from the Planning Department of Wasatch County, someone from DWR, and a UDOT representative. Then we added someone from Mountain Trails Foundation."
Tim Fehr, in particular, started getting involved with the relevant government agencies.
"I became a real pain in the butt to UDOT," he boasts. "And to DWR, attending all of their general of public meetings, asking them to do something about wildlife and the kill rate, providing data to them."
Tim, Jackie and Judy also focused on education.
"We frequented schools — the high school, Treasure Mountain, the middle schools, the elementary schools," Tim said. "Presentations about animal awareness. You know, what to do if you encounter an animal." They even advised bus drivers about high-risk areas and animal interactions.
In Round Valley, WPS took on another task. "We’ve probably taken out 30 miles of fencing up there," Tim said. "It was old sheep fencing that was in there and it disturbed the normal migration for the animals through the area."
One topic that is bittersweet for WPS is incorporation of wildlife protection measures into local building and zoning regulations. In 2007, WPS was successful in its drive to incorporate "wildlife habitat protection" language into Park City’s Sensitive Land Overlay Regulations.
That incorporated language requires developers and builders to time construction so as to "minimize disturbance" of certain wildlife and to not disturb "sensitive or specially valued species to the maximum extent possible." The language also attempts to provide and preserve wildlife corridors and to minimize any other "conflicts" with wildlife whenever it is "reasonably feasible" to do so.
WPS was unable, after an effort spanning years, to incorporate analogous language into regulations at the county level. Perry and the Fehrs are hopeful that it will happen at some point, but have accepted that WPS won’t be involved if and when it happens.
"I can’t tell you how many hundreds of hours we put into that, how many meetings we attended, and how many professional people we brought to the table," Perry said.
Perry and the Fehrs are hopeful that others will soon pick up where they are leaving off. "Nobody has taken over school presentations," Tim notes, and there are many high-traffic roads in the area that they say need more attention, including "S.R. 248 from U.S. 40 all the way across to Kamas" and in Brown’s Canyon.
Still, WPS is pleased with its overall results. "We’ve brought a lot of awareness to the community about wildlife," Perry said.