What started out as an idea by local county commissioners to reopen a popular farm to market road fifteen years ago continues to be a success not just for humans, but also for wintering wildlife. Even the winter has been mild so far; the lack of human disturbance created by the closure allows herds of deer, elk, and moose to spend more time down on the desert between St. Anthony and Dubois during crucial portions of the late winter and early spring. Even though the closure has been around for years, officials from the Idaho Department of Fish & Game (IDFG), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Fremont County unfortunately still make dozens of contacts related to closure violations, especially local college students.
For the fifteenth year, the Egin-Hamer Area Closure places nearly 500 square miles of land off-limits to human entry for the protection of wintering deer, elk, and moose herds. The closure begins on January first and lasts through the end of March on lands south of the Egin-Hamer Road and until April 30, north of it. To help keep things straight, the signs marking the area north of the Egin-Hamer road are fluorescent orange, while the signs for the earlier opening southern portion are lime green colored.
The arrangement for the closure was agreed upon when county commissioners approached the BLM with the idea of the area closure in return for the re-opening of the Egin-Hamer Road for winter travel. State agencies such as IDFG and the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) also have land involved in the closure and play an active role in management. Individual landowners accessing their own private lands are exempt from the closure. The active St. Anthony Sand Dunes, from the Red Road to Thunder Mountain and adjacent to Egin Lakes access, is also exempt from the closure. County officials earlier this year explored the possibilities of modifying the closure area, but did not pursue plans once they learned of the cost and process involved.
Occasionally powered parachutes, helicopters and small planes have been sighted flying low over the closure area. While the air space over the closure is not restricted, pilots of all types are cautioned to not harass the wintering, deer, elk, & moose. If the machines are flying low enough to cause the wildlife to move away, then they are flying too low. Student from BYU-I are also being reminded that the Civil Defense lava caves are also included within the closure area boundaries. According to IDFG observations, the increased number of animals staying down on the desert later into the spring is a sign of the success of the project.
Maps and information are available at the BLM website: http://tinyurl.com/bwj9o7w
For more information, including free maps of the closure, contact either the IDFG Office in Idaho Falls at 208-525-7290 or the BLM Office at 208-523-1012.
Logo courtesy Idaho Fish and Game