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Forest merger proposal shelved

A proposed merger of the Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee National Forests has been shelved.

The proposal would have created a 6.5 million-acre forest covering large parts of western Wyoming and eastern Idaho.It would have been the largest national forest in the lower 48 states.

Bridger-Teton Forest Supervisor Jaqueline A. Buchanan and Caribou-Targhee Supervisor Brent Larson recommended that consolidation is not in the best interest of the public. Acting Regional Forester Marlene Finley concurred with the recommendation.

Retired Regional Forest Harv Forsgren asked the two forest supervisors to evaluate a proposed merger in October 2012.Forsgren said he wanted to evaluate the opportunity to gain efficiencies and save money in the operation of the two forests.He said the options would need to generate at least $1 million in savings each year to be viable.

Buchanan and Larson determined there would not be sufficient savings to be viable.They also found that services to the public and forest resources would be negatively impacted.

The Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, which has been fighting the proposal since October, was pleased with the announcement.”This ill-conceived idea would have threatened the community and forest resources,” Alliance Wildlands Director Cory Hatch said. “The death of the Caribou-Targhee/Bridger-Teton merger is a huge victory for those who care about wild places.”

The alliance canceled a community meeting scheduled Tuesday night to muster opposition to the move.

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