What started out as an idea by local county commissioners to reopen a popular farm to market road sixteen years ago continues to be a success not just for humans, but also for wintering wildlife.
Even though 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 on the desert between St. Anthony and Dubois during crucial portions of the late winter and early spring. The closure has been around for years, but officials from the Idaho Fish and Game, Bureau of Land Management, and Fremont County Sheriff unfortunately still make dozens of contacts related to closure violations.
For the 16th 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 1 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 Fish and Game and the Idaho Department of Lands 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, are also exempt from the closure.
Students from BYU-Idaho are reminded that the Civil Defense Lava Cave is also included within the closure area boundaries. 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 and moose.
If the machines are flying low enough to cause the wildlife to move away, then they are flying too low. According to Fish and Game 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://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/id/recreation/sites/st__antho...
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 208-524-7500.