By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
National Park Service investigators are looking for information regarding a motocross event that caused significant resource damage to the Mormon Row area of Grand Teton National Park last week.
According to a news release, the Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received a call around 8:45 p.m. on July 18 about a group of people riding dirt bikes in an open field and operating a drone along Mormon Row.
According to the reporting party and a video captured via cell phone, approximately 50 people were in the area attending the organized dirt bike event.
The group prepared its own riding course, but began to break down the course and load the motorcycles just as the reporting party called the park. The group’s actions were recorded by the person who reported the incident.
Park rangers immediately responded to the scene, but the group had already left the area, leaving behind approximately 1,000 feet of track with a width of 2 to 10 feet.
The event was not authorized and caused significant damage to an area officials have been trying to restore as a sagebrush steppe habitat.
The hay fields along Mormon Row are part of a 10-year project that began in 2014 to remove non-native grasses and replant the area with 37 species of native plants to restore the site to a sagebrush steppe habitat. The project is a collaborative effort between the National Park Service, Grand Teton National Park Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Teton Conservation District.
The various agencies had invested several years of effort into the project, removing invasive plants and seeding the native species. The area damaged by the motorcycle riders had been reseeded just last year.
The area is an important habitat for elk, bison, pronghorn, moose, sage grouse and a variety of other wildlife, which all depend on the sagebrush steppe.
Operating a motor vehicle off roadways is a crime and those convicted can face a fine of up to $5,000 and/or up to six months imprisonment. Additionally, the System Unit Resource Protection Act provides that any person or instrumentality that destroys, causes the loss of or injures, of any National Park Service resource is liable for response costs and damages.
Anyone with information that could help identify any of the individuals involved or was in the area around 8 p.m. on July 18 and can provide any information regarding this activity is asked to call or text the National Park Service Investigative Services Branch Tip Line at 888-653-0009 or email the agency. Information can be provided anonymously.