New ‘game ranch’ development causing concerns among some in Madison County
REXBURG – The development of a new Yellowstone Safari Park in Rexburg has caused unease among some neighbors and locals.
A flyer made its way around Facebook this month, detailing a “game ranch” scheduled to be built at 2246 West 4000 North in the Salem, Plano, and Hibbard area of Madison County.
The flyer was posted by Daniele McInnes. She lives in the area and is concerned about the development.
Jared Sommer, the registered agent on file for Yellowstone Safari Park, spoke with EastIdahoNews.com to clear up confusion about the game ranch.
One of the main worries among neighbors is the development “will be like a Yellowstone Bear World, selling tickets to tourists to make a profit,” the flyer says.
Sommer says the game ranch will be nothing like Bear World, which includes gift shops and amusement park rides, but that his business will include an entrance fee for visitors to only see animals.
“Our intent, because I love agriculture, is to keep it agricultural and keep it within that game ranch category,” he explains. “Where we have animals that visitors can come see they can pay an entrance fee. We won’t have some big shop where people come in and buy stuff or a ferris wheel. There’s no intent with that.”
Other concerns included Sommer declining to meet with neighbors for a question and answer session about the project. He says he didn’t feel like it was necessary to talk about the park yet, and that it was better if people came to visit the ranch after it was completed to see what it was like.
“Since I was following everything to do with what was legal and my rights, it was a bit like someone coming with a microscope on something that you have authorization to do,” Sommer says. “I just felt like it was best for them to come see it after we complete it and they’ll get a flavor for what we’ve done. We’re trying to do it very tastefully and very safely.”
The flyer notes worries about animals escaping from the game ranch and mentions a wolf that escaped from Yellowstone Bear World in 2016. It was later killed.
According to information from the flyer, the game ranch will initially include elk, deer and bison, but may also include gray wolves and foxes.
Sommer confirmed to East Idaho News that the ranch will include wolves, and responded to this concern by reassuring the community that the animals are “not taken from the wild.”
“Obviously, I don’t want the animals to ever get out. These are not predatory animals that have been taken from the wild,” says Sommer. “These are not the type that have been caught in the wild and then are put into an enclosure. These are the types of animals that have been classified as wolves, but have been raised in domestication.”
The flyer lays out concern for the fact that there is no official definition of “game ranch,” which is what the Yellowstone Safari Park is being legally classified as.
“Madison County Planning and Zoning say there is no definition of ‘game ranch’ which makes him legal since there is no definition. WHAT?! If a land use is not specific, it is not permitted unless determined to be similar. A landowner cannot determine his own definition,” the flyer says.
The flyer argues that if there is no definition, there are no limits to how big the park could grow regarding further development, which could potentially increase traffic to the area.
Sommer argues that using the development to build more housing instead would increase traffic much more than his 200+ acres of game ranch.
“I explained to [the concerned neighbors] that I was going to do a game ranch with varied wildlife, and they understood that it was within my rights. I actually wrote a letter into the county just to document that in July of last year,” he says.
According to Sommer, the Yellowstone Safari Park could open as early as August or September of this year, but could take until next year to fully open its gates.
The issue will be discussed at the Madison County Commissioners Meeting on Wednesday, June 29 at 11 a.m. Sommer is planning to attend to make sure misinformation isn’t being spread and to clear up concerns.
“My forefathers homesteaded out there, and it was a rural and farming community from that time until really in the last number of years where development has really settled in,” said Sommer. “Where we live is important to us, and we wanted to try to do what we can to maintain the agricultural nature of it.”