All responses are reprinted here as submitted by candidates, without any editing.
What is your vision for the future of Jackson Hole in regards to our wildlife, wild places, and community character?
Sara Flitner: I want Jackson to continue to be the place that drew us here in the first place. That means we are home to the most iconic wildlife and scenery in the country, AND we are home to the working families and volunteers that keep us a real community.
Mark Nowlin: To maintain and enhance the progress already accomplished . To seriously consider new solutions to situations that arise and implement policies and plans which keep us on the path we have established .
What do you view as the three biggest threats to Jackson Hole’s wildlife and how do you think we should address these threats?
Sara Flitner: Human-wildlife conflict is the single biggest threat, and it comes in all shapes and sizes: patterns of development, speeding traffic, poaching winter range, etc. We have to continue to focus on protecting corridors and safe passage, and on continuous education about how our daily choices can make a big difference for wildlife.
Mark Nowlin: Threats : incomplete science, short term solutions based on that science and leadership unwilling to make decisions which may take a very long time frame for fruition .
The Jackson/Teton County Comprehensive Plan states that preserving and protecting the area’s ecosystem is the core of our community character. How will you work to ensure that updates to our land development regulations align with this vision?
Sara Flitner: I will work to ensure that the public gets a report card on where we are succeeding and where we need more focus. As a resident, I appreciate the improved transportation services. I want to see us do better on housing local working families, and I know the community expects action on this item.
Mark Nowlin: My priorites are always families and children , elderly, animals. And not necessarily in that order. The lens of choices must consider the economic viability of the valley. A complete spectrum of humanity and a viable economic platform is the only way we all survive .
The Comprehensive Plan calls for directing future growth into a series of connected, complete neighborhoods, in order to preserve critical habitat, scenery, and open space in our rural areas. What do you view as the key strategies for achieving this goal?
Sara Flitner: We have to look at some added density in the right places, like town and Teton Village. Any new county development need to be clustered or planned so wildlife can move through and be safe in the winter. We have used zoning, conservation easements, and purchase of development rights as strategies in the past, and all will continue to be important.
Mark Nowlin: I think, the town must be ready to accept its role as the heart of the valley in people ,housing, business, government and education. The outer neighborhoods should be smaller communities which those neighbors define . To accomplish this people must be willing to voice their opinions and hopes for their neighborhoods.
An average of 114 deer, 35 elk, and 15 moose are struck and killed by motorists on Teton County roads every year. How would you approach making it safer for wildlife to cross our roads?
Sara Flitner: Do more of what’s working: mobile speed signs to warn when wildlife is in the area. Slower speeds. Think of safe passageways at the beginning, not the end, of new development.
Mark Nowlin: In addition to the roving billboard signs. I would hope the interested parties would explore even temporary/seasonal lights. Lights which are motion activated and solar powered along known road areas. In line with low level walkway lights.
Grizzlies in John Dodge. Wolves in Melody Ranch. A cougar on the pathway near Gregory Lane. Wildlife continually moves through our neighborhoods and sometimes things can go wrong: the incident with a cougar up Cache Creek a few years back created problems for citizens, agencies, and (ultimately) the cat. What do you think our community should do to reduce conflicts with wildlife moving through our neighborhoods?
Sara Flitner: As a Wyoming native, I learned early that it was up to me to make good decisions around both livestock and wildlife. As a mom, I’ve dealt with a mountain lions, bears and moose on my kids’ route to school or in our yard. I can say common sense works. The Game and Fish and others do a great job informing us when we need to change our routines. What a great problem to have. “I was late to school because there was a moose in my yard!”
Mark Nowlin: Each year new people arrive. Even long term residents become complacent in the seasonal changes of animals . An on going educational reminder , even through the post office, maybe enough to make all aware. Anomaly events should be widely advertised by cell phone alerts , radio PSA and other mass communication opportunities. Always tagged with the idea that we care for the animals , they are an important part of our joy and obligation for living in this wonderful place.
Our community has established the goal (through the Comprehensive Plan) of housing at least 65% of our workforce locally. When people cannot live in the place where they work, they are often forced to commute long distances, consuming significant amounts of fossil fuel, increasing traffic and roadkill, reducing family time, and undermining community character and resiliency. What do you see as the primary tools we should employ to help hard working families afford to live here?
Sara Flitner: Density is one piece, but we cannot build our way out of this problem. We can do a better job of engaging businesses with housing advocates and policy makers so that we get funding and regulatory solutions that make the most sense for all. SPET has been effective in getting some great neighborhoods on the ground – I would like to see a SPET cycle put funds in the bank now, so that we can act immediately when an opportunity arises.
Mark Nowlin: The current efforts can work if they are very focused . Passage of the LDRS will help the private and public development communities to more easily gain approval and to understand their opportunities . All creative options, especially very cutting edge, must be considered. We are building for the future.
Our community has also established the goal of both residents and visitors being able to safely, efficiently, and economically move within our community, and throughout the region on foot, bike, and transit. What specific steps should we take over the next two years to begin our journey toward this goal?
Sara Flitner: We need to finish the START facility plan, fund it and build it. I would also look at a longterm plan to buy smaller, quieter buses for town service. I am a fan of sidewalks in neighborhoods, but we learned a lot from Redmond Street, including that a “one size fits all” approach is not right for Jackson.
Mark Nowlin: This journey has ready begun. Bike pathways,complete streets, the START bus are established , importantly in the governmental budgetary process. Over the next two years , incidental fine tunings and upgrades will further enhance these modes of travel.
The 2012 Horsethief Canyon fire. The 2001 Green Knoll fire. The historic Snow King fire. Frightening reminders that we live in wildfire country. And now, science suggests that the probability of wildfire in NW Wyoming may increase sevenfold due to climate change. Here in Teton County nearly 4,500 homes are located in the “wildland-urban interface” directly in the path of future wildfires. This threat has significant implications for planning where development occurs, providing emergency services to existing homes, and choosing how to pay for protection of homes and structures. How do you plan on addressing this issue?
Sara Flitner: In talking to our fire chief, I was happy to be reminded that Teton County has not lost a life or a structure in any of these fires. Our volunteers are beyond compare, but we need to do a lot more to help them. As a community, we are working harder to educate people on what kinds of landscaping or materials are especially dangerous. Certain types of security systems pose a threat, too. Both the Conservation Alliance and the Fire Department are making an effort to do home assessments and help residents take action to reduce risk. That’s a great step, and it will be even greater when we are educated enough to make the good choices in the first place.
Mark Nowlin: These concerns are coming to the fore on a national level. The implications are very serious . How does the government provide services to homes which are irresponsibly maintained in heavy timber, and yet help those who are responsible in their maintenance. Yes the government approved the construction when there were a few structures. Now there are too many to realistically provide the level of services expected.. How do the private insurance companies establish rates when the public services realistically reduce their services . I hope the national effort in this discussion will provide a prototype for local agencies. What has been approved is very difficult to amend with regards to development regulations .