The following is a transcript from Alliance Executive Director Craig Benjamin’s “State of the Alliance” speech at the Alliance Summer Picnic on June 20, 2016.
Since 1979 the Alliance has effectively worked as a watchdog to keep Jackson Hole wild and beautiful. Some of you were there when it all began. For 37 years we’ve collaborated with our partners to stop a continual parade of bad ideas too long to list.
We’re proud of our accomplishments and committed to ferociously protecting the wildlife, wild places, and community character of this amazing place.
Last year we started building on this legacy of protecting what makes this valley special by uniting our community around a shared vision of a better future and empowering the whole community to work together toward this vision.
At our Annual Meeting last January we launched AGENDA 22 – an ambitious vision of a better future for Jackson Hole and a blueprint for making our community a national model of living in balance with nature.
A better future with walkable neighborhoods surrounded by protected open space, working agricultural lands, and connected wildlife habitat. A better future with healthy, abundant, and sustainable wildlife populations. A better future where at least two-thirds of hard working families can afford to live here, we have the freedom to safely get where we need to go on foot, bike, and transit, and wildlife can safely cross the road. A better future where we respect wildlife when we recreate, and we’ve broken our addiction to fossil fuels. A better future towards which we’ve made tremendous strides since we launched AGENDA 22 less than 18 months ago.
Through our wildlife and public lands work, we protected our American public lands through supporting both the Jackson Town Council and Teton County Board of Commissioners in passing resolutions recognizing the value of our public lands and opposing their transfer to state control.
Supported Grand Teton National Park in developing a Moose-Wilson Corridor Comprehensive Management Plan that focuses on protecting wildlife and habitat, while making it easier and safer for people to visit the area on foot, bicycle, and corridor-appropriate public transit.
Partnered with the Greater Yellowstone Coalition to reach a resolution with the Forest Service that takes an important step toward reducing our reliance on supplemental elk feeding.
Fought to safeguard a sustainable future for grizzly bears in our region.
And succeeded with a coalition of 9 groups in a legal challenge to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s refusal to acknowledge facts and data and protect wolverines under the endangered species act.
Through our wildlife crossings campaign we worked with key local partners to secure funding for the development of a Teton County wildlife crossings master plan. And collaborated with our partners to monitor wildlife by deploying 10 cameras at various potential wildlife crossing sites on South Highway 89.
Through our community planning work we collaborated with an informal group of diverse stakeholders to develop and agree on recommendations to encourage the permanent protection of open space through updates to our rural land use rules, many of which were incorporated into the final regulations.
Successfully advocated for a unanimous vote from the Jackson Town Council and the Teton County Board of Commissioners to limit new additional commercial development potential, helping to ensure that updates to our land use rules will help address our community’s housing challenge.
Rallied hundreds of people to speak up for updates to our downtown land use rules – which the Jackson Town Council are poised to adopt in the coming weeks – that will help house our community’s middle class and keep downtown vibrant and the heart of our community.
Encouraged the adoption of an integrated transportation plan that will help people have the freedom to safely and conveniently get where they need to go on foot, bike, and transit while not expanding the highways that divide our community.
Participated in the development of the Housing Action Plan.
Released the Jackson/Teton County Land Development Study to support implementation of our Comprehensive Plan.
Partnered with the Teton Village Association to create an inter-jurisdictional working group of a dozen agencies and organizations to develop collaborative solutions to summer traffic congestion.
And supported our local elected representatives in developing a plan to align our public investments with our values and address the big challenges facing our community.
We launched a brand new Wild Neighborhoods website to provide our community with information and resources regarding proactive measures they can take to reduce conflicts with wildlife in their neighborhood and prepare for wildfire.
We relaunched Don’t Poach the Powder, a collaborative campaign to inform backcountry recreationists about areas closed seasonally to protect wildlife.
We launched our civic engagement program and empowered 84 volunteers to knock on 1,100 doors and speak with 400 of their neighbors about our wildlife, transportation, and housing challenges through the Jackson Poll.
We graduated 46 new conservation superheroes with the skills and knowledge to create a better future from rounds 4, 5, and 6 of our Conservation Leadership Institute.
And we launched a leadership council of over 50 people to help keep our values and actions aligned with the community we serve.
None of this would have happened without your support.
And none of this would have happened without hundreds of people like you speaking up for a better future through testifying at public hearings, writing letters to the editor, and meeting in person with your elected representatives.
That’s why we are so passionate about empowering people to work together toward a better future – because when the people lead, the leaders will follow.
Here’s the thing, while we’re proud of everything we’ve accomplished together since we launched AGENDA 22 last year, we’re just getting started.
Moving forward we will sharpen our focus on strategically effecting tangible change to advance the AGENDA 22 vision.
A few of our upcoming initiatives we’re most excited about include:
Launching the ‘State of Wildlife’ project, a study that will examine the status of and threats to wildlife in Jackson Hole.
Developing a “Conservation 2020” campaign to ensure our public investments align with our values of protecting wildlife and improving habitat connectivity.
Ensuring Teton County adopts the strongest natural resource regulations in America.
Continuing our advocacy for land use rules that help address our housing challenge while protecting open space.
Engaging new constituencies and continuing to develop the conservation leaders of the future through our Conservation Leadership Institute.
Making sure we get a wildlife crossings master plan that effectively protects wildlife and our families by making it safe for wildlife to cross the road, and ensuring crossings get built as part of the S Hwy 89 reconstruction project.
Watchdogging major land development applications so they result in projects aligned with our community’s vision of a better future.
Turning out hundreds of new voters in upcoming elections from traditionally underrepresented communities through our new voter project.
And continuing our work to positively influence too many other community planning and conservation issues to list while empowering hundreds of people like you to get involved in helping us make all of this happen.
With the ultimate goal of all this work: Jackson Hole becoming a national model of a community living in balance with nature.
Thank you all for being here this evening. Thank you for supporting our work to protect the wildlife, wild places, and community character of Jackson Hole. And thank you for joining us in the journey toward a better future.