The following piece was first published in Planet Jackson Hole as a guest opinion by Alliance Executive Director Craig Benjamin.
Let’s come together as a community and fight for our values.
JACKSON HOLE, WY – Emotions ran raw last Tuesday on election night. Depending on your preferred candidate, you were shocked, despondent, and baffled, or elated, euphoric, and validated.
Either way, if you are like most Americans, you are probably still wondering, what the heck happens now that we elected Donald J. Trump as our next president? Whether you like it or not, whether you have accepted it or not, this is happening, so let’s figure out what it means for us here in Jackson Hole.
Before I begin, I have to admit that I struggled writing this piece. Right now, millions of Americans are scared of what will happen to them and their families because of their religion, sex, national origin, or sexual orientation. This is not acceptable and flies in the face of everything for which America stands. Let’s hope that President-elect Trump holds true to his words, serves as a president for all Americans, and these fears prove unjustified.
I’ve also struggled writing this piece because I kept wanting to explain why I think this happened, but that’s a rabbit hole for another time.
So, here we are. Staring face-to-face with the reality of a Trump presidency. What does this mean for us here in Jackson Hole?
Look, I am not going to pretend like I know what this means for the many issues that will impact our lives like immigration, health care, and trade policy. But based on Trump’s campaign rhetoric, I can make an educated guess about what it likely means for those of us who care about our community’s vision of a future. A future, where, according to the Jackson/Teton County Comp Plan, “we preserve and protect the area’s ecosystem in order to ensure a healthy environment, community and economy for current and future generations.”
Quite simply, our next president has a radical anti-conservation agenda that could have fundamentally damaging impacts on our community.
Let’s look at the facts. Trump has mocked and denied climate change, vowed to pull our country out of the Paris climate agreement, stated he wants to open up more of our American public lands to oil and gas drilling and coal mining, said he wants to scrap bedrock environmental protections and all federal spending on clean energy, proposed appointing people to his cabinet who are close friends with the fossil fuel industry, committed to moving forward with controversial oil pipelines, and even hinted that he wants to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency entirely.
Imagine the privatization of our public lands and oil and gas wells popping up in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Consider the impact this would have on wildlife trying to migrate across the landscape and many of our favorite recreation locations. Think about the fate of grizzlies, wolves, wolverines, and other endangered species that call the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem home. And then there’s the brazen disregard for dealing with the threat of climate change.
Let’s be clear, Trump’s anti-conservation agenda is a grave threat to the wildlife, wild places, and community character of Jackson Hole.
While we should all be encouraged by Trump’s words that he wants to be a president for all Americans, and we can hope this means he’ll adjust his agenda accordingly, respecting the value Americans place on conservation and our public lands, we can’t rely on words and hope. We must act.
What can we do against such reckless disregard for our values? We can ride out and meet it.
Now, more than ever, it’s imperative that our community stand up and fight back harder than we ever have before to protect the abundant wildlife and astonishingly beautiful wild places that make Jackson Hole so magical.
First, let’s acknowledge that much of this fight will take place at the national level, so let’s recognize and appreciate the national-level organizations that will take on this challenge. Let’s support their efforts to fight back against attacks on our public lands, environmental protections, and climate agreements.
Then, let’s realize that we can and must do more than fight back defensively at the national level, we must take the initiative to create a better future right here in our backyard.
Fortunately, Trump and his radical anti-conservation agenda can’t stop us from proactively creating a better future for our community. We can make a difference right here in Jackson Hole, no matter who occupies the White House.
We can talk about climate change while proactively responding to it and preparing for its impacts. We can invest in clean energy, affordable housing, and transportation choices.
We can rally our community to fight back against the extreme agenda to privatize our public lands. We can invest in protecting wildlife and improving habitat connectivity. We can complete and implement our wildlife crossings master plan and develop a conservation action plan. We can craft and enforce land use rules and incentives that encourage protected open space and connected wildlife habitat. We can use science, facts, and data to guide our local decisions.
We can rescue food. We can help those in our community who need it most. We can walk next door and introduce ourselves to our neighbors. We can pull fences that are bad for wildlife. We can stand up to bullies.
We can reject the politics of division, and stand united as a community in support of each other and everything that makes this place special.
We can seize this moment to come together as a community to both fight back against bad ideas and do what we can locally to make Jackson Hole a strong community with a brighter future. And the only way all of this will happen is if we all join together as a movement.
So whether you’re despondent or delighted with what happened last week, if you care about protecting the wildlife, wild places, and community character of Jackson Hole, join a local organization working to create a better future that inspires you. Give your time, give your money, and give your passion. Let’s come together as a community and fight for our values.