At the Alliance, we believe that our local government works best when voters are fully informed and educated about the views of our candidates and elected representatives. In order to educate voters about candidates, the Alliance requested that candidates answer this “questionnaire” on a range of community issues, including conservation. We have included all candidates’ full and unedited responses here.
Note: None of the information in this guide should be taken as an endorsement, support, or opposition for any candidates – as a 501(c)3 nonprofit, the Alliance does not take any positions on candidates.
The Teton Conservation District is a subdivision of state government whose mission is to “promote conservation and management of natural resources — air, land, water, vegetation, and wildlife — through watershed-based research, education, conservation practices, cooperative projects, and on-the-ground actions to ensure the health, safety and general welfare of the people and resources of this area.” It is governed by a 5-member elected Board of Supervisors. In the November 2016 General Election, there are two open Teton Conservation District seats. Bailey Schreiber is running unopposed for the “Urban” seat. Tom Campbell and Travis Ziehl are competing for the “At-Large” seat.
The Alliance does not endorse candidates, but we do encourage all eligible voters to research and remember to vote for your Conservation District leaders, who play an important role in protecting our wildlife and wild places. Learn more about the Teton Conservation District here: http://www.tetonconservation.org/district-info/.
The mission of the Teton Conservation District is “to promote conservation and management of natural resources—air, land, water, vegetation, and wildlife…” What does this mean to you and what are three specific actions you think the Conservation District should take in the next four years to work toward this vision?
Tom Campbell: The Teton Conservation District (TCD) implements our mission statement in several ways, all of which I, as a Supervisor of TCD, support.
- TCD employs water resource specialists, a land resource specialist, a GIS/wildlife biologist, and an Executive Director (Certified Wildlife Biologist). Our highly qualified staff works directly with the public, local, state, and federal agencies to achieve our Mission.
- TCD provides assistance to taxpayers on a year-round basis. Direct assistance is provided through the Technical Assistance/Cost Share Grant Program, which is offered 2-3 times per year. Through this program, TCD provides technical assistance and cost share funding for projects that involve Agriculture; Mapping Resources & GIS; Restoration & Sustainability; County Planning & Development Regulations; Water Resources; and Wildlife.
- TCD provides cost-share funding and technical assistance outside of the TAC Grant program for qualifying projects that have a budget request up to $2,500.
Four specific actions TCD should undertake in the next 4 years include: 1) continue to study water quality and aquatic health within Fish Creek with a goal of improving both; 2) continue to study how the community handles its sewage with an ultimate goal of developing a Source Water Protection Plan that identifies threats and develop strategies for protecting drinking water in Teton County; 3) continue providing financial and technical assistance to Teton County Weed and Pest and the public for control of noxious weeds; and 4) continue to support wildlife studies expand our knowledge of species that are sensitive, at risk, or in need of conservation.
Bailey Schreiber: As a creature of state government operating at a local scale, the Conservation District plays an interesting role in natural resource management and conservation. The Conservation District does not further its mission alone. Rather, the Conservation District works with other governmental entities, non-profits and the broader community to collectively identify and understand what it means to promote conservation and management of natural resources and how financial resources should be allocated to satisfy these objectives. The Conservation District is essentially a collaborative institution, working within a larger network to determine how best to promote conservation and management. With this in mind…
- The Conservation District should partner with the Town of Jackson, Teton County and other appropriate entities to take steps to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the quality of our valley’s water and what factors affect that quality. This should include a holistic assessment of our sewer and septic system and wastewater treatment facility.
- The Conservation District should take an active role in assisting Teton County Integrated Solid Waste & Recycling in developing a food waste compost program as part of its Zero Waste initiative.
- The Conservation District should continue to play its important role as repository for information and data regarding natural resources and should seek to make this information as widely available and as user-friendly as possible.
Travis Ziehl: We live in an amazing place with an embarrassment of natural wonders and a great history of resource protection for this community and it’s many guests. I see the Conservation District’s mission as one of the lead facilitators of this legacy of stewardship through a multitude of worthwhile support including; an engaged and highly knowledgeable staff, technical assistance, and also grants. With that said, it’s an incredibly important mission and something I really want to be part of, here are a few things I’d like to help work towards:
When the University began to restructure Extension staffing across the state, it left a local knowledge gap in stewardship topics – in many ways TCD staff have stepped up to fill this void but, I believe there is still room to help citizens. From my visits to properties as a former special district employee and now as a private business owner – I’ve seen this need and would like it met with timely knowledge and the most recent sound science.
We should support our agricultural lands and open spaces to use improved technologies to get the most from their agriculture production while preserving ecosystem function – like transitioning from flood irrigation to more efficient and effective practices.
There are numerous groups involved in conservation in Teton County and there is a role for the District facilitating balanced natural resource dialogue, collaboration, and engagement through multiple different platforms including area working groups and nontraditional platforms like social media.
The Town of Jackson/Teton County Comprehensive Plan’s vision is to “Preserve and protect the area’s ecosystem in order to ensure a healthy environment, community and economy for current and future generations.” How do you envision the the Teton Conservation District working with the Town and County to meet shared objectives? Specifically, how do you see the Conservation District’s role in promoting resource protection provisions in updates of the Town and County development regulations?
Tom Campbell: TCD typically does not provide funding or technical support to Teton County or to the Town of Jackson for planning-related projects. TCD views those efforts to be the responsibility of the respective government bodies. Instead, TCD is best equipped to provide technical and financial support for projects that result in on-the-ground conservation and enhancement of public and private lands in Teton County, and this approach is consistent with our mission statement. For example, TCD was requested by Teton County to provide funding for the Focal Habitat Feature Project and the Wildlife Crossing Master Plan Project. After reviewing these funding requests, TCD determined that these planning projects were the responsibility of Teton County and chose not to provide the requested funding. Instead, TCD determined it would be more consistent with our Mission Statement to possibly provide funding for on-the-ground effort that resulted from these two government-planning projects, such as funding for recommended wildlife crossings. I agree with this position.
TCD staff also spends considerable time providing technical reviews of various development applications, especially those that occur within the Natural Resource Overlay District, and/or those that might impact wildlife habitat, wetlands and protected water features. TCD is mandated by Wyoming State Statutes to provide these services. TCD also interacts with the Teton County Planning Department and provides technical input and recommendations on Land Development Regulations pertaining to conservation of protect natural resources and the local environment. I agree with this position.
Bailey Schreiber: The Conservation District has a long history of collaborating and partnering with local governments to identify and achieve shared objectives and it should continue to do so. These shared objectives include measuring and understanding the quality of our valley’s natural resources and determining how to best maintain or improve that quality with population and visitation growth.
The substance and content of the land development regulators should be determined by the appropriate governing body in connection with the broader community. The Conservation District should assist the Town and County in updating land development regulations by providing relevant and current information and data regarding the location and character of natural resources and best practices when it comes to natural resource management.
Travis Ziehl: It’s significant that our Comprehensive Plan emphasizes the protection and preservation of our 2.7 million acre ‘crown jewel’ of the national treasure that is the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem – Teton Conservation District’s role in that plan is multi-layered. On the front side of the plan, they work with the Planning Department staff to contribute scientific and technical knowledge to the LDR’s making sure that as land use changes through development we’re minimizing, mitigating, and where ever possible improving our natural resources along the way. Mindful of this role and to not overstep jurisdictional boundaries, I believe that this contributes substantially to natural resource protection and preservation – from that point it’s up to other authorities to accept, incorporate, and administer the prescribed practices.
Behind the scenes, planners rely on TCD support to provide pertinent natural resource comments on development plans which ensure as land use changes through development, it aligns with the community values outlined in the Comprehensive Plan.
Parallel to these efforts, it can’t be forgotten the other forms of assistance provided by TCD which advance the vision of the plan and therefore benefit the ecosystem; site visits and consultations from experts, cost-sharing and grants on natural resource projects, and a network of talented colleagues across the region to ensure the best practices are up to date and implemented.
What is your vision for the future of our Teton County federal lands, and how do you see the Conservation District partnering with our land managers to conserve natural resources on these lands?
Tom Campbell: My vision for Federal lands in Teton County and elsewhere in Wyoming is “public lands in public hands.” I am not supportive of transferring ownership of public lands to the State of Wyoming or to private entities. I am supportive of Grand Teton National Park acquiring the 2 State of Wyoming parcels on a willing seller-willing buyer basis, and I am I encouraged with the recent progress on that front.
TCD has for many years and should continue partnering with local Federal and State agencies in conserving natural resources in Teton County. TCD has received applications from and has provided funding for Technical Assistance and Cost Share Grants to Grand Teton National Park, Bridger-Teton National Forest, Caribou-Targhee National Forest and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. These projects are evaluated by TCD for compliance with our Mission, and what benefits Teton County taxpayers receives before agreeing to provide funding. I recognize the importance of these partnerships and will work to maintain and expand these relationships.
Bailey Schreiber: A significant portion of the Conservation District’s jurisdiction is made up of federal lands and the Conservation District has an ongoing role in assisting in the management of the natural resources on these federal lands. The Conservation District is well poised to assist federal land managers on a handful of specific topics, including restoration of the Kelly hayfields, studies on water quality in national parks and forests, and tracking the effects of grazing on federal rangelands. The Conservation District should continue these programs and work with federal partners to determine other opportunities for collaboration.
Travis Ziehl: Like many of my friends and neighbors, one of the biggest draws to living in Teton County, Wyoming is all of the public land and open spaces for our enjoyment in ways too numerous to list. I envision the federal lands within TCD’s boundary as always belonging to the public, forever ours to cherish and our responsibility to preserve for future generations.
While the partisan politics of Washington exasperate many of us, one of the things that happened with mandated Federal budget cuts during the sequestration were disproportionately substantial cuts to local program level funding. This has left many of our federal land managers in the difficult and unenviable position of project triage; forgoing a lot of what they want and need to do – with only what they can do.
Teton Conservation District needs to work with land managers and other conservation oriented groups to create a network of support for increased levels of funding for on the ground projects. Also, when TCD funds are used in support of projects on federal land and neighboring areas – we should look for ways to leverage the funds, through grants, innovative partnerships, and local issue working groups.
The Cliff Creek fire. The Berry fire. This summer we’ve had 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. What role, if any, do you see the Conservation District playing in addressing this issue?
Tom Campbell: TCD recognizes the importance of planning for the increasing frequency of wildfire and is actively involved in assisting the portion of public residing within and near the Wildland-Urban Interface. Since about 2000, TCD has been a member of the Teton Area Wildfire Protection Coalition (TAWPC). TCD also implements a National Fire Plan (NFP) grant award through Wyoming State Forestry Division that provides technical assistance, cost share and assessment services for defensible space projects for private landowners in Teton County. TCD also promotes a Community Wildfire Protection Plan, and actively participates in public education efforts regarding how to prepare for and reduce the risks of wildfire in Teton County. I believe that TCD support for these and other projects is critical and I will work to continue support these and other relevant projects by providing technical assistance and cost-share funding.
Bailey Schreiber: The Conservation District currently has a role in addressing wildfire threats, though that role should expand. The Conservation District participates in the Teton Area Wildfire Protection Coalition, helps eligible landowners pay for wildfire mitigation assessments and labor around their homes, and provides outreach and education regarding wildfire preparation. The Conservation District should continue its participation in TAWPC and outreach efforts.
The District, in partnership with other agencies and non-profits, should continue to provide outreach and spread awareness regarding wildfire preparation. The Conservation District’s Technical Assistance Cost Share Grant program could also serve as an avenue through which the Conservation District could assist others in providing outreach and education.
Travis Ziehl: It’s been said many times but never enough; a huge thank you to all of the people that put their lives on the line and work the long hours to protect the people and property that are threatened by wildfires.
There is a role Teton Conservation District is playing in wildfire prevention and I think it can be expanded upon, members of TCD Staff are very active in the Teton Area Wildfire Protection Coalition a working group that includes all levels of government, private citizens and businesses to help protect us from the threat of fires. While it’s fresh in people’s minds we should be offering workshop on actions property owners and managers can take to help protect themselves and their property, thus making wildland firefighters roles easier and safer. While I’m not a Forestry major – I believe the application of selective silviculture techniques should be used to ensure the forests on private property are healthy and thus more fire resistant. Dry fuels like standing dead trees should be mitigated as well and green spaces or fire resistant spaces around homes maintained if possible. TCD with their partners in the aforementioned coalition should be using this particularly active fire season as a teaching moment because if the modeling is correct this might not be seen as a bad year in the future.
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 actions should the Conservation District prioritize to reduce conflicts with wildlife moving through our neighborhoods?
Tom Campbell: Teton County is blessed with diverse and abundant wildlife populations, and the public has identified that conserving these populations is of the utmost importance. TCD recognizes that having wildlife living in proximity to humans can create some challenges for both the animals and for humans. TCD embraces the concept of compatible coexistence of humans and wildlife, and have supported a variety of organizations and their projects that work to accomplish this. Example projects TCD has supported include improving backcountry food storage to reduce conflicts with grizzly bears; reducing non-native fruit-bearing trees in proximity to human developments to reduce conflicts with bears; improving fish passage through highway culverts; roadkill reduction programs; wildlife-friendly fencing; and neighborhood educational programs. TCD has been, and I will work to insure TCD continues to be receptive to projects that further the compatible coexistence concept in Teton County.
Bailey Schreiber: This valley is wealthy in wildlife. That is one reason of the many reasons this is such a special place. Because of this, interaction between humans and wildlife is, to some degree, inevitable. The Conservation District should work to reduce conflicts where possible by promoting preventative measures and providing outreach about wildlife attractants. The Conservation District should also look to and build upon its existing partnerships with wildlife management agencies and non-profits in the region to address these conflicts through research, providing outreach and education, and funding where appropriate.
Travis Ziehl: And according to my friends and neighbors the other best part about living here; with all of our public land and the intact ecosystem it affords us – we have an abundance of some of North America’s favorite wildlife. The key word in wildlife is the wild, we don’t control them but, what we can control is our behaviors.
I believe there is a role for the Teton Conservation District helping people understand that actions they take on their property may have unintended consequences to wildlife. As much as possible we need to find ways to coexist with wildlife and not contribute to situations where there could be conflict. In this way we intervene and modify our behaviors before wildlife experts have to intervene and make tough decisions. Certainly not every one of these conflicts can be prevented but, as people conscious of our surroundings and our impacts – we should strive to find ways to be good neighbors to wildlife.