I could not be more proud, gratified, and excited to have the honor of serving as the Executive Director for the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance. After two months in this new role and three years at the Alliance, I’m both humbled by the scope and scale of our challenges and fired up by the amazing people in our organization. Today, I’d like to share some of my background and vision for our work at the Alliance.
I’ve been working in conservation for the past decade, first in the Pacific Northwest and recently in Jackson. Before that, I worked as a backpacking guide for the Boy Scouts in New Mexico, and in social services with refugees and homeless folks in big cities. I can’t tell you how happy I am to have landed in this community and in this work.
We’re at a turning point in the conservation movement. We face new threats and opportunities and need to both develop new strategies and stay strong on old strategies that work. We can’t rest on our laurels – though they are impressive laurels, with 39 years of victories like stopping oil & gas drilling up Cache and Little Granite Creeks, a dam that would have flooded Oxbow Bend, and a huge proposed commercial upzone downtown.
We need the wisdom, relationships, knowledge, and resources of our long-time members and the elders of our community. And we need to engage new constituents, so our movement will last the next 39 years.
As you know, our mission is to protect the wildlife, wild places, and community character of Jackson Hole. The question is how to do that most effectively. We have limited time and resources – how should we spend it? This strategy question is my favorite challenge, because it’s something we can control. We can, and must, spend the time to figure out the most effective approach and then follow that path.
Consider our wildlife. If you ask 50 experts around Jackson which wildlife species face the biggest threats, and what those threats are, you’ll get 50 different answers – all good and important – but hard to use to drive strategic action. So we commissioned two distinguished local biologists to compile and analyze the best available cutting edge research and science and report to the whole community in the State of Wildlife Report. This report will be out soon, and we’re excited to share it with the community, including at a public launch in early 2018. Already, our policy staff is using the report to identify how we at the Alliance can make the biggest difference on issues like wildlife-vehicle collisions, rural development paving over important wildlife habitat, and how to address and shape population and commercial growth.
We have a vision that Jackson Hole can be a national model of a strong community living in balance with nature. I’m passionate about both sides of this equation.
Living in balance with nature is not an easy task – no industrialized nation or resort town has done a great job at this yet. Our native species and treasured lands face threats ranging from climate change to wider highways and from habitat fragmentation to privatization of public lands – and we need to move real policy change through our political process to have any hope of living in balance with nature.
And I am passionate about Jackson Hole staying a true community, not just a resort. That means our middle class can still live here, so we still have a civic fabric of our community. We want our locals to be able to volunteer as Little League coaches, or EMTs, to be able to show up at Town Council meetings in the evening instead of driving home over the Pass, to be able to vote for our elected representatives, and to be able to take care of and steward our wildlife and wild lands.
Finding this balance of community and nature is an incredible challenge, and my hope is that Jackson Hole can be a national leader in showing that it’s possible to create this better future if we work together.
The Alliance is the only organization comprehensively working to create this better future for our community. We are grateful to our many partners who work on specific wildlife issues or species, and to other partners concerned with growth and maintaining a strong community character. And our local government does an impressive job at comprehensive planning, but they’re accountable to all of our interest groups, including groups whose interest is in extracting as much value as possible from our ecosystem. At the Alliance, we’re only accountable to our members and our mission. We need your support, membership, and voice as we move forward.
Thanks for everything you do,