Originally from southern Utah, I grew up with 300 days of sunshine a year and quick access to popular National Parks. My junior year at the University of Utah I interned at an NGO in Washington, D.C. for a semester and quickly realized that my identity and way of life are very much influenced by the west and the opportunities we have here to access public land. After the internship finished, I landed a job in Jackson working for a rafting company in town and lived out of my 2-door Honda Civic for the summer.
That summer I met the same fate as many other seasonal workers, and decided to live in Jackson year around. After several seasons of skiing, rafting, hiking, and biking in our wilderness areas, I reached out to the Alliance to inquire about volunteering. I hoped to contribute to conservation in the area that has given me so much. Since then, I have participated in the Conservation Leadership Institute (CLI), worked as a Canvasser for the Safe Wildlife Crossings campaign, and attended the SHAPE lobbying training in Cheyenne.
Participating in CLI taught me the basics of advocacy, organizing, and the current challenges facing our community’s people, wildlife, and wilderness. For our group project, a few of us showed up to the town Ski Swap at 6:00 a.m. to raise awareness about the Cache Creek Tube project on the SPET ballot. Armed with brochures and free coffee, we were able to have great conversations with young voters about the importance of clean water in our community and remind them where and how they could vote on November 5th.
Continuing to raise awareness about the fall 2019 SPET ballot measures, I joined the collaborative Safe Wildlife Crossings campaign as a canvasser one month before SPET vote day. To be honest, knocking on doors and picking up the phone to talk to folks I had never met was intimidating at first. However, I soon realized that much of our community shared my concern surrounding wildlife-vehicle collisions in our area. This feeling was quantified after the SPET results came in and the Safe Wildlife Crossings measure passed, as well as the Cache Creek Tube project. It was truly rewarding to see our community vote in favor of projects that I had advocated for. It will be even more rewarding to see them come to fruition.
In February this year, the Alliance sponsored myself and 8 other Teton County residents to attend the SHAPE Wyoming conference in Cheyenne. It was so inspiring to see people from a variety of demographics across the state show up to learn how to advocate for issues they care about. The SHAPE speakers educated us on the journey a bill takes to become a law, how to tell compelling stories that legislators will remember, and how citizens can meaningfully participate in state government.
As I reflect on all I have learned through CLI, Wildlife Crossings Canvassing, and SHAPE Wyoming, I am so grateful to the staff and supporters of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance. Through each of these experiences, the Alliance has made me aware of the way local and state decisions affect the well being of wilderness and wildlife in Teton County and beyond, and given me the tools to become an advocate for the places I care about most.