A message from our executive director Skye Schell:
I’m sure you know Giving Tuesday normally falls on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. This year, we’re taking part in a bonus Giving Tuesday – today – to rally global support for community organizations in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. I want to take this opportunity to share a recent story from the field and let you know how we and our work are doing.
Two weeks ago, our grassroots organizer Clare and our planner Brooke sat through a 7 ½ hour long Airport Board meeting. 6 ½ hours of the meeting was public comment, almost all of it opposed to intrusive helicopter tours, and a lot of it made possible by Clare’s tireless work to keep people informed about how to engage.
At the end of the day, despite overwhelming opposition, the Airport Board approved the permit, without any of the restrictions that we and many of our friends and partners asked for. After the meeting, we had a team Zoom call to debrief. Brooke told me how it was one of the most disempowering days of her life: it felt like our in-depth policy research, letters to the Federal Aviation Administration, and conversations with community members were all for nothing. We all felt the pain. Losing is never fun, especially on issues that really matter, like protecting our community from the risk of crashes and wildfires, let alone the noise and disruption, of unnecessary heli tours.
By the end of our meeting, we decided we weren’t giving up. Instead, we were fired up. We’re outlining a federal legislative strategy (with gratitude to Rep. Case of Hawaii who is already running the Safe & Quiet Skies Act!), and we’re looking for local business partners to lead a business coalition against heli tours. We’re just getting started.
I could tell similar stories about many other projects. We’re busier than we’ve ever been. When normal life shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, I thought we’d have a couple months of breathing room while developers waited to see what would happen with the economy. Instead, it’s been non-stop. Heli tours. Zip lines on Snow King. Hundreds of homes on ranch land in South Park. An update to our 2012 Comprehensive Plan. All projects that could have long-term and wide-ranging consequences for the character of our community.
And at the same time, we know that many or most of our friends – probably including you – are rightly focused on health, family, and jobs… not tracking development proposals around our valley. And our elected representatives are overwhelmed with even more urgent work, such as keeping our community safe and healthy and making huge budget cuts as government revenues decrease.
That’s why we’re here. As we navigate a vastly different dynamic of social distancing and virtual Town Halls, we are letting our friends and neighbors know how to engage and make a difference. We continue to hold our elected representatives accountable with our just-released Conservation Vote Round-up. And we’re keeping an eye to the future, leading proactive campaigns for wildlife crossings, conservation funding, and visions for a better future for land-use and transportation in our valley.
I’m so proud of our team of staff, board members, and volunteers. Though working from home, our staff team is the most productive we’ve ever been. We’ve been working closely with our board on smart stewardship of our financial resources. And our grassroots activist team is staying engaged on all the big issues. We’re hard at work ensuring that when this crisis ends, we’re the community we want to be – whether that’s by saying no to heli tours or saying yes to safe wildlife crossings across our highways.
These are extraordinary times, and we need the support of our extraordinary community. We’ll keep giving our best effort to protect what we all love about Jackson Hole. We need you to give what you can too: whether that’s time volunteering, funds to support the work, or your voice to our elected representatives.
Today is #GivingTuesdayNow. Please join us as a member if you aren’t one already – and please give what you can to the other critical organizations in our valley, state, nation and world dealing with this extraordinary crisis.
We’ll get through this – together.
For our wildlife, wild places, and community,
Photo credit Denis Morel.