After hearing public comment from CLI participants, the Teton County WY commissioners voted 3-2 to partner with their Idaho counterparts and fund 50% of a socio-economic impact assessment.
Three of this year’s Conservation Leadership Institute (CLI) participants, Matt Bambach, Tristan Adler, and Amy King, decided to focus their time in CLI on the proposed Grand Targhee expansion, with the specific angle to get the Teton County, Wyoming commission to engage on a deeper level with the Forest Service’s Environmental Impact Statement.
County commissioners in Idaho are concerned that the proposed expansion to double the size and capacity of Grand Targhee Resort, as well as other downslope development and growth, won’t be adequately addressed in the EIS process. They’ve asked our county commissioners to join them in funding a socioeconomic study to evaluate how the potential ski area buildout would add to the transportation, housing, workforce, key services, infrastructure, and quality-of-life issues that already plague Teton Valley.
At first, it seemed like our commission wouldn’t join the Idaho commission, but last week a majority of Teton County WY commissioners voted to provide 50% of the funding for this study! Thanks to commissioners Natalia Macker, Mark Newcomb, and Luther Propst for voting to get involved.
This is a great first step, and may not have happened without the CLI group’s involvement. All three gave public comment at the meeting:
Matt Bambach stated, “I don’t know a single person on either side of the pass that thinks things will stay the same, nor a member of the working class that feels all rosy inside about how they are changing.”
We owe it to ourselves and future generations to complete a proper review of the Targhee expansion plans and the impacts they will have on life in the Tetons.
Therefore, I urge the county commission to take an active role towards better understanding and positively shaping the growth in our community and approve the funding for this socioeconomic study.”
Tristan Adler summed it up with, “I’ve seen the negative impacts of increased visitation in the Tetons firsthand over the last several years, but especially during the pandemic, including worsening traffic, added pressure on sensitive wildlife habitat, and housing shortages for local workers, just to name a few. I’ve seen close friends forced to uproot their lives and leave the area because they can’t afford to live here anymore, and I’ve seen local businesses reduce their hours or simply close their doors because they can’t find workers.
The expansion of Grand Targhee Resort has the potential to exacerbate the current situation – drawing more outside visitors and putting more pressure on the already limited housing supply.
I would urge the commissioners to fund 50% of the socio-economic impact study to show that Wyoming is working as an equal partner with Idaho on a project that will have considerable impacts on both sides of the state line.”
Since Grand Targhee is located in Wyoming, it is subject to Teton County, WY taxes and planning and zoning requirements. However, most of the downslope impacts from a Targhee expansion would be felt in Teton Valley Idaho, while they would not receive tax revenue to balance development with more infrastructure and community resources. Teton Valley, Idaho planning staff and commissioners have made it clear that a Grand Targhee expansion is not the sole cause of growth pressures being felt in the area, but that it would seriously exacerbate the problem.
Both counties are cooperating agencies with the Forest Service in the EIS process, so the information gleaned from this study will help both commissions better advocate for their constituents.
Big thanks to the CLI group taking on the Grand Targhee expansion to ensure the best outcome for both Teton Counties. And thanks to Commissioners Macker, Probst, and Newcomb for voting to approve $24,700 in funding and to partner with the Teton Idaho commission to better understand the effects that doubling Grand Targhee would have on both sides of the Tetons. We look forward to seeing the results of this study and to making sure the public has access to sufficient information on impacts.
We expect the draft Environmental Impact Statement in early 2022. If you are interested in joining our campaign, learning how to write a comment on the draft EIS, or would like to stay informed about the Grand Targhee expansion, sign up for updates below.