Jackson Hole is a wild place with abundant wildlife, located in the heart of the last remaining large, nearly intact ecosystem in the continental United States. We consistently rank wildlife as our top community value. Yet all too often our actions don’t align with our core community value of protecting wildlife.
Some homeowners don’t know or choose to ignore recognized best practices to reduce conflicts with wildlife, resulting in tragic consequences for bears, moose, elk, deer, cougars, wolves, and people. Our land use rules allow too much development in rural Teton County, resulting in fragmented and degraded wildlife habitat.
On average, 114 mule deer, 35 elk, and 15 moose are struck and killed by motorists every year on Teton County roads. Too many of us choose to recreate in ways that disrespect wildlife. And all too often politicians interfere with the public agencies responsible for managing our wildlife and don’t provide them with the tools and autonomy necessary to do their job.
Jackson Hole should be a model
community of living in balance
with nature with healthy, abundant,
and sustainable wildlife populations.
To make it happen we’ll need to take personal responsibility for our private property, improve protections for wildlife in our land use rules, get serious about making it safe for wildlife to cross the road, consider the impacts of our recreation activities on wildlife, and work together to give our public wildlife management agencies the support and independence they need to do the right thing.
In order for Jackson Hole to become a model community of living in balance with nature, our community should:
- Inform homeowners about and adopt policies that encourage small, easy changes to private property that reduce the chances of conflicts with wildlife.
- Direct growth out of rural areas into walkable neighborhoods and strengthen protections for wildlife in our land development regulations.
- Build a network of wildlife crossings or similar wildlife-vehicle collision mitigation measures.
- Choose to recreate in a manner that respects wildlife.
- Provide our public wildlife management agencies with the support and independence necessary to make their decisions based on facts, data, and science.
- Provide everyone with the freedom to safely and conveniently get where they need to go on foot, bike, or transit.
Wildlife Case Study
In 1986, Wyoming State Senator Boyd Eddins championed passage of the Nugget Canyon Wildlife Migration Project Act. The Act compelled State agencies to work together toward decreasing the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVCs). Twenty-three years later, Senator Eddins helped cut the ribbon on seven wildlife crossings and deer fences, standing alongside his son, John Eddins, a district engineer for the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT).
John Eddins recently moved on from 27 years at WYDOT working to reduce injuries and fatal collisions with people and wildlife on the highways of Wyoming. Core to his legacy is maintaining one of the longest wildlife corridors in the lower 48 states; a span aptly known at the “path of the pronghorn” which stretches from the Gros Ventre drainage to Rock Springs.
While at WYDOT, John led several wildlife crossing initiatives that won the Federal Highway Administration’s Exemplary Ecosystem Initiatives award, an honor given to State Department of Transportation agencies for making outstanding commitments to environmental stewardship.
- Moran Junction to Dubois Wildlife Crossing Study (2005), this study covered a 38-mile section of U.S. 26/287 between Moran Junction and Dubois. The study helped identify wildlife movements along the Moran Junction-to-Dubois section of the highway, and enabled the development of highway design, construction, and maintenance criteria for wildlife-crossing structures and habitat linkages.
- Nugget Canyon Fence and Wildlife Underpass (2010), located along U.S. Highway 30, the Nugget Canyon project demonstrated a cost-effective solution to building a wildlife crossing that delivered immediate results through a dramatic decrease in wildlife-vehicle collisions.
- Trappers Point Wildlife Under and Overpasses (2011), located on U.S. Highway 191, the Trappers Point project has become world renowned in protecting a long-distance pronghorn antelope migration route.
Wildlife crossings are bridges or tunnels designed to help wildlife safely cross the road. Combined with high fences along roads to funnel animals to the crossings, wildlife crossings can reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions by nearly 90% and have proven to be the most effective measure to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions across America and around the world.
In addition to his work reducing WVCs, John diligently worked to: maintain over 6400 miles of highways; navigate fickle federal highway funding cycles that fluctuate with the political winds; establish long-term conservation easements with private land owners to ensure long-term wildlife migration corridors remain open; and build public and political will to pay for it all.
John received his Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Wyoming. In December 2014, John retired from WYDOT in order to pursue new ventures in the private sector.
What You Can Do
- Visit wildneighborhoods.org to learn how you can reduce the chances of conflicts with wildlife in your community.
- Sign up to volunteer with Neighbors with Nature, the Alliance’s community planning campaign here.
- Sign up to volunteer with Safe Wildlife Crossings, the Alliance’s campaign to make it safe for wildlife to cross the road here.
- Don’t Poach the Powder or the Pathway; click here to learn how you can avoid recreating in areas that harm wildlife.
- Go to naturemappingjh.org to record the wildlife you observe and contribute to the community-wide dataset of wildlife that helps inform land management decisions.