Our community has invested significant time and resources into two Comprehensive Plan priorities – housing & transportation – and we have measurable goals, action plans, and staff. We do not have the equivalent for our priority of Ecosystem Stewardship.
While many Town and County programs and services directly or indirectly benefit our ecosystem stewardship goals (e.g., investments in pathways and transit, stormwater infrastructure, smart land-use planning), they are not enough. The myriad threats to our wildlife, water quality, and wild lands will continue to intensify as our community grows.
We need dedicated ecosystem stewardship staff to address water quality, wildlife and habitat, climate change mitigation, land conservation initiatives, and state and federal agency proposals. We need professional staff and funding to prevent further loss and degradation of our natural resources and address the critical gaps in existing government programs, such as the Teton County Scenic Preserve Trust. Creating an Ecosystem Stewardship Department could save money by preventing expensive after-the-fact fixes like water treatment in Hoback and provide an ecological perspective, analytical tools, and responsible alternatives for relevant policies, plans, and projects in local and regional government. This department should also coordinate with individual residents, non-profit groups, agency personnel, and other departments to present recommendations to government staff, elected officials, and the public for better decision-making.
Earlier this year, we asked the Town of Jackson and the County Commission to create an Ecosystem Stewardship Department to honor our conservation legacy and support a vibrant human community in balance with the natural world. The Town of Jackson has answered that call to action and has proposed creating an Ecosystem Stewardship Administrator position in its proposed FY 2022 budget.
Let Town Council know our community wants them to vote in favor of funding the Ecosystem Stewardship Administrator position and creating the Ecosystem Stewardship Department and Commission!
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Water: Our drinking water supply is compromised; our public water systems lack the most basic protections. Water quality issues are now at the forefront of public concern. Timely implementation of the water quality strategies included in the Comp Plan updates will require significant new resources and dedicated staff time to complete. Roles could include:
Lead the development of a water quality enhancement plan
Oversee the implementation of the Comprehensive County-Wide Wastewater Management Plan, update local regulations
Coordinate with Public Health on monitoring contaminants in public water systems
Develop stormwater management best practices
Identify tools to protect our sole source aquifer, including the creation of an Aquifer Protection Overlay, Source Water Assessments and Protection Plans, etc.
Develop a river and levee management plan
Engage with state and federal agency’s on planning and rulemaking processes
Engage in water resource management (e.g., Wild and Scenic Rivers)
Land: Conservation of both private and public lands are essential for ecosystem functionality. Your departments of planning and building services, public works, parks and recreation, and health make daily decisions with far reaching environmental repercussions; these lack input from a dedicated ecological staff person. We need ecosystem stewardship staff to guide internal processes within Town and County, and to partner with federal/state agencies and represent the vision of our community. Responsibilities could include:
Private Land Plans, Projects, and Policies:
Ecosystem Monitoring: updating Natural Resource LDR’s, exploring restoration efforts
Define ecosystem stewardship goals and metrics, as called for in the Comp Plan
Develop an Ecosystem Action Plan and implement strategies outlined in the Comp Plan (e.g., a cumulative impact study)
Development Proposals: Provide structure/criteria/guidelines for formal review of new development, transportation, and land management projects
Develop improved tools and incentives for open space preservation in the county
Public Lands Plans, Projects, and Policies:
Review new plans, actions, and policies of state and federal agencies for their alignment with community goals (e.g. proposed Targhee expansion, Elk Feedgrounds)
Manage existing easements in the Teton County Scenic Preserve Trust (TCSPT), and identify and acquire new strategic easements
Shepherd high-value land transfers (BLM parcels, State Trust Lands)
Wildlife: With reduced water quality and quantity, lost and degraded habitat, and severed corridors, wildlife populations of all kinds and sizes are threatened directly and indirectly. We lack coherent policies and programs to reduce these individual and cumulative impacts. A professional natural resource manager could:
Implement the Wildlife Crossings Master Plan
Develop tools and partnerships with landowners to mitigate human-wildlife and wildlife-livestock conflicts, like Chronic Wasting Disease
Measure/monitor landscape permeability for wildlife, critical habitat, and connectivity
Review and promote “living with nature” programs and regulations (bear-proof trash cans, wildlife friendly fencing, fire prevention in wildland urban interface)
Climate Action / Sustainability: Climate change is a cross-cutting threat to our wildlife and ecosystem, wild lands and vegetation, and community character. We have a responsibility to reduce our impact on the global climate crisis felt even here in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Jackson Hole has an outsized impact on the national and international policy debate on climate, and while we can’t prevent climate change alone, we can be part of the solution rather than the problem. We appreciate the addition of a new goal for climate action and a Climate / Sustainability Action Plan in the Comp Plan Update, and we believe this project would fit well in the new ecosystem stewardship department.
Drawing on the precedent of other local government departments and community interests, the Town of Jackson may someday opt to develop an Ecosystem Stewardship Commission (ESC), a body analogous to those focusing on planning, housing, design review, and the like. If it comes into being, its structure will be determined by Jackson’s Town Council, but it is legally allowable that membership can be open to people living outside of not only the Town of Jackson, but Teton County Wyoming. If the need grows to hire more staff or otherwise expand the ESA’s responsibilities, the additional costs will be paid for by local government.
- Teton County's government is choosing to focus its environmental stewardship efforts on understanding and addressing the county's water quality problems, challenges, and opportunities.
- The Town of Jackson has proposed creating an Ecosystem Stewardship Administrator position in its proposed FY 2022 budget.
Although ideally this position would be housed in a joint department, the two efforts will likely collaborate on many shared issues and