The Alliance Policy Agenda
The Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance’s goals for 2020-2021
Our long-term vision
Jackson Hole is a national model of a strong community living in balance with nature. We are a community first, resort second. Abundant populations of wildlife have the freedom to roam across the landscape and through our neighborhoods, and safely cross our roads. We live in walkable neighborhoods with accessible transportation choices and affordable places to live surrounded by protected open space, working agricultural lands, and connected wildlife habitat. We respect wildlife when we recreate on protected, wild, well-managed public lands. And we are doing our part to mitigate and adapt to the threat of climate change.
Our 2020-2021 goals
- Adopt county-wide conservation goals and metrics
- Ensure that the Comprehensive Plan update strengthens its provisions for ecosystem stewardship and smart growth.
- Publish clear vision for transportation in Jackson Hole, starting with Highway 22/390
- Ensure responsible development on Snow King
- Establish a dedicated public funding source for conservation
- Publish clear vision for responsible and “smart” land-use and growth in Jackson Hole
- Watchdog bad (and good) development proposals, regulations, and laws
- Require bear-proof trash cans countywide
- Train and support young and new leaders through the Conservation Leadership Institute, Get on Boards initiative, and New Voter Project
- Propose world-class county & town natural resource protections, starting with water quality protections
- Develop conservation proposal to decrease extractive uses of our public lands in Bridger-Teton Forest Plan revision
- Stop the threat of helicopter tours
- Persuade our town/county to hire dedicated conservation staff
1. Adopt county-wide conservation goals and metrics
The joint Town/County 2012 Comprehensive Plan’s vision to “protect and preserve the area’s ecosystem” is bold and visionary. To ensure that we adequately live up to this vision, we are working with conservation partners to define goals for wildlife, open space, waterways, climate, and other ecosystem indicators. Then the town and county should insert and adopt concrete, measurable conservation goals and metrics in the Comprehensive Plan and Indicator Reports.
2. Ensure that the Comprehensive Plan update strengthens its provisions for ecosystem stewardship and smart growth
The 2012 Comprehensive Plan has an ambitious vision: “to preserve and protect the area’s ecosystem.” Eight years later, our community has a chance to refresh our vision, goals, and strategies. We support clarifying and adding to the Comp Plan in this year’s formal update process, and we will fiercely oppose any attempts to weaken its focus on ecosystem stewardship, or to allow sprawling development on important open space.
3. Publish clear vision for transportation in Jackson Hole, starting with Highway 22/390 corridors
It’s hard for people and wildlife to get around Jackson Hole. We have serious seasonal traffic congestion, not enough START bus service, unsafe intersections and dangerously-fast traffic, and an average of over 500 large wildlife-vehicle collisions every year. The summer tourist season floods our roads with traffic. Ground transportation accounts for over 60% of our community’s climate pollution. Despite decades of data proving wider roads only encourage people to drive more and do not reduce congestion, WYDOT is proposing to dramatically expand the highways that bisect our community and increase traffic and climate pollution. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We will develop a clear vision for the future of our highways and transportation structure, starting with the Hwy 22/390 corridors – and then fight for this vision. The Jackson Hole community can invest in a better transportation future that aligns with our values of protecting wildlife, community character, and our climate; provides everyone with the freedom to safely and conveniently get where they need to go on foot, bike, or transit; and prioritizes alternatives to expanding highways.
4. Ensure responsible development on Snow King
We want Snow King to succeed as our Town Hill, not an amusement park, and believe that development can occur in balance with protecting wildlife habitat and community character. The new investors at Snow King are pushing an all-or-nothing development scheme and are trying to convince our community that we must either accept all their plans or watch Snow King fail. We respectfully disagree. We believe that our Town Hill deserves better, and that a better outcome is possible. A small fee on commercial activity and real estate development at the base of Snow King could fill the financial gap and make the ski area profitable year-in, year-out. Or our community could contribute SPET funds to build a new lift or provide funds for community ownership of the King (as was done for the Café Genevieve block). Either way, Snow King could succeed without intrusive and harmful development. We will continue lifting up community voices during the US Forest Service environmental impact statement process in 2020.
5. Establish a dedicated public funding source for conservation
We can’t say this better than the Comprehensive Plan:
The community should explore the establishment of a dedicated funding source for conservation easements and other measures that protect the wildlife habitat, habitat connections, and scenery valued by the community. Critical habitat, habitat connections and scenic viewsheds are often located on valuable private land. A dedicated funding source would allow the Town and County to work with conservation groups and private land owners to permanently protect from development and actively steward lands valuable to the community. The funding source could also be leveraged for wildlife protection efforts such as wildlife highway crossings in the Town and County. (Policy 1.4.d)
Our community could dedicate a portion of the proceeds of an additional penny of sales tax to conservation (in addition to other community priorities like transportation and workforce housing), or create other conservation-focused revenue streams. We worked with partners to outline a transparent way to spend conservation funds, including purchasing development rights on important properties, providing stewardship incentives for landowners, and supporting local action on climate change. If the additional penny moves ahead, we look forward to talking to voters leading up to the November 2020 election. If conservation funding does not advance due to COVID and economic uncertainty, we will look to future opportunities instead.
6. Publish clear vision for responsible and “smart” land-use and growth in Jackson Hole
Our community faces difficult choices in planning, development, wildlife management, and public investment. Can Jackson Hole become a national model for a community living in balance with nature while remaining a true community, not just a resort destination? Can we plan a future in which we achieve sometimes-conflicting Comprehensive Plan goals: where we both protect wildlife habitat and build enough workforce housing for 65% of our workers to live in our valley? We will develop a “smart growth” vision for the future of our valley – a touchstone we can refer to during the regular land-use decisions that will determine our future. We may also use scenario planning models like Gallatin 2050 and Envision Utah to display and analyze growth scenarios and their impacts.
7. Watchdog bad (and good) development proposals, regulations, and laws
We encourage smart growth that supports a vibrant community and climate sustainability, and protects our ecosystem and open space. We will advocate to direct growth away from rural areas and into walkable neighborhoods through zoning changes, updates to land development regulations, tools that shift growth, and other incentives. Focusing growth in our developed footprint – when it is specifically tied to decreasing sprawl – is part of a holistic strategy for climate sustainability. We will continue to fight proposals to upzone or develop in greenfields (like Hog Island last year) unless they are models of responsible planning and good design, and include significant conservation easements or transfers of development rights from higher-value habitat. We will support true smart growth proposals to build housing that local workers can afford in our “complete neighborhoods” like town. We will also support the town’s historic preservation ordinance, including incentives and funding to protect the places we love. We will also watchdog state legislation.
8. Require bear-proof trash cans countywide
Too many bears die unnecessarily because they get into humans’ garbage – 11 last fall alone. This is unacceptable. We are working with partners and the town and county to adopt new regulations for residents and trash haulers that would require everyone to use bear-proof trash cans. This is a simple way to protect our most charismatic wildlife.
9. Train and support new leaders through the Conservation Leadership Institute, Get on Boards initiative, and New Voter Project
We will train another 15 young leaders in how to make change through our flagship Conservation Leadership Institute. And we are supporting all of Teton County to be represented in our democratic process: this means more people from underrepresented communities (youth, women, Latinx) will vote, join appointed boards and commissions (through the Get on Boards initiative), and run for elected office. We also aim to increase voter turnout for relevant ballot measures.
10. Propose world-class county & town natural resource protections, starting with water quality protections
We are working with partners on strategies to protect our water quality – ever-more important given recent reports of Fish Creek and Flat Creek impairment, and water safety issues in Hoback and other parts of the valley. At a higher level, we are proud to serve on the county’s stakeholder group tasked with developing new natural resource protections, including updated residential wildlife-friendly fencing requirements, and voluntary incentives to protect important wildlife migration and movement routes through agricultural land. This work stalled out, so once we hire a new Conservation Director, we will work with partners to propose best practices and get world-class regulations over the finish line.
11. Develop conservation proposal to decrease extractive uses of our public lands in Bridger-Teton Forest Plan revision
We will work with partners to protect wild lands by permanently removing industrial extractive uses like drilling, logging, mining, and new roads in the Bridger-Teton Forest Plan revision, currently planned for 2021. We will also look for opportunities to balance recreation and conservation through creative land designations, prioritize protection of wildlife migration corridors and connectivity, and use a climate change lens on public lands decisions. In 2020, we will develop and present a collaborative proposal with old and new partners, that we can bring to the Forest Service.
12. Stop the threat of helicopter tours
We fought off helicopter tours in 2001, but they’re back. A new operator wants to fly intrusive tours right around Grand Teton National Park and over wilderness areas and the National Elk Refuge. We are helping community members raise their voices against this proposal, and working with national partners to get federal legislation to end this threat once and for all.
13. Persuade our town/county to hire dedicated conservation staff
We are grateful for the work that town and county planning staff do on behalf of our ecosystem. However, there is no staff position focused on natural resources, ecosystem conservation, climate action or sustainability. And there is no longer staffing for the Teton County Scenic Preserve Trust. We are working with many partners in the Systems of Conservation collaborative to ask the county to bring back these positions and their capacity to protect our wildlife, their habitat, and the health of our ecosystem. If the town and county develop new revenue streams, we may be able to persuade them to hire this key staff position in the 2021-2022 budget.