The Conservation Alliance asked our candidates for town council, county commission, districts, and TCD the following questions regarding our wildlife, wild places, and community character. All responses are reprinted here as submitted by candidates, without any editing.
TCD's mission is “to promote conservation and management of natural resources - air, land, water, vegetation, ad wildlife…” What does this mean to you and what are three specific actions you think the Conservation District should take in the next four years to work toward this vision?
- Pietro Castelli (At large): The greater meaning and purpose of TCD is, to me, promoting harmony between the humans that live and recreate in this area with the wild areas in which they do so. I think that in the next four years TCD should increase it's wildfire awareness programs, work with local landowners and ranchers to use wildlife-friendly fencing so that animals can safely migrate through this important corridor unharmed, and incentivize the installation of wind turbines and solar panels.
- Nate Fuller (At large): The conservation of natural resources is extremely important on every scale. I am running to help with this conservation effort on the very small but still important local scale. To me it means we have the control over our local natural resources and we should be responsible stewards of our natural resources. Specifically, we need to protect them from abuse and when the are used they are used in a way that is of minimal impact to the resource itself as well as other natural resources. For example, (and one of my three specific actions) I would like to take a close look at the use of pesticides and herbicides by Teton County Weed and Pest. Perhaps we can phase out or lessen their use in favor of mechanical control options so as to preserve air and water quality while still managing the vegetation aspect. Secondly, I would like the Conservation District to continue to support our open spaces both public and private by providing financial and administrative assistance for projects that fit the mission statement. Finally I feel the Conservation District needs to become more involved with development. I would like the district to work with the local affordable housing commission and other growth projects to ensure the are done in a way that minimizes their impact on the natural resources. Focused density and preventing sprawl are very much ways to work toward protecting our natural resources.
The Town of Jackson/Teton County Comprehensive Plan vision is to “Preserve and protect the area’s ecosystem in order to ensure a healthy environment, community and economy for current and future generations.” How do you envision the TCD working with the Town and County to meet shared objectives?
- Pietro Castelli (At large): I see the town, county, and TCD working together most effectively by mitigating the damage that our important tourism industry can cause to the natural areas in Teton County. This can be started by increasing tourist awareness of local conservation issues such as wildlife crossing areas and seasonal closures of wilderness areas. Furthermore, TCD can work with the town and county to ensure visitors to the area are ready to safely take in the wild areas of Wyoming by being bear-aware, knowing local regulations, and being fully prepared to be in the backcountry.
- Nate Fuller (At large): The Conservation District is a voice for conservation and protection. By bringing that voice to the county with a focus on conservation with regard to growth and development we should strive to build a town that supports walking though increased density in the existing urban(ish) areas. Conservation is trying to protect the air by reducing traffic by increasing affordable housing and rentals in the places people work. A dense community is a close community and can interface well with open space if well planned.
What is your vision for the future of our Teton County federal lands, and how do you see the Conservation District partnering with our land managers to conserve natural resources on these lands?
- Pietro Castelli (At large): Most importantly these lands should remain in federal hands. I think the second most important priority in preserving these lands is by ensuring that actions taken on private land don't affect public land. For example, water use on private land shouldn't affect public water quality or quantity. Third, we need to make sure we are balancing the desires of recreationists with the conservation of wilderness and wildlife through the study of effects various types of recreation can have on land, water, and animals.
- Nate Fuller (At large): Teton County's single biggest resource is our public lands. Protection of these is paramount especially given the current state of our federal government. The role of the Teton Conservation District is to ensure they are treated with the utmost respect. These lands are owned by all of us and the conservation district should support well thought trough fuels reduction, while being careful of any large scale extraction. Even the level of access is something to consider. I would like the Conservation District to work with the federal land mangers to keep the Wilderness Study areas as the are or even seek full Wilderness designation.
We live in a wild place where interactions with wildlife are not infrequent. What actions should the Conservation District prioritize to reduce conflicts with wildlife moving through our neighborhoods?
- Pietro Castelli (At large): The replacement of traditional fences with wildlife-friendly varieties can do a tremendous amount of good towards allowing wildlife to move through neighborhoods quickly and without conflict. Additionally, the construction of wildlife crossings over busy roads and highways will not only save animal lives but human lives as well. Citizens being aware of bear attractants in their own backyards will reduce the amount of conflicts that we have with black and grizzly bears and make our neighborhoods safer overall.
- Nate Fuller (At large): Again, I come to the prioritization of development in a way that creates dense nodes for people to live and work in. If we can prioritize dense affordable housing with a distinct boundary to open space we can reduce neighborhood conflicts as well as traffic and all of the associated problems for wildlife.