Iasked Jacksonites to reflect on the local news stories of 2020 that had the greatest impact on them personally.

Susan Marsh, author and 30-year veteran of the U.S. Forest Service, wrote about Bear 399 and her four cubs wandering through the valley: “What really had an impact on me in addition to the bears themselves was how many people in the valley were hypervigilant about keeping them safe when they wandered out of the park. Instead of the usual eco-porn about grizzly bears with teeth bared, we had a mother and her four children being looked after so they can continue to live like bears. It was amazing to me.

“The other thing I can think of was the crowded conditions in the backcountry this past summer and fall, not just at the usual Grand Teton/Cache Creek busy spots. ... I helped with the Wedding Tree clean-up sponsored by Bridger-Teton National Foret and Friends of the Bridger-Teton. The nonprofit raised funds for camping ambassadors, signage and more that helped it be less of a mess in a lot of popular camping places.”

Rob Wallace, assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks at the U.S. Department of the Interior, wrote about two things. The first was reading about the opening of Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks this spring and seeing it unfold with the safety of visitors, employees and the community as a top priority. The second was following Bear 399 and her cubs on their walkabout this fall and the sense of relief once they made it back safely to Grand Teton.

This came from Teton County Commissioner Luther Propst: “I am a paddler and angler, and I also prefer drinking water that is not contaminated, so the local story in 2020 with the greatest personal impact is the growing public realization that we have a serious water quality problem in our valley — or, more accurately, several connected problems involving septic tanks, wastewater treatment, compliance with public health standards for drinking water, keeping our rivers clean enough for swimming and protecting our drinking water aquifer. Thanks to Mike Koshmrl, Emily Mieure, Billy Arnold and others for excellent reporting on this complicated story.”

Kathy Clay, battalion chief and fire marshal, wrote: “The recent discovery of chronic wasting disease in the elk herd has made me quite sad. We knew it was coming, and now it is here. My husband and I take such great joy in getting on our mules and riding around this beautiful land in search of the elusive wapiti. Last year we learned how to harvest the lymph nodes so we could ensure we had a healthy elk. ... We are privileged to fill our freezer with lean, organic meat. We have never taken this incredible experience for granted. There is every reason to believe CWD will have a significant effect on our local elk herds. With the moose population in decline I quit putting in for a moose tag. And now with CWD in our elk herds, the days of riding into the morning darkness atop a trusty mule looking and listening and hoping for a good shot at a fat elk may be coming to an end.”

Dimmie Zeigler, a home care aide at the Senior Center offered this: “The sad and unwelcome news of the latest director leaving the library and the turmoil over the removal of a library board member was a great blow to me personally. Our ‘team’ worked so hard, for eight years of my tenure as a library manager, to ensure that the library was the best for our community it could possibly be. We felt certain we had the library poised for future growth in all areas of its operations and continued excellent services. Apparently, this was not the case. The recent instability of the library leadership, as reported in the news, and the reduction of staff across the board makes me feel like much has been lost from the days when I worked there. (I left for family reasons in 2014.) This downward trend must be reversed in order for our library to return to offering great programs, collection and services to the community.”

Judy Hammerschlag, who holds a doctorate in education and is now retired, wrote: “Local news that has impacted me: a book review on ‘Billionaire Wilderness.’ It highlights what is reported locally, that we are the richest county in the richest country in the world. Yes, we do have a new set of demographics: billionaires who can feel like normal people here by wearing flannel shirts, jeans and cowboy boots and go hiking and enjoy the outdoors. Who are these ‘normal’ people billionaires are trying to emulate? Billionaires who are referred to as ‘non-labor professionals’ in the book and for whom ‘philanthropy is a leisure activity’ are not representative of any ‘normal’ people I know. We live in a town where there is social segregation, and that bothers me.”

And Joe Burke, commander of American Legion Post 43, wrote about the completion of the veterans’ monument on Town Square. “This respectfully accomplished effort will continue to honor our Teton County veterans for decades to come. It was a team effort of the Jackson Hole American Legion Post 43 and a generous community.”

Connie Owen would love to hear your stories. Call or email her at 734-9512 or connie_owen@msn.com.

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