Campfire ban needed
I think the following information is of great concern, given the earlier-than-ever summer crowds and our current dry conditions. A recent Bridger-Teton National Forest news release states that as of June 2, 21 abandoned campfires have been found, some of which were already starting to spread by the time Forest Service fire patrols arrived. By comparison, last year seven abandoned fires had been found by the same date, and three in 2019. One is too many, in my opinion, as we near Smokey Bear’s 70th birthday.
So more people, more abandoned fires, it would seem, but also more people who appear to have no information or understanding about how to properly deal with a campfire, as much as the agencies have tried to educate visitors.
I have two requests. First, I urge — or perhaps more correctly, I urgently plead — with town, county and federal agency officials to implement campfire closures early this year. When it’s in the 80s and the woods are dry there isn’t a need for a campfire, and if people can’t be responsible about putting them out, it endangers others.
Second, to those who camp wherever they can find a spot on public land, please be mindful of others, as well as the forest you have come to enjoy. Remember that nine out of 10 wildfires are caused by people, and if you must have a fire, be sure you actually extinguish it. Small fires are easier to put out than bonfires. Drown your fire and stir it, turn up the dry ash underneath and then hit it with another good dose of water. Keep it up until you can put your hand on the coals and they are cold.
South Park changes
Let’s talk about South Park.
South Park is the only place that new development can go.
North is not an option.
West has been eaten up, and when Snake River Ranch decides to go all in, it will be swallowed.
East? We’ve gone about as far east as we can go.
So that brings us back to south.
The Porter grandchildren have decided to tip their hand. Do they need the money?
Probably not in this lifetime, but I’m sure they are making a retirement plan.
They have a good chunk of land in northern South Park that is zoned for market housing. It is their right to develop that.
Now if it were you or I, we’d have to put affordable housing into our agenda. Even if we don’t believe in subsidized housing.
I think the Gills and Lockharts could get by with affordable rentals. Two-story apartment buildings, one or two bedrooms. They collect the rent, but they are limited on how high the rent can go. Perhaps with the rate of inflation.
This northern South Park development is going to change the face of the valley forever.
If they say they want to keep ranching, they could put their land in the Land Trust and work it for the rest of their lives with no taxes. A win-win.
I want the elk to be able to move through South Park to the South Park feedgrounds. They move through my place.
I want clean water. All that live in South Park know that water is precarious.
Write your county commissioners to give them your ideas. Remember that as soon as this development is built the town will try to annex it. It’s just what they do.
What you love about this valley? Things are about to change.
Cindy Hill Stone
Remember that saying: “I always wondered why someone didn’t do something about that.”
Since I first moved here 31 years ago the protection of this beautiful valley from development and loss of character was and had long been a topic of conversation and concern. Like the grander scale of things, we have arrived at that critical juncture.
The values of the tree-huggers, outdoor enthusiasts and hard-working conservationists that have made the Jackson Hole valley all that it is today are on the verge of being overthrown by different values as well as different needs. I fear too many of us are falling into a state of despair, feeling too overwhelmed by the loss of wild spaces, wildlife, character of development and community of people, and of course, housing.
There is still time and ability to steer and steward this valley to a place that is protected and in balance and even sets an example to the rest of the world. But each and all of us must use our voices. Individuals who speak up are the ones heard, and the tally of our voices together can shift the perspective of the institutions and policymakers that can help us stay in that balance during this time of change.
Our county commissioners probably have a job bigger than any others around the country. They are the critical element to keeping our values and our community and our land intact.
Voting for those who fully support your values is the first step you can take to make a difference. Holding the newspaper to account and asking them to fully report the values and intentions of each and all of our electeds is vital. Take the time to call or to write the commissioners and, if you can, to appear at their meetings, as well as meetings of the Town Council and joint or “JIM” meetings of both.
In my opinion the greatest resource we have in protecting our values is the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance. Their mission states just what I have said above: “Protecting the wildlife, wild places and community character of Jackson Hole by empowering the whole community to live in balance with nature.” If you have concerns, but don’t quite know where to start, the alliance is a wealth of information. I have found they are happy to educate and inform you and guide you towards expressing your values to the commissioners and others. Support and use them, however you can! Again, the collective makes the difference.
You are the somebody who can do something about that.
Mary Wendell Lampton
Courage to say no
Like many of my fellow citizens of Teton County I recognize that we have some immediate challenges facing us. Traffic, a lack of worker housing, and deteriorating water quality are very real problems. Solutions are difficult, which is why each of these has grown worse over the past 20 years.
I have a suggestion: Stop doing things that make them worse.
In last week’s News&Guide there was a preliminary description of a development of a new 160-room hotel and 90 new housing units. The planner involved, the mayor of Jackson, and the reporter writing the story all touched upon design elements and development challenges of this new project. No one involved mentioned how such a project impacts the problems we are facing.
A new house, a new office, a new hotel room. Each of these brings a set of burdens to our community. Consider what a hotel room means to the problems above. Workers? Traffic? Sewer discharge? Of course a hotel exacerbates each of these, and in fact a hotel might be the worst use imaginable if your priority is solving the particular issues facing Teton County.
I would encourage our politicians, our planners and our esteemed newspaper to focus on development impacts beyond architectural and engineering considerations. We have identified problems; let’s judge projects on how they affect those problems.
For our leaders, don’t hide behind studies, plans and consultants. Give strong direction to town and county planning staffs and empower your legal teams. Above all, have the courage to say no.
A life without wildlife
What would the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem feel like without wildlife? Roads keep our town moving. We all have jobs to get to and adventures to be had. We need to remember that wildlife have places to be too. As we build new neighborhoods in Teton County, we must save space for wildlife too.
Wildlife roam up and down the Snake River corridor and all over the backside of Snow King — and smack in the middle is Highway 89, with some of the highest wildlife-vehicle collisions in our valley. Northern South Park will mean hundreds of new homes, hundreds of new residents, hundreds of new hikers, hundreds of new drivers ... all of which will negatively impact the wildlife we all move here for. Two years ago I went door-to-door as part of a community movement to secure $10 million for wildlife crossings, a measure that our community overwhelmingly supported. The neighborhood plan for northern South Park is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build housing for locals like me, and it’s a once in a generation opportunity to proactively link habitat for wildlife.
We can attend workshops, study maps and debate sidewalks, bike lanes and parking ... but all wildlife will see is their home changing before their eyes, with yet more roads, houses and fences.
In a fragmented habitat, animals have more trouble finding a mate, hunting for dinner or finding a safe place to have their babies. Long term, this can impact biodiversity and cause ecosystem decay.
I ask that we include the thought of all who will be affected by the new development — the community that helps our town run smoothly, and the wildlife that draws so many of us to this area.
Make e-bike contracts
I am a mom, a teacher, a pathway user and an e-bike rider. Also, I am the user of a GPS app that tracks my hikes, river trips and backcountry ski runs. Lately on the pathways I have noticed the same thing that everyone else has: There are lots of tween-agers on e-bikes, going too fast and passing on blind corners.
I love to see the joy and sense of freedom that these kids have. I also enjoy imagining the diminished car trips and the time parents can reclaim as their kids get themselves home from school or soccer practice. I think that e-bikes and pathway use is a fantastic value-add to living in this valley.
However we seem to be in need of a solution to tween-agers set loose on the pathways with large, heavy bikes that go 20 mph. It seems like it is only a matter of time until there is an injury-causing accident.
Enter GPS tracking. It seems that any kid riding a $1,500-$2,000 bike also has a phone in their pocket. I would like to suggest that parents insist that their tween-ager track their e-bike rides through town, recording their speed and route. Then, over dinner, parent and child take a look a the recorded track and discuss what they observe.
“Well, Jonny, I see that you were traveling at 17 mph as you rode along Flat Creek today. You know that we agreed to 8 miles per hour through that zone. If you want to retain the privilege of riding home from lacrosse I need to see that you are being cautious and following the speeds we agreed on.”
At school we make behavior contracts, with the student and teacher agreeing to expectations. I think that some family e-bike contracts and some GPS tracking for accountability could go a really long way to diminishing the chances of a tragic accident on our pathways.
Less than even-handed
Recently purchased a copy of your June 2 edition and was reminded of why I do not purchase your publication on a regular basis. Page one: Javier Maldonado, by your account a hero for the valley, surprised he was not awarded a Nobel prize by Judge Day. A “series of DUI crashes” is a generous accounting. No mention of restitution for Mr. Maldonado’s irresponsibility. In spite of all, congratulations are in order for his completion of the court program, and raising his children as solid citizens.
At the bottom of page one, the obituary for Foster Friess. By most measures a life well lived. Self-made man, military veteran, happy marriage of some duration, generous philanthropist. In spite of all Mr. Friess was measured through a political eyeglass and his support of conservative causes. It is a jaundiced view and not a full measure of Mr. Friess’ life. Certainly Jackson Hole and Teton County have benefited from his largesse and he deserves better than what the News&Guide served up. The comparison of these two lives could not be more stark. A less than even-handed measure.
Protect our water
If there’s one thing Teton County residents generally agree on, it’s that protecting our water resources is vital to sustaining our economy and way of life.
It’s that very notion that led to the passage of the Craig Thomas Snake Headwaters Legacy Act over a decade ago, thereby adding over 400 miles of Teton County rivers to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, our nation’s gold standard for river protection.
While Congress recognized the special values of the Snake River and its tributaries, some local officials seem not to have gotten the message. Witness the Teton County engineer’s recent proposed rule change that would drastically shrink the watercourse setback requirements for individual septic systems. And the Teton County Commission’s perplexing reluctance to hire a senior-level water quality expert to ensure that growth doesn’t come at the expense of the area’s precious water resources.
With more Wild and Scenic river miles than any county in America, one would think Teton County would want to set the bar for protecting water resources. Instead the bar is being set by another resort community a few hours to the north — Big Sky, Montana.
Despite the explosive growth it has experienced in recent years, which makes Teton County’s growth seem quaint by comparison, Big Sky doesn’t discharge any treated wastewater into local surface waters. Instead it reuses it to irrigate local golf courses. Soon it will start using highly treated wastewater for snowmaking at the local ski resorts.
Big Sky is also spending $52 million to upgrade its existing wastewater treatment plant, which will allow it to collect sewage from homes and businesses along the Gallatin River in order to curtail nutrient pollution from outdated and leaky septic systems.
Perhaps instead of competing over which community has the best ski terrain, Jackson and Big Sky should compete to see which community does a better job of protecting its rivers and streams. Right now, it’s not even close.
Northern Rockies director
of American Rivers