National parks and forests dominate Teton County, and almost 50 percent of Wyoming is federally owned public land. Those areas support a vibrant, booming tourism and recreation economy that is integral to our state’s identity.
Across the country elected officials, advocates and industry representatives, from tourism to resource extraction, are entrenched in a debate over the future of public land, which President Theodore Roosevelt called “the greatest heritage a people ever received.”
The Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance is in the forefront of the debate, and at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 6 it will host its Party for Public Lands at the Center for the Arts to raise awareness of and celebrate wild spaces.
The event will include its Alliance Speaker Series, which brings “leading subject matter experts to Jackson Hole to talk about issues like wildlife management, conservation, land use planning and housing,” according to the organization’s website.
Conrad Anker, a renowned mountaineer; his wife, Jenni Lowe-Anker, who has worked in Rocky Mountain conservation since the 1980s; and Lowe-Anker’s son, Max Lowe, a photographer and documentarian, will be the featured speakers, along with the Alliance’s partners from Keep it Public, Wyoming.
“Conrad, Jenni and Max have all been shaped and inspired by public lands, so we anticipate hearing a lot about their stories and adventures on those lands throughout the West and across the entire U.S.,” said Marisa Wilson, the Alliance’s communications and field coordinator.
The first half of the event is a party that is free and open to the public. It will be held on the lawn and in the lobby of the Center. There will be games, food and drink, a raffle and opportunities for attendees to get involved, including letter- and postcard-writing stations and volunteers recording video testimony in support of public lands to send to state legislators. Wilson said the Alliance wanted to give people a chance to become advocates, but their participation doesn’t need to be limited to the party.
“We hope this event introduces area residents who use public lands all the time but maybe don’t know about the threats to the issue,” Wilson said. “What’s cool about advocacy, though, is people can do this on their own all the time. The event will hopefully inspire and educate attendees, but anyone who cannot attend the party can still write a letter or email from home.”
At 7 p.m. the speaker series starts. Tickets cost $12 and can be purchased on the Center for the Arts website. The featured orators are high-profile public lands advocates who have been involved in work near their Bozeman, Montana, home and across the world. Anker and Lowe were recently featured in an IMAX movie for the National Park Service’s centennial.
Anker has established routes in the Himalayas and climbed extensively in North America as a part of The North Face’s athlete team. He uses his standing in the outdoor industry to raise awareness of the place of public land in our identities as Americans, the debate over its future and the challenges supporters face.
He gives speeches on the issue and even testified before Congress on behalf of continued funding for public lands. In an interview with the News&Guide Anker said the most important thing for high-profile advocates and laypersons is to speak up.
“For a public person stating your position is the first step,” he said. “Same for people, especially with their social media use. Express your concerns and be there for like-minded people. It’s a matter of necessity in today’s world.”
Changing government policy, from the creation of wildlife crossings on local highways to the fight against the selling of federally owned lands to private interests, is an esoteric battle, one that the layperson may not know the details of. Much of the work the Alliance does is “in the weeds on policy decisions,” according to Wilson, but she said the party is a way to bring residents into the community dialogue.
“We love being able to bring people with ideas and knowledge of best practices to ensure Jackson Hole remains on the cutting edge in these areas,” she said. ￼