Dozens of people filled town hall, some donned in fuzzy antlers, others holding signs that declared “we love wildlife crossings” during a town and county meeting on June 11. People appeared before the town council and board of county commissioners to voice their support for a SPET initiative for wildlife crossings.
The specific purpose excise tax, or SPET, is the sixth penny of Teton County’s sixth percent sales tax. It is used to fund different projects such as affordable housing and infrastructure. The $15 million dollar wildlife crossings proposal is among many SPET projects on the list this year totaling more than $160 million. Other notable projects on the list include more affordable housing projects and moving the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum to the Van Vleck block. (Its lease is up next March.)
But in a community where people’s love for wildlife transcends political and cultural divides, young and old supporters for wildlife crossings dominated the meeting. The robust turnout had the distinct markings of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance. In recent years, the Alliance organized citizens to show up in droves for meetings concerning housing and commercial development. For example, in 2015, it drew dozens of citizens to town hall who held signs that read “Housing not hotels” and “Middle class not Marriotts.” (It was during a meeting where no public comment was scheduled, so they got their message across with their signs.) That night town council was discussing commercial development in Jackson’s downtown core. The citizens who urged the council to limit such development were ultimately victorious.
Ryan Nourai is an outreach associate for the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance. He has been working on the Alliance’s wildlife crossings campaign so we brought him into the studio to learn about his behind the scenes organizing. First, we asked him to explain why the Alliance has made wildlife crossings its key issue.