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December 2011 Alliance Action

1) Alliance annual meeting, holiday gathering on Dec. 8 tops list of month's events
2) Open house on newest Comp Plan character district maps set for Dec. 7
3) More community planning items
4) Wildlife updates include good news for grizzlies
5) Hoback Wells, fracking make headlines again
6) Additional Alliance-related news
7) Valley Voices

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1) Alliance annual meeting, holiday gathering on Dec. 8 tops list of month's events

Thursday, Dec. 8
Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance annual membership meeting and holiday party,
featuring talk by former National Elk Refuge biologist Bruce Smith

and awards honoring Steve Kilpatrick, David Gonzales and Skinny Skis

5:45 to 8:30 p.m., St. John's Episcopal Church, Hansen Hall, 170 N. Glenwood
Everyone's invited to join us for our annual membership meeting and holiday gathering on Dec. 8, followed by featured speaker Bruce Smith, who spent 22 years as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's biologist at the National Elk Refuge. We'll enjoy holiday refreshments, review the past year's accomplishments, announce new board members and honor Steve Kilpatrick with our Outstanding Conservationist of 2011 award. We're also recognizing David Gonzales of TreeFight and Skinny Skis with Hats Off awards. Then at 7 p.m., Smith will discuss the refuge and its supplemental feeding program, and the consequences to the habitat, biodiversity and health of the Jackson Elk Herd from crowding thousands of animals on feedgrounds each winter. (Click here for an article about his new book, "Where Elk Roam," that ran in the Nov. 2, 2011, Jackson Hole News&Guide.) There's no charge for the business meeting and holiday treats; $5 suggested donation for Smith's presentation. Please click here for our press release about the evening's events. For more information, email info@jhalliance.org, call (307) 733-9417, or click here for the poster!

Thursday, Dec. 1
Annual Avalanche Awareness Night
6 to 9:30 p.m., Snow King Resort Grand Teton Room
($5 entry fee to benefit Teton County Search and Rescue)
Sponsored by Skinny Skis, Avalanche Awareness Night is designed to provide backcountry users with valuable information for getting through the winter safely and with minimal impact on Jackson Hole's natural resources. An Alliance volunteer will pass out Don't Poach the Powder maps to let folks know what places people and dogs need to avoid to protect wildlife. (The winter closure maps are also available by clicking here. See Item #4 below for more about our Don’t Poach campaign, and before venturing into the backcountry, please also be sure to check avalanche conditions at www.jhavalanche.org or call (307) 733-2664.) For more details about Avalanche Awareness Night, click here.

Thursday, Dec. 1
Program on Forest Dynamics and Bark Beetles
6:30 to 8:30 p.m., National Museum of Wildlife Art, 2.5 miles north of Jackson
The University of Wyoming Environment and Natural Resources Program will present "Forest Dynamics and Bark Beetles: Current Research on Changing Rocky Mountain Landscapes" on Dec. 1. Bark beetles have decimated the region's whitebark pine trees in recent years; this affects grizzlies and other species that rely on whitebark pine nuts for food. Botanists Brent Ewers and Dan Tinker will join entomologist Matt Ayres to consider the current epidemic and share research documenting forest disturbance and resilience patterns. Copies of material from a recent bark beetle conference, prepared by the Ruckelshaus Institute, will be distributed at this free event. Click here for the poster, and here for some background information on this issue.

Sunday, Dec. 11
Jackson Hole Bird Club meeting, in preparation for Dec. 18 Christmas Bird Count
7:30 p.m., Jackson Town Hall, 150 E. Pearl
Everyone interested in participating in the Dec. 18 Jackson Hole Bird Count (see item below) is invited to this Dec. 11 organizational meeting.

Starting Monday, Dec. 12
National Elk Refuge winter programs begin
Various times and events, based out of the Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center, 532 N. Cache
Click here for details about National Elk Refuge sleigh rides, Visitor Center programs and free wildlife excursions led on the Refuge Road four days each week during the winter season.

Friday, Dec. 16
Presentation on wildlife lead-poisoning research
12:30 to 1:30 p.m., Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center, 532 N. Cache
On Dec. 16, Brian Bedrosian of Craighead Beringia South will give a free presentation on a research project focused on monitoring and reducing blood lead levels in eagles and ravens in Jackson Hole. In 2004, due to the prevalence of big game hunting and the use of lead ammunition in the area, Craighead Beringia South began investigating the relationship between scavengers, their access to discarded game meat, and the presence of lead. Bedrosian will give an overview of the project, conducted in conjunction with the National Elk Refuge, Grand Teton National Park, Bridger-Teton National Forest and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Click here for more information.

Saturday, Dec. 17
National Elk Refuge "Welcome Winter" program
10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center, 532 N. Cache
Click here for information about the National Elk Refuge's day full of events on Dec. 17 to celebrate the start of the winter season.

Sunday, Dec. 18
Annual Christmas Bird Count
All day, throughout Jackson Hole
Sponsored by the National Audubon Society, the annual Christmas Bird Count is a census of birds in the Western Hemisphere performed by volunteer birders to gather data for scientific use, especially for conservation biology. The count is held in different areas between mid-December and early January; the local count, sponsored by the Jackson Hole Bird Club, takes place on Dec. 18. For details, contact local organizer Susan Marsh at (307) 733-5744 or smarsh@wyoming.com.

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2) Open house on newest Comp Plan character district maps set for Dec. 7

Planners report that more than 400 people gave feedback at the Comprehensive Plan character district meetings held in October and November, which is quite a testament to how much folks care about Jackson Hole. Those gatherings were the public's chance to help decide what each "character district" or neighborhood should look like in the future, and to help determine whether draft maps of the districts were reflective of the community’s vision and the Comp Plan’s policies.

Since then, town and county planning staffers have worked on compiling people's comments into their next draft of the maps, which they'll present at an open house on Dec. 7, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Snow King Resort's Grandview Lodge Ballroom. (Click here for details.) We strongly urge you to invest an hour on Dec. 7 to make sure that your comments made during earlier phases of reviewing the Comp Plan have been accurately incorporated. This is important because the character district mapping element is the section of the Comp Plan that will essentially form the basis for the Town of Jackson and Teton County's future zoning and land development regulations.

In addition, we hope you'll take a few minutes to consider the comments we submitted to the electeds on Nov. 30 that give our recommendations for ensuring that the community's ambitious goals outlined in the Comp Plan will be achieved. (Click here for the link.) In brief, we maintain that the planning team and our elected representatives must clearly work out how, when and by whom the goals of the Comp Plan will be met. Otherwise, it won't uphold our community's priorities of protecting Jackson Hole's wildlife and quality of life.

If you can't stop by the Dec. 7 open house, the newest draft maps of the character districts are expected to be posted by then at www.jacksontetonplan.com, and planners say they'll be accepting comments on them via www.jacksontetonplan.com/comments through Jan. 2, 2012. You can also let the planners and your elected representatives know directly what you think; click here for their contact information, and for details about how you can send a copy of your comment letter to the editors of local newspapers.

(UPDATE: Planners posted the newest drafts of the character district maps the afternoon of Dec. 5 - click here for the direct link. Click here for the Alliance's Guest Shot regarding the maps that ran in the Dec. 14, 2011 Jackson Hole News&Guide, and click here for comments on the maps that we submitted on Dec. 29, 2011.)

As always, the Alliance believes that decisions about the location, type and amount of development should be informed by the best available science, as well as by meaningful community input, and we'll continue to work for that. For links to all of our comments about the Comp Plan revision to date, please click here. For help with your comments, contact Alliance Wildlands & Community Planning Associate Becky Tillson at (307) 733-9417 or Rebecca@jhalliance.org. Links to our ongoing "Comp Plan Uncomplicated" radio shows are available by clicking here, and please click here for background information on the plan. You can also refer to the official Comp Plan website, www.jacksontetonplan.com, for much more info.

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3) More community planning items

In addition to the Comp Plan, the Alliance keeps tabs on many other town and county planning issues. Here’s a partial roundup, but please bear in mind that all meetings are subject to change. Call the Town of Jackson at (307) 733-3932, Teton County at (307) 733-8094, or reach Becky Tillson at Rebecca@jhalliance.org or (307) 733-9417 for confirmation. Also, this list isn’t exhaustive, since many meeting agendas aren’t finalized until shortly before the meetings take place. Check back or visit www.ci.jackson.wy.us and www.tetonwyo.org for updates. If you’d like to comment on any of these items, contact information for all local public officials is available at www.jhalliance.org/takeactioncontacts.htm.

Dec. 5: Jackson Town Council and Teton Board of County Commissioners joint information meeting, 3 to 5 p.m., County chambers, 200 S. Willow. The electeds are scheduled to discuss a proposed wintertime Level of Service plan for pathways, as well as the schedule for the Comp Plan Character District mapping process (see above). Click here for the full agenda.

Dec. 5 & 19: Jackson Town Council regular meetings, 6 p.m., Town Hall, 150 E. Pearl. The agendas for these two meetings should be available shortly before the meeting dates via the town website, www.ci.jackson.wy.us. (Click on "Meeting Agendas" under the "Jackson Government" heading.) On Dec. 5, the councilors are expected to discuss the plan for the START Bus facility in Karns Meadow, which includes a new street running from Snow King Ave. to Broadway. (UPDATE: Please click here to read comments the Alliance made at this hearing.)

Dec. 6: Teton Board of County Commissioners regular meeting, 9 a.m., County chambers, 200 S. Willow. The commissioners are scheduled to discuss the Buffalo Valley RV Resort’s application for the installation and year-round use of 100-plus recreational park trailers. They're also set to address a declaration of restrictions for the Melody Ranch gravel operation, and to consider a final development plan for a three-lot subdivision on East Zenith Road near the Jackson Hole Golf & Tennis Club. (The Alliance has expressed concern about proposed fencing on the site, and will continue to monitor the project to ensure that fences there will not impede wildlife movement.) Click here for the full agenda and associated staff reports. (UPDATE: Please visit www.jhalliance.org/library.htm#comments for links to comments the Alliance made at this hearing.)

Dec. 7 & 21: Jackson Planning Commission regular meetings, 5:30 p.m., Town Hall, 150 E. Pearl. The agendas for these meetings should be available shortly before the meeting dates via the town website, www.ci.jackson.wy.us. (Click on "Meeting Agendas" under the "Jackson Government" heading.)

Dec. 12: Teton County Planning Commission regular meeting, 6 p.m., County chambers, 200 S. Willow. The agenda for this meeting will be posted later this month at www.tetonwyo.org/minutes.

Dec. 15: Natural Resources Technical Advisory Board meeting, 4 p.m., Teton Conservation District office, 420 W. Pearl. Contact Rachel Daluge at (307) 733-2110 or Rachel@tetonconservation.org for details.

Dec. 20: Teton Board of County Commissioners regular meeting, 9 a.m., County chambers, 200 S. Willow. The agenda for this meeting will be posted later this month at www.tetonwyo.org/minutes.

Update on Recreational Park Trailer regulations: On Nov. 28, the Teton County planning commissioners voted 4-1 to recommend new rules governing RPTs that would create a special approval process for campground owners looking to install and rent out the trailers. (Click here for a Nov. 30, 2011, Jackson Hole News&Guide article that gives details, and click here for the News&Guide's follow-up story that ran on Dec. 7.) The Teton Board of County Commissioners is tentatively scheduled to discuss the new regulations on Jan. 3, 2012. Due to the potential impacts of allowing changes from what has primarily been seasonal campground use, the Alliance is monitoring the RPT issue closely; links to our comments are available via www.jhalliance.org/library.htm#comments. Contact Becky Tillson at Rebecca@jhalliance.org or (307) 733-9417 for more information on this issue.

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4) Wildlife updates include good news for grizzlies

FEDERAL APPEALS COURT RULING MEANS GRIZZLIES REMAIN PROTECTED – On Nov. 22, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that grizzlies in the Yellowstone region need continued protection under the Endangered Species Act due to devastating declines in whitebark pine, a key food source for the bears. The ruling blocks the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's efforts to lift protections on some 600 grizzlies across 19,000 square miles of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. (Such a move would have turned management of the animals over to state wildlife agencies, which could have set hunts for grizzlies for the first time since they were classified as a threatened species more than 30 years ago.) The ruling helps ensure that grizzlies will remain protected until a long-term viable management plan is implemented – good news indeed. Click here and here for some background information on this issue.

TETON PARK LOWERS NIGHTTIME SPEED LIMIT TO SAVE WILDLIFE – In November, Grand Teton National Park officials permanently reduced the nighttime speed limit on Highway 26/89/191 within the park to 45 miles per hour. More than 100 large animals are killed on park roads every year; last year alone, 162 were hit and killed by vehicles. Lowering the speed limit should help decrease the chances of such collisions, keeping wildlife and motorists safe. In related news, results from the Alliance's wildlife crossings study recently conducted by the Western Transportation Institute will be posted on our website as soon as they become available in early December – please check back. (UPDATE: The final version of the wildlife crossings study, titled "Highway Mitigation Opportunities for Wildlife in Jackson Hole," is now available – click here to download the 8.8 mb PDF, and click here for some background information about it.)

COMMENTS ON WOLF DELISTING DUE BY JAN. 13, 2012 – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is still seeking scientific information and comments from the public about its proposed delisting rule and state management plan for Wyoming wolves, which essentially creates a wolf trophy game zone in the state's northwest corner (excluding the national parks). In the 88 percent of the state outside that zone, wolves would be considered predators and could be killed at any time, by any means, without a hunting license. (Click here to read the proposal.) Written comments regarding the rule may be sent via the federal “eRulemaking” portal at www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. FWS–R6–ES–2011–0039. You can also submit comments by mail to:
Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. FWS–R6–ES–2011–0039, Division of Policy and Directives Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM, Arlington, VA 22203.
Comments must be received on or before Jan. 13, 2012. For background information on this issue, click here.

WINTER CLOSURES TO PROTECT WILDLIFE BEGIN DEC. 1 – Snow is starting to pile up, and that means it's time once again for snowshoers, skiers, boarders and snowmobilers to make sure their enjoyment of the white stuff doesn’t come at the expense of wildlife. Winter’s deep snow, scarce food and cold temperatures are tough on our elk, deer, moose and bighorn sheep, and wasting energy to avoid people and dogs can kill them. Please help wildlife survive the winter by staying out of closed areas. Click here for the "Don't Poach the Powder" maps and closure dates (or text "dontpoach" to 50500), and click here for information on winter travel restrictions on the National Elk Refuge Road. Please remember, “poaching” wintertime closed areas can be as harmful to wildlife as poaching with a rifle.

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5) Hoback Wells, fracking make headlines again

In a welcome statement released on Nov. 22, Bridger-Teton National Forest officials announced that they've agreed to conduct an additional environmental study of Hoback Wells, a proposal to drill 136 natural gas wells only 40 miles southeast of Jackson in the pristine Noble Basin area of the Wyoming Range. (Click here for the B-T's press release.)

Their decision to add another alternative for the draft environmental analysis of Plains Exploration and Production's full-field project came after Bridger-Teton staffers reviewed some 60,000 public comments regarding the DEIS this past winter. Most raised concerns about the environmental harm likely from energy development at the headwaters of the Hoback River, in a place that provides important habitat and migration corridors for wildlife.

The new option will take a look at reducing the miles of road that would need to be built for the project. Cory Hatch's article in the Nov. 23, 2011, Jackson Hole News&Guide explains further; click here for a link to it. The new study is due out in early 2012; we'll keep you posted on opportunites to comment on it. Meanwhile, for background information on Hoback Wells, please visit www.wyomingrange.org, where you can also sign up for e-alerts specific to this issue.

On a related note, in November the Environmental Protection Agency released the outlines of its long-awaited probe into whether hydraulic fracturing – also known as fracking – is contaminating drinking-water supplies. Fracking involves the high-pressure injection of millions of gallons of water, along with sand and chemical additives, deep undergound to extract natural gas trapped in shale rock; this is the process most likely to be used for the Hoback Wells field. The EPA is testing groundwater near gas drilling sites in Pennsylvania, Colorado, Louisiana, North Dakota and Texas. The agency is also examining the entire liquid lifecycle of hydraulic fracturing in shale deposits, from the withdrawal of huge volumes of water from rivers and streams to the treatment and disposal of the tainted wastewater that comes back out of the wells after fracking. Earliest results from the study are expected in 2012. In another positive move, EPA officials announced earlier this fall that they intend to develop national standards for the disposal of fracking wastewater. Regulation has largely been left to individual states up to now.

In other wildlands news, Dale Deiter of the Bridger-Teton recently told us that the analysis of the Teton to Snake Fuels Reduction Project now isn't expected to be out until the end of January 2012. This project is intended to reduce the danger of forest fires next to residences from Teton Village south along the Fish/Fall Creek Road corridor all the way to the Snake River Canyon. About 23,000 acres are being considered for fuel-reduction (using mechanical thinning and prescribed burns) within an 80,000-acre swath. Issues of concern to the Alliance include the fact that work is being proposed within the Palisades Wilderness Study Area and inventoried roadless areas. The project could also cause significant impacts on wildlife due to habitat fragmentation, removal of vegetation, road construction, harm to soil and watershed integrity, and overall loss of habitat. (Click here for scoping comments we submitted regarding the project earlier this year.) Stay tuned for updates.

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6) Additional Alliance-related news

ALLIANCE SEEKS COMMUNITY PLANNING DIRECTOR – We’re looking for someone to lead our community planning department’s research, strategy development, community engagement and advocacy campaigns. Candidates must have excellent communication skills and several years of professional involvement in community planning issues; an advanced degree in community planning or a related field is strongly preferred. Ideal candidates will have experience working with land development regulations in communities similar to Jackson Hole. Interested? Click here for details.

ALLIANCE MEMBERSHIPS MAKE GREAT GIFTS, AND THIS YEAR, THERE'S A BONUS! – Need a holiday gift? Consider giving an Alliance membership and a goody! If you place your gift membership order before Dec. 15, we'll get it delivered by Christmas and we’ll include a card, along with one or more of the following items: An insulated travel mug with custom artwork (choice of green or brown); an adjustable baseball cap embroidered with the Alliance logo; a gorgeous 38- by 19-inch poster featuring the Oxbow Bend of the Snake River by world-renowned photographer Thomas D. Mangelson. (Click here for pictures of the items.) There are three levels: $45 includes a gift membership and one item of your choice; $60 includes a gift membership and two items; $75 includes a gift membership and all three items. To order, please contact Claire Fuller at (307) 733-9417 or Claire@jhalliance.org.

Other great gift ideas include the DVD of our 30th anniversary film, and our new Alliance tote bags featuring beautiful art by painter Mary Roberson. Click on the links in the right-hand sidebar at www.jhalliance.org/join.htm to order them online or place your order by phone with Claire Fuller at (307) 733-9417, or just stop by our office at 685 S. Cache to pick them up in person. (The tote bags should be available by Dec. 16.) Get your holiday shopping done early, and help keep Jackson Hole wild and beautiful!

ANOTHER WAY TO GET INTO THE GIVING SPIRIT – This holiday season, the Alliance is collecting non-perishable food items for the Jackson Hole Food Cupboard, and we'd like to encourage you to pitch in! Donations can be dropped off at the Alliance office at 685 S. Cache any weekday between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Thanks!

THINKING ABOUT END-OF-THE-YEAR DONATIONS? THINK ALLIANCE! – The unspoiled wildlands, vistas and wildlife of Jackson Hole are the best legacy we can leave for the future. As you consider your year-end charitable gifts, please click here for information on several ways you can contribute, or visit www.jhalliance.org/join.htm.

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7) Valley Voices

“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities – brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.”

– John W. Gardner

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Alliance Action is a publication of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance. The Conservation Alliance is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to responsible land stewardship in Jackson Hole to ensure that human activities are in harmony with the area’s irreplaceable wildlife, scenic, and other natural resources. We’re located at 685 South Cache Street in Jackson, Wyoming. Our mailing address is P.O. Box 2728, Jackson, WY 83001-2728 and our phone number is (307) 733-9417.

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