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May 2011 Alliance Action

1) Alliance project to help get safe wildlife crossings for local highways
2) Public’s participation pays off at April Comprehensive Plan hearings
3) Other town and county planning news
4) Forest Service proposes sale of 40 acres near Wilson to fund HQ work
5) National Forest planning rule comments due May 16
6) Wildlife Updates
7) Coming Events
8) Valley Voices

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1) Alliance project to help get safe wildlife crossings for valley highways

The Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance recently contracted for studies to determine which measures to reduce road kills would work best for three local highways slated for reconstruction.

Using data from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation, Teton Science Schools and Bridger-Teton National Forest, researchers from Montana State University’s Western Transportation Institute will identify “high wildlife-vehicle collision zones” and make recommendations for safe wildlife crossings on Jackson South Hwy. 89, Hwy. 22 from Jackson to Wilson, and Hwy. 390 to Teton Village. The Wyoming Department of Transportation plans to widen all these roads in coming years, and we hope the results from this study (due out by Fall 2011) will help WYDOT incorporate solutions that uphold our community’s priorities, such as protecting our wildlife and rural character, while ensuring driver safety. (Click here for a Jackson Hole News&Guide article about the study that ran on April 20.)

Teton County, 1% for the Tetons, the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative and Patagonia, Inc. have all generously committed money toward the study, but we still need additional funds. If you can help, please contact Alliance Public Lands Director Louise Lasley at (307) 733-9417 or Louise@jhalliance.org. The community group Safe Wildlife Crossings for Jackson Hole has also helped pull people together for this long-range critical effort to protect both drivers and wildlife. If you’d like to get involved, please check out their website at http://wildlifecrossingsjh.org.

Meanwhile, since Jackson Hole doesn’t have safe wildlife crossings yet, drivers need to remain wary, especially this Spring as many wildlife species are moving back to their summer ranges and must brave the roads to get where they’re going. For your safety and theirs, please slow down and keep a sharp eye out, especially if you’re traveling two of the worst stretches: Broadway along Karns Meadow and Saddle Butte, and Jackson South Hwy. 89 from High School Road to Game Creek.

Lastly, speaking of South Hwy. 89, WYDOT’s record of decision regarding the widening of a seven-mile segment of the road was expected in April, but it’s been delayed. However, WYDOT district engineer John Eddins recently confirmed that the record -- which is the final step in approving the project -- will just restate the transportation department’s intention to expand six miles of the segment from two to five lanes, despite community opposition. We’ll keep you posted as this plays out; a flier that details the Alliance’s concerns regarding the proposed reconstruction is available by clicking here.

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2) Public’s participation pays off at April Comprehensive Plan hearings

More than 60 diverse members of the community turned out for the Comp Plan public comment session on April 27, and an overwhelming majority of them supported the Conservation Alliance’s recommendations that the plan must include strong growth management strategies, and must include future community maps as an integral part of the plan itself.

These comments plus scores more that the Alliance and many citizens submitted in past weeks paid off. The town and county elected officials wrapped things up on April 28 by directing planning staffers to incorporate many of the key suggestions in the next iteration of the draft Comp Plan, which is due out on May 20. (UPDATE: The new draft was released around 4 p.m. on May 20; click here for a link to it.)

Based on the electeds’ statements, here are some of the most important improvements that we expect to see in the new draft:

Growth Management:
The Comp Plan will include a strong reference to the community’s desire for future development to work within existing entitled rights, will specify a desired overall community size, and will include buildout ranges for each “Character District” area in the valley.
A framework for monitoring the amount, location and type of growth will be developed, and will be used to adjust the Comp Plan if future development threatens our community’s goals of protecting our wildlife, scenery and rural character.

Character District Maps:
A Character District Maps section (previously known as the Future Land Use Plan) will now be included as an integral part of the final Comp Plan. This is essential for ensuring the protection of vital wildlife habitat and improving the enforceability of the Comp Plan’s goals.

Cumulative Impacts on Wildlife:
Elected officials have formally agreed to include a policy mandating that cumulative impacts of development on wildlife be monitored. The Alliance is contributing research on how to best accomplish this, so the town and county can adjust development patterns to limit such impacts.

What are our next steps? The Alliance firmly believes that the best available science and practices must be used to inform all decisions. Consequently, we are taking the following actions to help strengthen the Comp Plan:
We’re hiring Alan Richman, a widely acclaimed expert consultant in community planning, to produce concrete policy recommendations for use by the town and county planning staffers as they revise the plan. He’ll also review the new draft Comp Plan after it’s released and evaluate how it compares to the best practices available in community planning in similar communities. (Click here for details.) Please give us a call at (307) 733-9417 if you’d like to help finance this important work! The Alliance is also continuing efforts on our Teton County vegetation mapping project and will be contributing expertise toward an updated Natural Resource Overlay tool that will help protect wildlife habitat from development.

What next steps can YOU take? The most critical phase of the Comp Plan process will begin in a few weeks, with the release of the new draft on May 20. As noted above, the Alliance will sponsor an independent expert review of this draft, and we’ll let people know whether it will achieve our community’s goals and incorporate the best practices in this field.

It is vital that you GET INFORMED and GET INVOLVED in this final phase of public participation in the policies that will determine the future of this community.

Please plan on attending the June 7 meeting (see below) that will be your last chance for public comment on this phase of the plan. Please click here for background information and tips on how to get involved, and here for links to Alliance comments. Also see the Comp Plan website, www.jacksontetonplan.com, for plan documents and announcements, and to submit written comments. Lastly, please click here for links to recordings of our "Comp Plan Uncomplicated" series of impartial and informative radio shows that are airing on community station KHOL (89.1 FM) every Wednesday at 4 p.m.

Here’s the projected timeline:

May 1 to May 19: Following directions gathered from the recent meetings of the town and county elected officials, local planning staff and consultants from AECOM will work on rewriting the draft Comp Plan.

Mid-May: Elected officials and planning staffers will hold subcommittee meetings to discuss the Character District Maps, their role, and the review process and timeline for the maps moving forward.

May 20: The new rewritten Comp Plan draft will be released for public review.

May 20  to June 29: Local planning staff will hold drop-in sessions periodically for people to come and ask questions about the draft plan.

June 7: Comprehensive Plan Joint Information Meeting #9, 5 to 9 p.m. at Snow King Resort’s Grandview Lodge. The draft Comp Plan will be presented and verbal public comments taken.

June 15: For our monthly info lunch, the Alliance will host an open house on the Comp Plan from noon to 1 p.m. at our office, 685 S. Cache St.

June 29: Comprehensive Plan Joint Information Meeting #10, 5 to 9 p.m., location to be determined. Staff will present the draft once more, highlighting recent changes and amendments, and public comment will again be taken. The elected officials will tentatively adopt the Themes and Policies segment of the Comp Plan. However, this won’t be officially implemented until after the Character District Maps are reviewed, so that the two segments can be formally adopted and implemented together at the same time.

Summer through December 2011: The Character District Maps are scheduled to be reviewed.

After December 2011: The new Comp Plan, including both the Themes and Policies and the Character District Maps sections, will take effect, and the process of updating the land development regulations will begin.

Any questions? Please contact Kristy Bruner, Alliance community planning director, at (307) 733-9417 or Kristy@jhalliance.org. And thanks for caring enough to get involved!

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3) Other town and county planning news

In addition to the Comp Plan items noted above, here’s a partial roundup of more community planning matters, but please keep 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.

May 2, Jackson Town Council and Teton Board of County Commissioners joint information meeting, 3 p.m., Town Hall, 150 E. Pearl: Items on deck for this meeting include the new START bus facility and the Hwy. 22 pathways project; for the full agenda and links to associated staff reports, click here.

May 2, Jackson Town Council meeting, 6 p.m., Town Hall, 150 E. Pearl: The council is expected to finalize an agreement to swap a parcel in Karns Meadow for one west of Teton County Library. (The Teton County Housing Authority wants to trade its 5.75 acre Karns property for the 3.9 acre Grove property acquired last year by the Town of Jackson. If the swap works out, the town plans to put a START bus and public works facility on the Karns parcel, while the housing authority plans to build about 70 affordable housing units where the trailer park used to be next to the library.) Click here for more info on this meeting.

May 4, Jackson Planning Commission meeting, 5:30 p.m., Town Hall, 150 E. Pearl: Among other items, the town planning commissioners are scheduled to continue their discussions from April 20 regarding new rules allowing the subdivision of several hundred residential lots in an area roughly bordered by Broadway and Snow King Ave., with Flat Creek to the west. Currently, property owners within this area are allowed to build one primary, single-family unit and two accessory residential units per lot -- one attached to the primary home and one detached. Current rules allow for only one owner of all the units on each lot. The new proposed “Cottage House” rules would allow property owners to sell the detached accessory unit, which could be subdivided as a townhouse. Some seven years in the making, the new rules stemmed from efforts to attract investment to the area and encourage more owner-occupied homes in town. However, the Alliance is concerned that the zoning changes being considered could inflate housing prices and displace workers who now rely on the units as affordable rentals. We also think zoning changes of this magnitude should wait until after the new Comprehensive Plan is finalized. Stay tuned for more on this issue as it progresses. (UPDATE: On May 4, the town planning commissioners voted to recommend that these new rules be approved. Click here for comments that the Alliance made that night, and see the May 16 item below for information on when and where the town electeds will begin their discussions on the topic.)

May 16, Jackson Town Council workshop, 3 p.m., Town Hall, 150 E. Pearl: Town councilors are expected to take up the new “Cottage House” rules outlined above.

May 17 and 31, Teton Board of County Commissioners hearings, 9 a.m., County chambers, 200 S. Willow: Two different applications for conditional use permits to allow year-round recreational park trailers (RPTs) in existing private campgrounds will go before the county commissioners in May. On May 17, they’ll consider a proposal to put 71 of the 400-square-foot trailers at the approximately 9-acre Jackson Hole Campground on the Moose-Wilson Road. (Due to a tie vote during an April 11 county planning commission hearing on this proposal, it heads to the county commissioners with a recommendation that it be denied. Click here to read comments that the Alliance gave at that hearing.) On May 31, commissioners will review a similar application seeking approval for at least 112 recreational park trailers at a campground near Moran. (UPDATE: The May 31 hearing has been rescheduled for June 7, same time and place.) On April 25, a majority of the planning commissioners voted to recommend that the Moran proposal be approved. Because of the potential impacts of allowing such changes from seasonal campground use, the Alliance is monitoring both proposals closely. Encouragingly, two citizens -- Gail Jensen and Dave Coon -- have appealed County Planning Director Jeff Daugherty’s May 2008 decision that the campground owners are using as the basis for their proposals. We’ll keep you posted as this unfolds.

May 18, Jackson Planning Commission meeting, 5:30 p.m., Town Hall, 150 E. Pearl: The town planning commissioners are expected to vote on new regulations for Jackson’s planned unit development tool, which allows increases in development potential for property owners looking to develop three or more contiguous lots downtown. They’re also scheduled to discuss an amendment to the master plan for the Refuge project on North Cache.

May 23, Teton Board of County Commissioners workshop, 10:30 a.m., County chambers, 200 S. Willow: (UPDATE: This workshop has been rescheduled for Tuesday, May 24, same time and place.) The county commissioners plan to discuss a potential amendment “that would provide the Planning Director additional flexibility in implementing the wetland protection section of the land development regulations.” The changes are intended to make the regulations more enforceable, since as they now stand, pretty much every time the county tries to protect wetlands, they get sued and they lose the case.

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4) Forest Service proposes sale of 40 acres near Wilson to fund HQ work

In yet another chapter of the ongoing saga relating to the Bridger-Teton National Forest supervisor’s office, Forest Service officials announced in late April that they’re considering selling 40 acres of public land near the base of Teton Pass to help pay for rebuilding the B-T’s headquarters, which now occupy a 15-acre site on North Cache in Jackson. (Click here for links to background information on this issue, and click here for the Jackson Hole News&Guide’s April 27 article about the proposed sale.)

Forest officials say they’re also continuing to work on a deal whereby the Town of Jackson would buy nine acres on the back side of the North Cache site; if this falls through, that acreage may be auctioned off to the highest bidder. They also say they're still reserving the option of moving the B-T headquarters out of Jackson.

Ever since it first came to light back in 2007 that the Forest Service was planning to move the B-T supervisor’s office to Alpine, the Alliance has worked to help our community find ways to keep it here, plus help the B-T figure out how to fund needed new facilities without selling off public lands. Please contact Louise Lasley at Louise@jhalliance.org or (307) 733-9417 if you’d like to get involved.

And although formal comment periods likely won’t be set for some time, people can let the Forest Service know what they think about all this in the meantime by writing c/o Michael Schrotz, Bridger-Teton National Forest, P.O. Box 1888, Jackson, WY  83001, or emailing him at mschrotz@fs.fed.us.

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5) National Forest planning rule comments due May 16

In February, the National Forest Service released new proposed rules that will determine how and for what purposes America’s forests will be managed for years to come. Officials also released a draft environmental impact statement on the rules, and we have until May 16 to tell them that we want the health and vitality of wildlife and their habitat to take precedence over extractive uses, such as energy development, mining, logging and grazing. Information on the proposed rules and how you can comment on them is available at http://fs.usda.gov/planningrule (type “how to comment” in the search field). Hopefully, this process will result in a new plan that will remove uncertainties about how to approach forest planning -- uncertainties that have stalled revisions to the Bridger-Teton National Forest’s more than 20-year-old management plan. Click here for comments on the Forest Service Planning Rule draft EIS that the Alliance submitted on May 16.

Want more information? Check out the March 7, 2011, issue of High Country News for an article on the new forest planning rules -- it’s available online at www.hcn.org/issues/43.4/new-national-forest-rule-lacks-rigor. Also, on April 27, officials posted the “Science Review of the United States Forest Service Draft Environmental Impact Statement for National Forest System Land Management” on the Forest Service planning rule website. To learn about this review and read the report, click here.

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6) Wildlife Updates

WINTER CLOSURES EXTENDED THROUGH MAY 15: Due to the deep snow still blanketing much of Jackson Hole, Bridger-Teton and National Elk Refuge officials have decided keep many areas of the valley off limits to humans through May 15 to protect wildlife as they’re recovering from a long winter. Visit www.jhalliance.org/dontpoach.pdf for a link to more info.

APRIL A ROUGH MONTH FOR NORTHERN ROCKIES WOLVES: First, wolves got a double whammy on April 9 when a federal judge rejected a legal settlement between 10 conservation groups (including the Alliance) and the U.S. Department of the Interior regarding wolf management. That same day, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester of Montana and U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho announced that House and Senate appropriators had agreed to include their proposal to remove Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves as part of a compromise to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year. (Click here for details about the settlement that was shot down, and click here for an April 10 Associated Press story that explains what these two news items could mean for wolves in the Northern Rockies.)

Then, on April 15, President Obama signed the budget bill passed by Congress, which included a rider stripping ESA protections from wolves in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Utah. This marks the first time Congress has taken a species off the endangered species list, and sets a bad precedent placing politics over science in management decisions.

Federal wildlife officials say they will delist more than 1,300 gray wolves in the region by mid-June. For the time being, protections remain in place for wolves in Wyoming, because its present management plan allows wolves to be killed as predators in most of the state. But this could change, since Wyoming officials are trying to come up with a revised plan acceptable to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Alliance believes that Wyoming needs to use the best available science for a wolf management plan that will work for the health of all species -- predator and prey alike. Our goal is to have the Wyoming Legislature eliminate the wolf predator zone and designate the entire state (excluding national parks) a trophy game zone. We’re also working to encourage the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to use the best science in managing wolves to ensure their long-term viability. We’ll keep you posted on this issue as it continues. For more information, contact Louise Lasley at (307) 733-9417 or Louise@jhalliance.org. Background info is available by clicking here.

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7) Coming Events

Thursday, May 5
“Shift to Natural Gas” workshop
8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Teton Village
On May 5, the Yellowstone-Teton Clean Energy Coalition and Teton Conservation District are offering a workshop on the use of natural gas fuel for transportation. The event is part of a national series on displacing petroleum use through fuel economy, idle reduction and alternative fuels, such as biodiesel, ethanol, natural gas and propane. For registration information, visit www.ytcleanenergy.org/events.php.

Wednesday, May 11
Become a trained Nature Mapping citizen scientist!
5:15 to 8 p.m., Teton County Library, 125 Virginian Lane (Pre-registration required)
Nature Mapping is a local project with the goal of “Keeping Common Species Common.” As little as 15 minutes a week of just recording what wildlife you see in your own backyard, during your commute, or while you’re out exploring can make a big contribution toward conservation efforts in the valley. The May 11 training is the first step for anyone interested in learning more about the project and how to use its web-based data management tools. People who’ve taken this initial step then become eligible to take a whole host of other trainings; visit www.naturemappingjh.org and click on “Event Calendar” to get an idea of what’s available. To register for the May 11 class, or the next one set for June 8, contact project coordinator Megan Smith at Megan@jhwildlife.org or (307) 739-0968. Nature Mapping Jackson Hole is sponsored by the Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation and the Meg and Bert Raynes Wildlife Fund.

Thursday, May 12
Panel on Sustainable Tourism
Noon to 1:30 p.m., Wort Hotel, downtown Jackson
The public is invited to the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce’s May 12 “Business Including Lunch” featuring a panel discussion on sustainable tourism. Panelists include Jackson Mayor Mark Barron, Gina McIlraith of Grand Teton Lodge Company, Teton County Commissioner Paul Vogelheim, Nancy Johnston of Alpine House Inn & Cottages, Louise Lasley of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance and Tim O'Donoghue, the Chamber’s executive director. They’ll talk about what sustainable tourism is, why the timing is excellent for developing a sustainable tourism economy, what our community is doing to become sustainable, and what steps are necessary to realize the potential of an economy based on sustainable tourism. Call the Chamber at (307) 733-3316 for details.

Saturday, May 14
43rd Annual Spring Clean-Up Day, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Jackson Hole
9 a.m. to noon, throughout Jackson Hole
Help clean up the winter’s accumulation of trash and debris along county roads and highways. Meeting time for volunteers is 9 a.m. at these locations: Jackson Town Square, Old Wilson Schoolhouse Community Center and Hoback Junction. Helpers should dress appropriately for weather conditions, and bring gloves and sun screen; bags will be provided. At noon on the Town Square, there will be a free barbecue for all volunteers! For details, plus info on Clean-Up Week, May 9 to 14, click here.

Saturday, May 14
Conservation biologist Michael Soulé presents "How to Save the West"
1 to 2 p.m, Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center, Grand Teton National Park
The Murie Center and the Center of Wonder are sponsoring a talk by renowned biologist Michael Soulé on May 14. Often described as "the father of conservation biology," Soulé will be the featured speaker for the first Murie WILD Series “Picnic in the Park." His presentation, “How to Save the West,” will highlight the importance of preserving large landscape connectivity, ensuring that critical habitat, range and migratory corridors remain available to wildlife.
Soulé's talk will be preceded by "Picnic in the Park" at 11:30 a.m. (Please bring a bag lunch; snacks/cookies available.) Teton Park ranger-led activities will be available for kids during Soulé's talk.
Click here for a preview article that ran in the 5/11/11 Jackson Hole News&Guide.

Wednesday, May 18
Alliance info lunch presentation on parasites infesting local moose
Noon to 1 p.m., Alliance office, 685 S. Cache St.
Wyoming Game and Fish Department biologist John Henningsen, a leading expert on disease and parasites in moose, will share some results from the agency’s continuing research into carotid artery worms and the potential effects that the parasite is having on individual moose. Biologists think about half of the moose in western Wyoming may be carrying the parasitic worms, which can blind and weaken the animals, enough to cause their death. The focus of the current research on moose is on continued surveillance to find out how prevalent the parasite is, and to try to determine what effects it is having on individual animals. Contact Becky Tillson at (307) 733-9417 or Rebecca@jhalliance.org for more info, or just stop by on May 18 with a bag lunch and your questions; we’ll provide drinks and snacks.

Thursday, May 19
State of the Community Symposium
1 to 4:30 p.m., Snow King Resort's Grand View Lodge Ballroom
The Jackson Hole News&Guide is sponsoring this interactive conversation on the state of our community – where we've been and where we might be heading. Panelists will present a range of views on Jackson Hole's changing demographics, art, economy, land use, social services and more. Click here for details and info on how to RSVP.

Saturday, May 21
International Migratory Bird Day
8 a.m. to noon, South Park Wildlife Management Area
You’re invited to join Nature Mapping enthusiasts on May 21 to participate in International Migratory Bird Day, an annual worldwide bird count. Volunteers will spend the morning observing and tallying migratory species, and celebrating the birds’ phenomenal flight between hemispheres. Please RSVP to Megan Smith, Nature Mapping project coordinator, at Megan@jhwildlife.org or (307) 739-0968.

Tuesday, May 24
Public symposium on managing predator-prey systems
7 to 9 p.m., National Museum of Wildlife Art, north of Jackson
As part of the 46th North American Moose Conference, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wolf recovery project leader Mike Jimenez, ecologist Bob Garrott and wildlife biologist Rod Boertje will discuss their predator-prey research and wildlife management experiences. Details are available by clicking here.

Thursday, May 26
"Smart Growth" presentation by Roger Millar, sponsored by Plan JH
6 to 7:30 p.m., Wort Hotel, downtown Jackson
Roger Millar, director of Smart Growth America's Leadership Institute, will discuss: What is smart growth?; How does it apply to rural/resort communities such as ours?; and How do communities find balance between smart growth and conservation?
Prior to joining Smart Growth America, Millar held leadership positions in the public and private sectors, most recently as director of the Missoula, Mont., City/County Office of Planning and Grants. His experience gives him a broad understanding of the built environment; federal, state and local policies and standards; and the relationships between land use, transportation and the environment.

Saturday, June 4
2011 Summit on the Snake
8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Teton Science Schools Jackson Campus
Save the date for the Snake River Fund’s annual watershed education conference, which will feature presentations ranging from river running to climate change and its effects on cold water fisheries. The $25 registration fee includes a light breakfast and lunch. For more information, contact Margaret Creel at (307) 690-3529 or Margaret.Creel@snakeriverfund.org.

Summer 2011
Alliance Summer Rendezvous Series
Please check www.jhalliance.org/events.htm later this month for our summertime lineup of fun, educational gatherings for visitors, neighbors and friends of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance!

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8) Valley Voices

“There will always be a frontier where there is an open mind and a willing hand.”
- Charles F. Kettering

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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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