Park’s Duty To Protect Wilson Corridor
I am writing on behalf of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees (CNPSR) which represents nearly 1000 members who collectively have some 30,000 years of national park management experience. The Coalition has been closely following the progress towards development of a comprehensive management plan for the Moose-Wilson corridor which will look holistically at the future management of this extraordinary area of Grand Teton National Park rather than narrowly at just a single recreational amenity within it.
Recently we have taken note of the flurry of news stories with quotes from elected officials, various letters to the editor, and a recent guest shot in the Jackson Hole News & Guide all advocating for a paved separated pathway for the full length of the Moose-Wilson Corridor inside of Grand Teton National Park. We can understand that the popularity of existing paved pathways in Teton County and in some sections of Grand Teton National Park makes the concept of building new pathways theoretically desirable for many pathway proponents. However, constructing a new pathway inside of Grand Teton National Park should not be done without first evaluating what impacts a new pathway and the attendant uses could have in this highly sensitive portion of the national park. This is even more important in present times since both grizzly and black bears now regularly utilize the vital habitat in this portion of the park and were not a factor when the Grand Teton Transportation Plan was undertaken in 2006 and finalized in 2007.
Our coalition fully supports the planning initiative that Grand Teton National Park is embarking on to analyze the entire Moose-Wilson corridor and develop a comprehensive management plan for its future as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Our organization will carefully review the related planning documents and comment on the plan based on our expertise in managing national parks.
Jackson Hole is widely revered for its unique modern day conservation success story which resulted in the creation of Grand Teton National Park. Historian and author, Robert Righter, eloquently tells this story in his book Crucible for Conservation, The Struggle for Grand Teton National Park and reminds all of us how close our country came to not having this magnificent national park. Consequently Jackson has since evolved into a nationally prominent gathering place where the principles of conservation, wilderness and wildlife protection lead the national dialogue.
This is also a place whose history demonstrates that personal sacrifices are sometimes necessary to achieve a greater good for all citizens. Laurance Rockefeller clearly understood this when he made his incredible gift to the American people and donated his beloved JY Ranch within the Moose-Wilson corridor to become a part of Grand Teton National Park. His father, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., through his purchases of valley lands and subsequent donation of these lands to the United States ultimately made the present day Grand Teton National Park a reality.
Grand Teton National Park has become a major asset to the Jackson Hole community, the State of Wyoming and the United States of America. The internationally recognized Teton Range, the incomparable natural and historic resources, and the awe-inspiring wildlife contained in Grand Teton National Park draw approximately 4 million visitors annually. This visitation contributes hundreds of millions of dollars into the local and state economy each year. There are other economic benefits realized by the community simply because it is adjacent to such a world class national park.
We are aware that increased development just south of the park’s boundary on the west bank of the Snake River has added to traffic pressures within Teton County. However, increasing traffic pressures in Teton County and localized recreation preferences cannot be allowed to dictate management decisions for a national park which belongs to all Americans. Significant decisions about how to take care of the park, its lands and its wildlife need to be made with careful analysis, deliberation, and the opportunity for public participation provided for and required by the laws governing national parks.
We look forward to participating in the scoping process and other phases of Grand Teton National Park’s comprehensive planning initiative for the splendid and irreplaceable Moose-Wilson corridor. We hope the community and elected officials will participate fully in this process. We oppose those who wish to short-circuit the analytical and public process and thereby risk an outcome that harms Grand Teton National Park’s extraordinary resources and the public’s ability to be inspired and benefit from them. Together we can find a balanced solution and protect the fragile resources of Grand Teton National Park for this and future generations.
Chair, Executive Council
Coalition of National Park Service Retirees