Conservation Alliance turns 40, throws party

JACKSON, WY — In human years, 40 is approaching middle-aged.

But as an organization, the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance has created and works to maintain a legacy that can outlive the generations of people that compose it. The Alliance is turning 40 tomorrow, and Executive Director Skye Schell said the organization will never run out of work to do.

“We’re never really done with an issue,” Schell said, then borrowed a saying he heard at a Land Trust in Seattle: “In conservation, you have to win every battle every single time. Developers only have to win once.”

Schell acknowledged he’s only been with the Conservation Alliance for five years, but he’s spent a lot of time learning its history. Even as the organization has evolved, Schell said it’s been fighting many of the same fights, “over and over.” For 40 years.

“The deck is stacked against conservation in our legal, real estate, and financial systems in every way possible,” he said.

Historically, the Conservation Alliance’s battles have been related to development. When the organization started 40 years ago, it was called the “Alliance for Responsible Planning.” It is still a core tenant to mitigate development in the interest of “wildlife and wild spaces,” but as Jackson has grown and evolved, so, too, has the Alliance. It is at the forefront of the campaign to add wildlife crossings to Jackson/Teton County highways; it runs the Conservation Leadership Institute, a 12-week course that teaches civic engagement skills (full disclosure: the writer of this piece is a CLI graduate). The Alliance has a hand in everything from housing to transportation to wildlife management and yes, development. In Schell’s eyes, it’s all related.

“What I see as our niche is looking at the intersection of all the issues,” Schell said. “We’ve always been about the compreshensive, holistic look.”

Looking ahead, Schell said he’s “really excited” to see wildlife crossings come to fruition (a $10 million wildlife crossing SPET measure will be on the ballot this fall). He also wants to work on building up the Alliance’s membership base to “bring us back to our roots” of being a grassroots, membership-based organization.

“I’d love our membership to be really representative of the community,” Schell said.

The Conservation Alliance is celebrating 40 years with a party tomorrow night (August 8) from 6-9 p.m. in The Center lobby/lawn. The free event includes a screening of a new short film, a DJ, food from Cafe Genevieve’s food truck, and drinks from The Center.

A silent auction will debut the “Conservation Collection,” 40 pieces of art from 28 local artists, because “the connection between art and conservation is really long-standing in this valley,” said Conservation Alliance Development and Communications Manager Molly Watters.

The auction also includes gifts like yoga, a day of climbing with Exum, wine, wellness packages… there’s something for everyone, Watters said. A special collection of Abby Paffrath will be available for $25, and the purchase of a hat includes an Alliance membership.

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