By on April 14, 2015

Wildlife woes 

DISSTongueJackson, Wyoming – Spring is the roughest time for wildlife. Ungulates are weak, but still calving and fawning. Carnivores are hungry after a long winter of slim pickings. Omnivores, those that hibernate, are grouchy and hungry, too. Migrating birds and most every creature battles Wyoming’s unpredictable spring – warm and sunny one day, cold and snowy the next.

It’s a good time to remind ourselves of the challenges we face as a community. With a collective voice we declare habitat preservation and wildlife to be our top priority. It’s time to start doing the heavy lifting required and put our money where are mouths are.

This community’s appetite for the real sacrifices it will take to preserve open space and protect our wildlife needs to be put to the test. And now. It will take money. It will take saying “no” to development and developers in many places. Preserving wild Wyoming often runs in direct opposition to news items that normally give us glee. “Deplanements up at the airport,” “Sales tax revenue on the rise,” and “Building permits rebounding” are headlines that give us comfort but to everything with hair, hide, feathers and scales, they are of little solace.

We say we are for them but we make pitifully small gestures to ensure we don’t run them over on our roads. We say we are for them because they are the soul of our economic driver (tourism) while we artificially feed them, shoot them when they overpopulate, and collect their body parts for auction. We say we are for them because they represent the last and best of the Old West, yet we gouge out chunks of their habitat and bottle up their migration routes with the first and best of the shiny New West.

Saying that we care doesn’t make it so. It takes action. Choosing to support wildlife might mean hard realities we are not prepared to face. Certainly no politician is. Affordable housing, economic growth, and attracting a more diverse social base are just some of the valley’s pursuits that don’t often run in harmony with wildlife and its habitat. Every decision made in Teton County has to come from a place of protecting what we cherish. The first question we should ask ourselves is: Does this help or harm our wildlife?

Claiming wildlife is priority one means we need to start there in every dialogue. Too often it’s a bullet-point far down the list. It’s time to fish or cut bait, put up or shut up, shit or get off the pot — pick your colloquialism. All around the world we’ve buried wild creatures beneath our egos, money and cement. Soon, very soon, we will experience nature and its animals in zoos only, or maybe on the Animal Planet reruns. While we are so busy being “green” in Jackson Hole, let’s remember to be “brown” as well.

Artistic license to spend 

DISSTongueI may be alone on this one, but I have public art fatigue.

After 45 minutes of internet research, I am unclear on exactly what Jackson Hole Public Art is. It doesn’t seem to be a nonprofit and it doesn’t appear to be a government entity, yet the town solicits board vacancies and appoints members. Jackson Hole Public Art certainly turns to the town when it needs money. Its latest request is for matching funds for a $400,000 dress up of North Cache.

It’s not all JH Public Art either. It’s the idea that some forces are at work in Jackson to make this the new Taos, New Mexico.

JHPA’s mission statement reads: Jackson Hole Public Art forges partnerships for the integration of art into any environment, to inspire lasting cultural, educational and economic benefits.

But our environment IS art. A classic example of the silliness of some public art displays is the redundancy of a painting of the Tetons obscuring a view of the Tetons, or a moose bronze spooking an actual moose.

Now the Town of Jackson is considering whether to give a California firm $60,000 to install art exhibits at the Home Ranch Welcome Center bathroom. (Doesn’t bathroom art kind of take care of itself?) Actually, Gizmo Art Productions of San Francisco wouldn’t so much install the art for that amount, they would simply “produce” it. The real work would be done by anyone caring to respond to a bid request put out by the town two months ago. To date, no one has.

We are still trying to balance a budget. How about more banking and less Banksy? More public works less public art. Most people don’t give a rat’s ass if there is a painting of a rat’s ass that’s getting wet from a sewer line break when they can’t flush their toilet or brush their teeth.

Maybe I just don’t “get” art. Maybe I’m a grouch. But should taxpayers really have to fork over money to see someone’s interpretation of a Dali-esque grizzly bear on acid? It’s a distraction from all the natural beauty that surrounds us.

PHOTO CUTLINE: Loving wildlife by the ton. (Photo credit:

About Jake Nichols

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