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Conservation groups promote stewardship with new ‘Mountain Neighbor Handbook’

Screenshot courtesy of the Teton Conservation District.

A new guidebook in Jackson Hole promotes environmental stewardship in the Tetons. It’s marketed mainly to folks moving to the region for the first time.

The Mountain Neighbor Handbook is a collaboration of government agencies, advocacy groups and other nonprofits in the area, and it tries to lay out a path for sustainable living in one of the nation’s most sensitive ecosystems. It has rules about keeping away from wildlife, plus sections on how to manage waste and water, reduce your carbon footprint and recreate responsibly.

Carlin Girard heads the Teton Conservation District and helped create the handbook. He wanted it to respond to two things: concern from locals that newcomers are changing the valley and questions from existing residents about how they can be environmentally conscious.

“Instead of just complaining, we're trying to put a point out in space that we're hoping to move towards and encourage that collective action,” Girard said.

Jackson Hole’s ecosystem faces threats from water contamination, wildlife conflicts and invasive species – as well as wildfires. And Teton County residents consume more energy per capita than people in Portland, Bozeman or Boulder, according to the report.

Girard said many of the handbook’s suggestions are easy ways for people to connect with their environment. Many of them stem from customs and practices that have existed in the region for decades – or even centuries.

“I think that the people who have lived here are better at understanding what is kind of an acceptable level of use of different types of resources, or the way that we maybe even interact with our neighbors,” Girard said.

Girard gets calls from across Wyoming that share the concerns he hears in the Tetons. He thinks the state and region could benefit from the resources and ideas in the handbook as more folks move to Mountain West for the first time.

He hopes to send copies to everyone who bought a home in Jackson Hole in the last few years, as well as others in the local real estate community. Those that visit mountainneighbor.org can also request a copy.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Will Walkey is currently a reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. Through 2023, Will was WPR's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. He first arrived in Wyoming in 2020, where he covered Teton County for KHOL 89.1 FM in Jackson. His work has aired on NPR and numerous member stations throughout the Rockies, and his story on elk feedgrounds in Western Wyoming won a regional Murrow award in 2021.
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