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Wildlife symposium aims to advance shared interests in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Julia Cook
Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative
"Shared Home" by Wyoming-based wildlife photographer Julia Cook was the winning image of the Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative's 2023 Human-Wildlife Coexistence Photography Contest. The organization will host its ninth Wildlife Symposium in Jackson on Thursday.

The Jackson Hole Wildlife Symposium is zooming out when it comes to conversations about conservation in the region. The all-day event will bring together a host of stakeholders to collaborate around the management of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE).

The GYE spans Wyoming, Montana and Idaho and is home to a diversity of landscapes and wildlife. The biodiverse ecosystem also includes Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and is stewarded by a wide range of land agencies. This vast and varied patchwork of jurisdictions can make it challenging to address environmental and social shifts in the region.

Ben Williamson is executive director of the environmental nonprofit Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative, which is hosting the symposium. He said one of the goals of the conference is to get many different perspectives in the same room.

“We will be bringing together leaders from agencies, nonprofits, elected officials, educators, policymakers, students and engaged citizens to have a conversation and to take stock of where we're at with human-wildlife coexistence in the Greater Yellowstone,” he said.

The conference takes place on Thursday at the Center for the Arts in Jackson. The event will feature a lineup of speakers and panelists, including GYE legal scholar Bob Keiter – as well as leaders from the National Park Service, biologists, research associates, journalists and other experts in the fields of conservation and land management. Spanish biologist Ignacio Jiménez will speak at the evening’s free keynote address.

The Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative will also host a workshop the day before the conference, which will focus on helping professionals in the field improve their efficiency and problem-solve within their own organizations and agencies.

“So much of our management and policy is fragmented at the moment, not working together and not working in terms of the larger picture across the ecosystem and across our own institutions and our own disciplines,” Williamson said.

In response to this fragmentation, Williamson said the conference provides a critical opportunity to have intentional conversations about what a more collaborative approach to coexistence within the GYE might look like. He said seeing the bigger picture of who’s at the table can help the region move forward in a more unified way.

“It's time that we start to look at all of those different entities and all the individuals that make [the region] up, and start to work together to move the GYE closer to a future where humans and wildlife coexist with each other,” he said. “We're calling this a time to focus on the forest, not just the trees.”

The organizers hope to create a “Grand Strategy” that can advance shared interests in the biodiverse ecosystem.

Hannah Habermann is the rural and tribal reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She has a degree in Environmental Studies and Non-Fiction Writing from Middlebury College and was the co-creator of the podcast Yonder Lies: Unpacking the Myths of Jackson Hole. Hannah also received the Pattie Layser Greater Yellowstone Creative Writing & Journalism Fellowship from the Wyoming Arts Council in 2021 and has taught backpacking and climbing courses throughout the West.
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