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Teton Climbers’ Coalition gives out first “Local Hero” award to longtime National Forest program manager

Two people smile at the camera, bundled up in winter gear with backcountry skiing backpacks on. They are surrounded by snow-covered trees.
Linda Merigliano
Linda Merigliano with her husband Mike. Merigliano is the Recreation Program Manager for the Jackson and Black Rock areas of the Bridger-Teton National Forest and was recently awarded the Teton Climbers' Coalition "Local Hero" award.

Having tough conversations about responsible recreation is a big part of working in the world of public lands. Linda Merigliano has had a lot of practice doing just that. She is the Recreation Program Manager for the Jackson and Black Rock areas of the Bridger-Teton National Forest (BTNF) and has been working on land stewardship issues in the highly-trafficked area for more than three decades.

Merigliano received the inaugural Local Hero award from the Teton Climbers’ Coalition (TCC), a nonprofit that advocates on behalf of climbers in the area. The group launched the new annual award this year. It honors someone who embodies the organization’s values of land stewardship, advocacy, and community engagement.

In 1979, Merigliano got her start in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem as a volunteer backcountry ranger in the Targhee National Forest on the west slope of the Tetons. In 1991, she started working in the BTNF and has since played a big role in conversations and actions around wildlife-and-recreation coexistence.

“With a community that has a basic land ethic and is here largely because of wild places, I've always felt like we have the opportunity to create something special here where people really practice respect for other people and respect for the land and wildlife,” said the BTNF Program Manager.

Christian Beckwith, executive director of the TCC, said the Local Hero award recognizes Merigliano’s dedication to dialogue as more and more people recreate in the area.

“What Linda does is balance all these competing interests to ensure that the place comes first and she's just done so for so long,” he said.

Over the years, Merigliano has facilitated dialogues about managing water-based recreation on the Snake River and helped develop the Cache Game and Teton Pass trail systems. She’s also worked on issues of increased backcountry skiing and public safety on Teton Pass in the winter and worked with many stakeholders to “not have avalanches hitting the road and not have fights in the parking lot.”

Merigliano said that the vast majority of recreationists want to be respectful of the land they’re on and the wildlife around them, but they just don’t always know how.

“Most people want to do the right thing and don't want to cause harm. It's just trying to understand what behaviors are really necessary to pull that off,” she said.

Merigliano’s efforts have also focused on education and building partnerships with other organizations that work on recreation-wildlife coexistence in the area. She said she’s particularly proud of the Ambassadors for Responsible Recreation program, a partnership Merigliano helped start with Friends of the Bridger-Teton which gets more people out on the ground to educate the public on guidelines for respectful use.

“My favorite thing is the three R's: respect for people, reverence for the land, and reciprocity to want to give back and do good in the name of the whole community, not just an individual self interest,” she said.

When it comes to climbing, Merigliano said members of the community can make sure new climbing routes aren’t impacting rare plants or disrupting nesting falcons.

The TCC presented Merigliano with the award at the Center for the Arts on January 20th, during its second annual AlpinFilm Festival.

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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