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April 2009 Alliance Action

1) Planners postpone release of Comp Plan second draft to April 13
2) Affordable housing leads other community planning news
3) Obama signs laws protecting Wyoming Range, Snake headwaters
4) More on the Wyoming Range and energy development
5) Forest Service slows down sale of North Cache acreage
6) Interior Secretary Salazar backs wolf delisting
7) Coming Events
8) Valley Echoes

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1) Planners postpone release of Comp Plan second draft to April 13

After months of delays, it looks like the long-awaited second draft of the Comprehensive Plan may finally be released on April 13, probably during a joint information meeting of county commissioners and town councilors tentatively set for 3 p.m. in the Town Council chambers at 150 E. Pearl. (UPDATE: The draft was released to the public on the evening of April 13; please click here for details.)

Teton County planning director Jeff Daugherty said the release was postponed from the most recently promised date of March 26 because local planners and Clarion Associates, the Comp Plan consultant, needed more time to revise maps that detail how land may be used in the future. “It’s better to get it right than to get it fast,” Daugherty was quoted in the March 25 Jackson Hole News&Guide, and we agree.

Planners say that the release will be followed by a six-week comment period, during which public meetings will be held in different areas throughout Jackson and Teton County. Check www.jhalliance.org/issuescompplan.htm for the schedule; we'll also post our comments there as soon as they’re available. The Conservation Alliance also plans to hold weekly informational open houses each Thursday during the comment period; the first is scheduled for April 16, 4 to 5:45 p.m. at the Alliance office, 685 S. Cache St. Additional discussions will be held on April 23 & 30 and May 7, 14 & 21, same time and place.

Meanwhile, check www.jhalliance.org/issuescompplan.htm and www.jacksontetonplan.com for updates, and visit www.jhalliance.org/Library/Alerts/2009/CompPlan.3-09.pdf for our most current report regarding the Comp Plan process.

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2) Affordable housing leads other community planning news

In addition to the Comp Plan, the Conservation Alliance continues to keep an eye on many other town and county matters. Here’s a brief roundup, however, please note that all meetings are subject to change. Call the Town of Jackson at (307) 733-3932, Teton County at (307) 733-8094, or reach Alliance community planning director Kristy Bruner at Kristy@jhalliance.org or (307) 733-9417 for confirmation. If you’d like to comment on any of these issues, contact information for all local public officials is available at www.jhalliance.org/takeactioncontacts.htm.

AFFORDABLE AND EMPLOYEE HOUSING MITIGATION RATES -- Jackson Town Council, April 6, 6 p.m., Council chambers, 150 E. Pearl. An ordinance to increase affordable housing mitigation rates in town from 15 to 25 percent will have the first of three readings on April 6. Another ordinance to increase employee housing mitigation rates will be up for its third reading the same day, and we commend these steps to promote workforce housing in Jackson. Please visit www.jhalliance.org/Library/Alerts/AffordableHousing.2-08.pdf for background information about affordable housing issues.

COMP PLAN DISCUSSION -- Joint Planning Commission, April 15, 6 p.m., Town Council chambers, 150 E. Pearl. Pending the release of the second draft of the Comp Plan on April 13, the town and county planning commissioners are expected to discuss the draft during this April 15 meeting. (The Jackson Planning Commission’s regularly scheduled April 1 meeting has been cancelled.)

STAGE STOP APPLICATION -- Jackson Town Council, April 20, 6 p.m., Council chambers,150 E. Pearl. As a follow up to their March 2 meeting, councilors are scheduled to continue discussing a request for conditional use permits to allow a lodging facility over 15,000 square feet and a lodging use in the Town Square overlay, and sketch plan approval of this 31,494-square-foot above-grade lodging and retail facility at 135 N. Cache and 120 N. Glenwood. For the Jackson planning staff’s report on this application, visit www.jhalliance.org/Library/Alerts/2009/Stagestop.3-09.pdf.

PLANNED MIXED-USE DEVELOPMENT TOOL -- Town planning commissioners are tentatively scheduled to discuss an amendment to Jackson’s PMD tool in early May. However, to date, the Alliance’s primary concerns regarding this flawed tool remain unresolved. We’ll continue to closely evaluate its role, particularly in connection with the Comp Plan update and given our community’s interest in more predictable planning. Meanwhile, please see our recent report on town development and PMDs at www.jhalliance.org/Library/Alerts/2009/TownDevelopment.3-09.pdf.

UPDATE ON SANDHILL RIDGE PLANNED UNIT DEVELOPMENT AT “Y” INTERSECTION -- On March 2, the Jackson Town Council voted 3-2 to deny this application for a high-density residential condo complex near the northeast corner of the strapped Broadway-Hwy. 22 intersection, and we commend Councilors Bob Lenz, Mark Obringer and Melissa Turley for their decision to uphold Jackson's character and values. Despite the applicant’s request for reconsideration of the project at the March 16 town council meeting, Turley and Lenz (Obringer was absent) did not make a motion to reconsider their votes, so normally the application couldn’t be considered again until a year has passed. However, Mayor Mark Barron told the applicant to discuss his proposed changes with the town planning department, which will now determine if they’re significant enough to begin a new application process. The upshot? We wouldn’t be surprised to see a request for an earlier consideration of an amended application in coming months. Stay tuned…

MELODY RANCH GRAVEL PIT UPDATE -- On March 17, the Teton Board of County Commissioners voted 4-1 to allow the 144-acre “temporary” gravel pit at Melody Ranch to continue operating until a study of county gravel sources is complete. Originally approved as a temporary site in 1996 to fill the infrastructure needs of Melody Ranch subdivision, the pit has since grown to supply about 45 percent of the gravel needed for development and road construction in Teton County. The new gravel study now underway is supposed to make recommendations for appropriate sites for permanent gravel pits; we’ll provide an update when it’s released. The Alliance and other conservation groups have consistently not supported the Melody Ranch gravel pit site for permanent designation given the area’s strong wildlife values.

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3) Obama signs laws protecting Wyoming Range, Snake headwaters

Calling it the most important new legislation in decades “to protect, preserve and pass down our nation’s most treasured landscapes to future generations,” President Barack Obama signed the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 into law on March 30. The act combines more than 160 bills protecting public lands and is the culmination of years of grassroots work.

In addition to adding two million acres of public land in nine states to the Wilderness Preservation System, the act prohibits new leases for energy exploration and development on 1.2 million acres of the Wyoming Range of the Bridger-Teton National Forest, and offers conservation organizations and others a way to keep another 75,000 acres of the range safe from the ill effects of oil and gas drilling by allowing them to buy and retire existing leases (see #4 below). It also protects 387 miles of the Snake River and its tributaries in northwest Wyoming from threats such as water quality degradation and dam building by including them in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

Our thanks go out to everyone who supported this long campaign, especially Craig Thomas, the late U.S. Senator from Wyoming, who was instrumental in developing the Wyoming Range and Snake headwaters legislation. Thanks are also owed to his successor, Sen. John Barrasso, whose persistence helped pay off in laws ensuring that Americans, in Obama’s words, “will not take our forests, rivers, oceans, national parks, monuments and wilderness areas for granted, but rather we will set them aside and guard their sanctity for everyone to share.”

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4) More on the Wyoming Range and energy development

The Wyoming Range legislation discussed above now allows conservation groups and others to buy and retire exploration and development rights currently owned by energy companies, and buybacks of these leases could be an option to avert the developments outlined below. But raising enough money and finding willing sellers in today’s economy will be tough, so these proposals will likely remain a threat to the health of the Bridger-Teton National Forest:

HOBACK WELLS -- Originally due out in September and later promised for March, the analysis of the Eagle Prospect and Noble Basin Master Development Plan (aka Hoback Wells) now isn’t expected until around the beginning of June. (UPDATE: As of August 1, this has been pushed back to December.) Bridger-Teton District Ranger Greg Clark says the delay is due to developing issues regarding air quality and wildlife. This project near Bondurant initially proposed just three test wells back in 2005, but further study was required after Plains Exploration and Production Company switched in 2007 to a master plan with the potential for 136 wells. The draft environmental impact statement for the original project generated about 19,000 public comments; almost all opposed it. Public review and comment on the new DEIS will be accepted after its release; we’ll let you know when that occurs.

CONTESTED LEASES -- Bridger-Teton officials also recently announced another delay of their supplemental analysis of 44,720 acres on the Wyoming Range that were suspended from leasing in 2006, following a ruling that an earlier National Environmental Policy Act analysis didn’t adequately consider impacts to wildlife and the environment. Basically, B-T officials are still reevaluating whether to allow oil and gas exploration on this acreage west of Merna. The results of their study -- a new draft supplemental environmental impact statement -- is now expected to be released sometime this summer and we’ll keep you posted on how you can comment. (UPDATE: As of August 1, the release of this analysis has been delayed until January 2010.)
(A footnote: In early 2008, aspiring lessee Stanley Energy of Denver proposed a plan to drill about 200 wells on more than 20,000 of the 44,720 contested acres. In April 2008, Gov. Dave Freudenthal blasted forest officials for allowing Stanley Energy representatives to participate in meetings between Forest Service personnel and an outside contractor hired on the company’s recommendation to write the supplemental EIS. Under NEPA, companies that might benefit from an EIS are barred from such discussions. Although Bridger-Teton officials admitted that Stanley Energy had an undue influence on the NEPA process, they say they addressed the public’s concerns by publishing notes from meetings that company representatives attended.)

A locator map and additional background information on both of the above items is available at:
www.jhalliance.org/Library/Alerts/EnergyDevUpdate.2-08.pdf.

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5) Forest Service slows down sale of North Cache acreage

Bridger-Teton officials have decided to hold off for now on the sale of part of a 15-acre Forest Service parcel on North Cache, following a March 17 meeting when they asked real estate developers for advice. (This past fall, forest officials said they needed to sell part of this administrative parcel to raise money to pay for replacing old structures and to build more employee housing. They’ve been taking public comments on several options since then; the Alliance’s comments are available at www.jhalliance.org/Library/Comments/BTlandsalecomments.11-08.pdf. Basically, we’re concerned about the intensity and types of development that could end up at Jackson’s north gateway.) According to Bridger-Teton spokesperson Mary Cernicek, the Forest Service is heeding the public’s concerns that the current recession could lead to poor prices, as well as developers’ concerns about the lack of certainty regarding the parcel’s zoning and development potential. Forest officials had intended to auction off the property by the end of 2009; now “they are going to slow down,” Cernicek said. We’ll post updates when they're available.

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6) Interior Secretary Salazar backs wolf delisting

On March 6, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced the federal government's decision to proceed with eliminating Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the northern Rockies, except for those in Wyoming.

A Department of the Interior press release states that "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided to delist the wolf in Idaho and Montana because [those states] have approved state wolf management plans in place that will ensure the conservation of the species in the future. At the same time, the Service determined that wolves in Wyoming would still be listed under the Endangered Species Act because Wyoming's current state law and wolf management plan are not sufficient to conserve its portion of the northern Rocky Mountain wolf population." (After unsuccessful attempts to alter Wyoming’s wolf management plan during this past winter’s state legislative session, it remains unchanged: Wolves are considered trophy game only in the northwest corner of the state; in the remaining 88 percent of Wyoming, wolves are considered predators, subject to killing by anyone at anytime, by virtually any means.)

This split-delisting decision comes as Yellowstone Park wolf populations declined by 27 percent during 2008 -- one of the largest declines reported since wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995. It also contradicts the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's own stated policy that wildlife populations must be considered by region, and that a state-by-state approach to delisting wolves is not permitted under the Endangered Species Act.

Once the delisting rule is published in the Federal Register (UPDATE: This happened on April 2) there will be a 30-day public comment period followed by its expected enactment. The Alliance and other conservation organizations will likely ask for an injunction to delay the rule’s enactment until a separate suit challenging the decision can be decided in federal court. Unfortunately, we can’t request the injunction until 60 days after the rule is published. This will leave a 30-day window, during which wolves in Idaho and Montana will be managed by those state’s wildlife divisions; Wyoming’s wolves will remain under federal management. Both Idaho and Montana have wolf hunting seasons set for the fall; in Idaho, licenses will cost just $11.50 for residents. Meanwhile, what we fear most is the possibility that both states might unleash a very aggressive “control” program during the 30-day window.

For details, visit www.jhalliance.org/issueswolves.htm. More information is also available at www.westernwolves.org, a new site focused on western wolf management sponsored by 17 conservation organizations including the Alliance. Western Wolves has just hired a part-time outreach person, Phil Cameron, who can be reached at: WesternWolvesWY@gmail.com or (307) 733-7406.

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7) Coming Events

Wednesday, April 15: Conservation Alliance info lunch -- Open discussion
Noon, Alliance conference room, 685 S. Cache
Please stop by, tell us what’s on your mind and bring your questions about Jackson Hole’s current conservation issues. Conservation Alliance info lunches take place the third Wednesday of every month. Bring a brown bag lunch; we’ll provide snacks and beverages.

Thursday, April 16: Conservation Alliance open house on the Comprehensive Plan update
4 to 5:45 p.m., Alliance conference room, 685 S. Cache
The second draft of the Comp Plan is expected to be released on April 13, and the Conservation Alliance plans to hold weekly open houses during the following six-week comment period. The first open house is set for April 16. Click here for more information about the Comp Plan process.

Friday, April 17: Community celebration of recent federal legislation protecting the
Wyoming Range of the Bridger-Teton and Snake River headwaters

4 to 6 p.m., Alliance conference room, 685 S. Cache
Please join us on Friday, April 17, to commemorate the permanent protection of the Snake River headwaters and the Wyoming Range of the Bridger-Teton National Forest! President Barack Obama signed these measures into law on March 30, 2009, as part of the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act, and the protection of these waters and forests is a great tribute to Wyoming’s late U.S. Sen. Craig Thomas, with the ongoing support of Sen. John Barrasso, Sen. Mike Enzi and Gov. Dave Freudenthal. In addition, many groups and individuals in Jackson Hole and around the region worked long and hard to ensure that the Snake River watershed would remain pristine, and that the Wyoming Range would be protected from the harmful effects of oil and gas drilling. The Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, which advocated for these protections for several years as part of that broad coalition, would like to invite everyone to celebrate this community achievement at an informal party from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Alliance conference room, 685 S. Cache St. We’ll provide light refreshment. No need to bring anything unless you have a beverage you prefer; an appetizer to share is always welcome. Let’s join together to celebrate these great accomplishments!

Tuesday, April 21 through Saturday, April 25: Earth Week 2009
Various events in Teton Valley and Jackson Hole; for the schedule, visit www.pursuebalance.org and click on “2009 Earth Week” under the Community Stewardship heading.
The local nonprofit Pursue Balance is coordinating a host of activities to promote sustainability during Earth Week, ranging from “A Locavore’s Night Out” 5 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, April 21, at the Wildwood Room in Victor, Idaho, to the popular annual ECOfair, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 25, in the parking lot of Jackson Whole Grocer. Check out these and additional events at www.pursuebalance.org.

Wednesday, April 22: Earth Day event in Laramie
3 p.m., College of Education auditorium, University of Wyoming, Laramie
If you happen to find yourself on the eastern side of Wyoming on Earth Day, you’re invited to attend a statewide dialogue among educators, conservationists, religious denominations, elected officials and others interested in being good stewards of the environment. The gathering is sponsored by On Sacred Ground of Laramie; for details, contact Suzanne Lewis at (307) 721-4891 or shlewis@bresnan.net.

Thursdays, April 23 & 30 and May 7, 14 & 21: Conservation Alliance open houses on the Comprehensive Plan update
4 to 5:45 p.m., Alliance conference room, 685 S. Cache
The Conservation Alliance is holding weekly open houses regarding the Comp Plan during the six-week public comment period on the second draft of the plan. Click here for more information about the Comp Plan process.

Tuesday, May 19: Ghost Forests and the Fate of the Grizzly -- Global Warming in the Greater Yellowstone
7:30 p.m., Teton Science Schools, Jackson campus dining hall
The Conservation Alliance and the Natural Resources Defense Council are sponsoring this educational forum on whitebark pine, and why its decline due to bark beetles and blister rust is cause for concern.

Saturday, May 30: 4th Annual Party for the Pronghorn
7 p.m., Snow King Resort’s Grand Room
Please save the date for our fourth annual community celebration of the Teton Park antelope herd’s return to the valley! This year’s event will feature great live music by the up-and-coming bluegrass band Random Canyon Growlers, raffles and a cash bar.

Friday, June 12, and Saturday, June 13: Greater Yellowstone Coalition Rendezvous
Jackson Lake Lodge, Grand Teton National Park
In connection with its annual meeting, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition is offering a number of workshops relating to the importance of wildlife corridors in and around Jackson Hole. Visit www.greateryellowstone.org/annualmeeting for details and registration information.

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8) Valley Echoes

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not."

- Dr. Seuss

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Alliance Action is a publication of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance. The Conservation Alliance is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to responsible land stewardship in Jackson Hole to ensure that human activities are in harmony with the area’s irreplaceable wildlife, scenic, and other natural resources. We’re located at 685 South Cache Street in Jackson, Wyoming. Our mailing address is P.O. Box 2728, Jackson, WY 83001-2728 and our phone number is (307) 733-9417.

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