“But I love old Wyoming,
And I’m leaving her to you …
Enjoy … but treat her gently, friend,
‘Cause we’re all just passin’ thru.’
— Final stanza of “Just Passin’ Thru,” by late Jackson Hole resident Howard Ballew
“Information connects our past to the present and helps us peer toward the future. The data we collect and analyze and the decisions we reach based on them are the primary determinants of the kinds of lives we and future generations lead.”
— Garry Brewer, Yale University, 1984
Few people visit or move to Jackson Hole because they have to. Instead there’s a desire — in many cases an overwhelming desire — to connect with the landscape, the wildlife, the ineffable something about the place.
Since “data” is essentially the antonym of “ineffable,” why bother putting together a compendium of data about a place where what matters to most people is that which they can sense but not quantify, feel in their soul not count on their fingers? Precisely because this place matters to so many people.
If a human generation is about 25 years, perhaps five generations have lived in Jackson Hole on a year-round basis. The first generation settled the valley, and subsequent generations have not just further settled it but also acted to conserve its special qualities, that ineffable something. As Jackson Hole’s population has grown, conservation as historically practiced — preventing development on designated tracts of land — has become increasingly difficult, for little land is left whose future is not already determined.
If little land is left for current and future generations to set aside, then what will conservation look like in the future? What legacy will these generations leave? No one has figured that out yet. Absent large tracts of land to lock up, though, future conservation will likely be a function of how we use the resources around us.
Hence the need for data. The quality of our decisions about resource use will be no better than the information underlying those decisions. This publication also contains perspectives from four community members — Ken Asel, Doug Wachob, Jim McNutt and Katharine Conover — taken from presentations made during the Charture Institute’s 2015 “22 in 21” conference.
If the goal of any type of conservation is to enable future generations to enjoy that which the current generation enjoys today, then the quality of whatever conservation legacy this generation leaves — whether good or ill — will be a function of the quality of our decisions. And while only scratching the surface of the kinds of information needed by those who want to leave a better future, the Jackson Hole Compass can provide a solid foundation for those interested in helping ensure that future generations of Jackson Hole residents and visitors enjoy the same essential qualities our forebears’ conservation efforts have allowed us to enjoy today.