Private Lands in the GYE: How do we protect them? By convening and working together.

Introducing the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Champion Symposium


The need for the Symposium

The New West economy is attracting people to the GYE at unprecedented rates. Lured by abundant wildlife and other natural amenities, the region is one of the fastest growing in the country. As land is developed, an influx of people is accelerating the loss of ungulate winter range, wildlife habitat connectivity, and non-forest habitat necessary for many of the region’s most imperiled species.

Losses are particularly severe around growing population centers. For example, the human population within the four counties encompassing Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks has increased by 84% since 1990, resulting in an additional 62,000 acres being consumed for residential development.

Across the GYE, undeveloped lands declined by 33% from 1970-2010, representing 31% of the ecosystem. Ranchlands that once teemed with wildlife and connected our public lands are being rapidly replaced by sprawl. Human pressure on the Northern Rockies is projected to increase. 

The inaugural GYE Champion Summit seeks to do two things 1) establish a peer-to-peer network of NGO’s, ad hoc groups, and individuals and others to champion the conservation of undeveloped private lands in the GYE and 2) develop a platform to strategize and work together in protecting the GYE across state and county lines.

The need for Champions 

Let’s face it: the conservation of private lands around the GYE isn’t going to happen unless those of us who live in it commit to its protection. The GYE is one of the last nearly intact temperate-zone ecosystems on Earth, and we have a special duty to protect it. Whether you’re an NGO, ad hoc group, individual, or another type of Champion, we have the power to protect this globally-significant resource, and more so  if we band together. 

The Symposium Program


6:00: Welcome Reception


9:00: Welcoming Remarks

9:15: 1,000 Friends of Oregon Origin Story, Robert Liberty1,000 Friends of Oregon was founded by Henry Richmond and Governor Tom McCall in 1974. The previous year, Governor McCall had signed Senate Bill 100 into law, creating Oregon’s iconic land use planning system. He and a young attorney named Henry Richmond realized that the fledgling legislation would need a champion—or rather, 1000 champions—in order to truly thrive. Robert Liberty is a former Executive Director of 1000 Friends, and has 40-year career in the design, implementation, evaluation and politics of land use and transportation plans, at the local, regional and state levels.

10:00 Break

10:15 Jackson Hole Conservation Origin Story and Current Issues. The Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance is an NGO with a mission of protecting the wildlife, wild places, and community character of Jackson Hole. Throughout its 40-year history, the Alliance has diligently championed the Jackson Hole we all know today, a community that has managed to protect its community character and fragile environment despite the tremendous, sustained development pressure in the area.

10:25 Valley Advocates for Responsible Development (VARD) Origin Story and Current Issues. VARD is a 20-year old NGO that promotes open spaces, wild places, and vibrant towns in the Teton Valley of Idaho and Wyoming. It has managed to block dozens of impactful development proposals in the valley, and successfully championed the award-winning Teton County Comprehensive Plan and its subsequent implementation. 

10:35 Park County Environmental Council (PCEC) Origin Story and Current Issues. Thirty years ago, a small group of local residents came together to form Park County Environmental Council (PCEC), giving the community a stronger voice for wild places in Yellowstone’s northern gateway. PCEC continues to honor that legacy through broad programming and grassroots advocacy.

10:45 Friends of Park County Origin Story and Current Issues. Friends of Park County is a plucky upstart with a singular purpose: managing the growth that is coming to Park County, Montana. Formed in 2021, the Friends have successfully championed a progressive growth policy for the City of Livingston, Montana, and are working hard to implement a similarly progressive policy for Park County. 

11:00 Ripple Effects: How to Save Yellowstone and America’s Most Iconic Wildlife Ecosystem, Todd Wilkinson, Mountain Journal. . Todd Wilkinson is the Editor and Founder of Mountain Journal, an online news outlet dedicated to covering conservation and public interest issues in the GYE. Wilkinson’s forthcoming book, Ripple Effects, outlines how those who love Yellowstone and the Tetons can save “America’s Serengeti” in the face of unprecedented population and tourism growth.

12:00 Networking Lunch (provided by Future West)

1:00 Future West’s Vision for a GYE Network. Future West is an NGO with a mission to help communities create the future they want. The GYE and the High Divide regions are focal areas for our work, and we are particularly concerned about the loss of community character, affordable housing, and wildlife habitat in the GYE. We believe that many of these issues can be addressed through peer-to-peer networking and bringing capacity to communities in need. In this talk, Future West staffers will outline our vision for a network of GYE organizations committed to protecting this shared resource through local action.  

2:00 Adjourn and Go Enjoy Jackson Hole


9:00 Wrap-Up: What We Learned and Where Do Go from Here. Future West staffers will report our observations and identify areas where GYE organizations can work together – and how Future West can help. 

10:00 Adjournment

The Venue

The symposium will take place at Snow King Resort in Jackson Hole. Admittedly, Jackson Hole is an expensive place to stay. Future West has secured a room block for a discounted rate of $320, which, after taxes and fees, amounts to $415 per night. For those who require help with room rates, we may be able to help. Contact Shawn Hill ( for assistance. To book rooms, simply opt for them in the registration form here.

The reception, breakfast, and the networking lunch will be covered by Future West.