THE NEW WEST: A New Watchdog

By on August 16, 2017

Mountain Journal will raise regional consciousness about Greater Yellowstone.

A bugling elk in Yellowstone National Park. (NPS.gov)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has, heretofore, never had a single journalistic presence devoted entirely to making sense of our vast region.

Now it does.

Mountain Journal was just launched this week as an online, not-for-profit entity devoted to the mission of public-interest journalism. 

“MoJo” was founded in response to the absence of a regular journalistic forum aimed at consistently, aggressively, methodically trying to piece together the differing parts of Greater Yellowstone into an understandable narrative. It will be a free, easy to access venue where people with a shared love for the region—no matter where they live—can gather.

My involvement with Mountain Journal and the mission of its board of directors springs from dozens of conversations held over the last couple of years with people in every corner of Greater Yellowstone.

The common thread from this discourse: Without a better dialogue, without better public understanding of what’s at stake, and without a strategy that involves major players in the region (federal and state land management agencies, elected officials, 20 different counties, local governments, and myriad private special interests), Greater Yellowstone faces a certain fate.

In the face of climate change, inward population migration, development patterns, and other forces occurring on the landscape, the character of Greater Yellowstone has little chance of persevering against impacts that have diminished the natural environment of almost every other place on earth.

It is the hope that Mountain Journal foremost will be a celebration of Greater Yellowstone while identifying landscape-level issues that, for a variety of reasons, cannot be covered well by local media.

Here is a realization I’ve had after 32 years of writing about Greater Yellowstone, traveling elsewhere to other wild regions for magazine assignments and doing research for various book projects: For as much as we share mutual mega-passions for Greater Yellowstone, it’s striking, when you think about it, how little people in differing corners of the ecosystem actually talk to each other. 

Through a stellar line-up of MoJo columnists, part of that gap will be closed.

On one hand, it’s perfectly understandable why folks from Whitehall, Montana, (located in Greater Yellowstone’s far northwestern corner) would not know many souls in the far southeastern tip of the Wind River Range in Wyoming.

Relatively speaking, that’s a vast geographical distance from here to there covering hundreds of miles. Yet between them the same interconnected landscape unfolds.

There is nothing that stands out obviously indicating why one national forest, national park, wildlife refuge, BLM land or Indian reservation would begin in one spot and end in another, certainly not if you are an elk or grizzly bear. 

Nor is the reasoning behind boundary lines for Greater Yellowstone’s 20 counties—the fastest growing rural landscape in America— conspicuous; nor the rationale behind the three state lines drawn for Wyoming, Montana and Idaho that converge upon the ecosystem. Nor the city limits for the differing municipalities.

So, back to the point: there’s a strong affinity all of us feel for Greater Yellowstone, whether we live in Bozeman or Jackson Hole, Lima or Meeteetse. 

At our gut level, we get why the region, apart from its scenery, is special. We take pride from living in a province where there is an extraordinary abundance of wild animals and geothermal wonders that still survive here because they haven’t been messed up by patterns of destruction that have occurred everywhere else.

Unfortunately, traditional print journalism, in most parts of the country, is suffering from advertising models that can no longer support large staffs. That’s why reader-supported public-interest journalism is the future.

It doesn’t matter if you are reading these words from a print or digital version of this great local newspaper. I honor the considerable effort of the editors who toiled to put it in your hands. They deserve your praise and your readership.

Mountain Journal looks forward to sharing content with Planet Jackson Hole and others in distant corners of Greater Yellowstone. With them, MoJo will be collaborating to deliver more in-depth stories that connect the dots of what’s happening in our region at the landscape level. A major focus area will be public land and wildlife issues mixed with illuminating commentary that transcends provincial thinking. 

We live in a world-class region; it’s time to truly start thinking as one. PJH

Todd Wilkinson has been writing his award-winning column, The New West, for nearly 30 years. He is author of Grizzlies of Pilgrim Creek about famous Jackson Hole Grizzly 399 featuring 150 pictures by renowned wildlife photographer Tom Mangelsen. Autographed copies available here.

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