DON’T MISS: Fête for Public Lands

By on September 6, 2017

Conrad Anker and Max Lowe will speak along with Jenni Lowe-Anker at the Party for Public Lands

Three artist advocates will present on conservation, recreation and keeping public lands in public hands.

JACKSON HOLE, WY — Wild lands run through Jenni Lowe-Anker’s veins.

The fourth-generation Montanan spent all of her weekends and vacations on public lands. “As a young child, I was completely in love with wide open spaces.”

Even if she didn’t always realize the danger her beloved lands faced, she had an inkling that something was not quite right with how people interacted with the land. “I’m one of those people, I was probably about 12 when I thought, it isn’t fair that humans are just doing what they want, and what they what infringes on all these other life forms,” she said, “and ends them.”

Her biggest concern today is that as the number of people in the world grow  the impact of those people on the planet grows as well. Lowe-Anke said, “With the footprint of humanity ever-expanding, those wild places are ever-encroached upon.”

Lowe-Anker, along with her husband, renowned climber Conrad Anker, and her son Max Lowe, will divulge their relationships with public lands at the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance Party for Public Lands, which kicks off at 5:30 Wednesday at the Center for the Arts.

Conservationists and recreationists are one in the same, says Lowe-Anker, and her family is a perfect example of that combo. She said her three sons can’t live without being outdoors. They understand the “inherent value in the woods, in wild places,” Lowe-Anker said.

As a professional climber, Anker is one of the most vocal outdoor recreationists for the preservation of public lands. His fame in the outdoor industry gives him a platform, and he chooses to use it. “It’s the right thing to do,” Anker said. “It’s generational fairness. I want to do it for future generations so they can enjoy what we can.” Together, Conrad and Max recently filmed a documentary that celebrates national parks.

But as much as public lands ought to be celebrated Anker-Lowe said not everyone must travel to be in nature, nor should they. “There is nature even in the middle of giant urban areas,” Lowe-Anker said. There are books and documentaries that showcase awe-inspiring wildernesses across the globe, she said, “Be happy with the knowledge that it’s there, and knowing we can do something to help protect it.”

One of Anker-Lowe’s main concerns is that the footprint of humanity will stamp out the world’s natural greatness. But even as much as Lowe-Anker thinks there are already too many humans on this planet, she also believes it’s people  who can save it. “Those of us who do care about those wild spaces, want to protect them for the next generation,” Lowe-Anker said. The challenge now is getting more people to care, which is why these Montanans were invited to the Party for Public Lands.

Getting people to care about protecting public lands in Wyoming is especially important. Almost half (48 percent) of the land in the state is federal public land. In Teton County, almost 97 percent of the land is public. That means the federal government manages the land—but the public owns it.

Which is why so many people visit and move here, says Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance Communications Coordinator Marisa Wilson: no matter where you are in the valley, you’re five minutes away from a hiking trail.

But, Wilson says, those lands are increasingly in peril. During the last legislative session, Wyoming lawmakers forwarded an amendment that would allow the federal government to sell federal lands to the state. Legislators like State Rep. Marti Halverson and U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney argue those public lands would be better managed by states.

However, others worry that without federal protections, those lands would be subject to mineral extraction and oil rigs. “[The legislation] was a thinly veiled attempt at being able to sell off those lands to the highest bidder,” Wilson said. “It would take away our ability to play on those public lands.”

One of the Conservation Alliance’s goals for the night, Wilson says, is to create testimony to share with Wyoming state representatives in support of “Wyoming Public Lands Day,” which would establish the last Saturday in September as a public lands holiday.  “Each year the government would issue a proclamation, highlighting different aspects of [public lands], encouraging volunteer stewardship, and just celebrating what we have,” Wilson said, “Enforcing the idea that the people of Wyoming want to keep public lands in public hands.”

That’s what the party is about, too: celebrating Wyoming’s vast public lands, and not giving up on the fight to protect them. Even when it feels like an uphill battle, Lowe-Anker said, that is exactly when people need to fight the hardest.

“I know there are people who just feel like giving up. But we can’t give up. We should treasure the amazing and miraculous planet that has hosted us, and do what we can to try and make the best decision going forward.” PJH

The party for public lands begins at 5:30 pm on the Center for the Arts lawn. The first hour and a half is free and open to the public and includes lawn games, a raffle, drinks and a Pica’s food truck. The presentation is ticketed and begins at 7. Tickets are $12, and are available at JHCenterForTheArts.org.

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