by Jon Mobeck, Executive Director
For 25 years, Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation (JHWF) has worked to reduce human-caused impacts on wildlife. One of our most visible programs, Wildlife Friendlier Fencing, began in 1996 when a small group of local citizens and JHWF founders organized group fence pulls on Saturdays. Over the course of the next two decades, hundreds of individuals (almost entirely volunteers) helped to remove or modify almost 200 miles of fence. There have been so many key contributors that it would be unwieldy to list them all here, but we recognize two of them today for their dedicated efforts in the field, and for their legacies that inspire our work well after their lives were ended much too soon.
Sue Colligan was the Executive Director of the Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation less than a decade ago, and all who remember her speak to her incredible dedication to the fence program. My personal recollection of Sue was as a member of an early incarnation of the Safe Wildlife Crossings for Jackson Hole group in 2011-2012. While I represented The Murie Center for that purpose, Sue advocated for wildlife on behalf of JHWF. At those meetings (in Vance Carruth’s living room), Sue used her voice effectively and with intelligent precision. I think she could say in 20 words what I convey in 100. Those who joined her on fence pulls have also spoken about her steady resolve to get things done for wildlife. When Sue’s illness took her life too soon, she left a legacy gift to JHWF to continue its essential work. With those funds, we have been able to purchase supplies for the Wildlife Friendlier Fencing program, and in 2018 we used funds left by Sue to purchase a work truck, which has been used extensively to support our Wildlife Friendlier Fencing program (it carries tools and gear to every project) and our Nature Mapping Jackson Hole program (it carries bird banding supplies, mist nets and gear to field sites weekly throughout the summer.)
Greg Griffith is known to many in Jackson as the unstoppable engine of the Wildlife Friendlier Fencing program for many years. A car accident took Greg from us very prematurely, but rarely a fence project goes by without someone mentioning Greg – his specific project methods, his concern for other volunteers, his fierce commitment to doing what is best for wildlife. Stories about Greg are now the stuff of legend, except there’s no indication that any of the stories are exaggerated, as many legends are. If someone says that he once carried six full rolls of barbed wire down a mountain and across a raging river, I’d have to believe it. It must have happened just that way. While I never met Greg, I feel that I know him through these stories, through the many volunteers who were deeply affected by him. When Greg passed, friends from far and wide made donations to JHWF in his honor. Now almost three years later, we still receive notes and occasional donations that reference Greg’s impact. He improved the lives of people as he made our valley better for wildlife. With the donations made in Greg’s name, JHWF purchased a cargo trailer to house all of our fencing tools and other JHWF field supplies. In the near future, we will place a graphic wrap on the trailer that promotes the program and the work of the many volunteers who have contributed to its success over the years.
There are many people to celebrate in the history of the Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation, likely none of whom really care to be celebrated. Many have done the work quietly and doggedly, on Saturdays, in the heat, in the rain. Whatever it has taken to get the job done. The legacy that follows all of these individuals is one of humble service to the wild community, to which we belong. May it ever be so.