Features

With rugged mountaintops, free-flowing rivers, and bountiful wildlife, Jackson is a wild place. Much of the area’s wildness is a result of forward-thinking conservationists who worked to protect and preserve that area far before most modern people settled here.

Just about every wild thing we enjoy in the area is influenced by the legacy of these conservationists. Today, people enjoy wild public lands in many ways, from horse packing deep into the wilderness, to hiking and climbing, to skiing at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Snow King Mountain Resort, both situated on the Bridger-Teton National Forest.

The Murie family was instrumental in protecting and preserving the wild legacy of the valley, and because of their efforts, people can still enjoy it today. Olaus Murie was co-director of The Wilderness Society, and he and his wife, Mardy, who was called the “grandmother of the conservation movement,” were ardent conservationists and researchers. Olaus’s half-brother, Adolph, and his wife, Louise, who was Mardy’s half-sister, were also very active in conservation and research. The Muries were well-known for their efforts in Alaska (including Olaus and Mardy’s work in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge), as well as conservation efforts in the Jackson Hole area, including their actions to protect the local elk herd through the National Elk Refuge and supporting the expansion of Grand Teton National Park.

“The Muries were active at a really important time in the development of the Jackson Hole valley and our understanding of the complexity of management in such a unique and wild ecosystem,” says Christen Girard, a Murie Ranch faculty member. “They were fierce wilderness advocates both locally and at a national level.”

The Murie Ranch, a National Historic Landmark District, is located in Grand Teton National Park. It was the scene of many formal and informal meetings about protecting wilderness, and the Muries’ front porch was the epicenter of many of these talks.

“Their front porch became the Western headquarters for the Wilderness Society where those really complex and deep conversations about wilderness and wilderness character were taking place,” Girard says. She says part of the Wilderness Act’s original framework was written right there on the ranch.

“The Muries’ work is as relevant today as a time when people were just starting to define what it means to protect land for its own sake and protect wildness for its own sake,” Girard says. “So much of wilderness and wilderness character is threatened today and their legacy can be an inspiration to us.”

This issue of JHStyle celebrates Jackson’s wildness, the pioneers who first fought to protect it, and the people in the valley who work to keep it that way. Thanks to them, Jackson Hole is “Still Wild.”