Accelerating Community-Driven Impact, Part 1 — Shea Flanagan

Howdy! I’ve headed west to work as the Summer Associate for LegacyWorks Group in Jackson, Wyoming. LegacyWorks accelerates community-driven impact to realize transformative change. Here in the Teton Region, we focus our efforts on large-scale conservation initiatives that could not be tackled by a single organization alone. The organization also focuses on regional initiatives in Santa Barbara, California and Baja California Sur, Mexico. 

Broadly, the work that I’m undertaking falls into four major categories: 1) increasing the ability of local conservation partners to work collaboratively on community- and regional-scale projects, 2) enhancing water availability for human and environmental needs in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, 3) protecting wildlife migration corridors and winter range for regionally significant species, and 4) expanding free-market conservation tools available to local partners.

I’ve been grateful to be able to dive in to nearly all aspects of LegacyWorks’ endeavors and fully integrate myself with the organization’s approach to conducting this important work. Below, I’ll highlight two of the major projects on which I’ve been involved. They include: 1) developing a conservation plan for a critical mule deer migration corridor, and 2) interviewing stakeholders and generating a report articulating the community vision for a locally significant wetland meadow complex.

A herd of mule deer on the move through sagebrush habitat. Image credit: BLM Wyoming

LegacyWorks has been facilitating a collaborative effort among Idaho Fish & Game, Grand Teton National Park, and Teton Regional Land Trust to protect a mule deer migration corridor between Grand Teton National Park and unprotected private lands in eastern Idaho along the Teton River canyon. To determine which areas within the corridor are the most relevant, I have been writing a conservation plan that can be used in conjunction with GPS data from radio-collared mule deer showing their movement patterns. The plan assesses properties in the area by examining their conservation characteristics relevant to this migration. It also provides several maps for spatial context along with potential strategies that could be applied for each property.

Another project in which I have been engaged is articulating the community vision for a locally significant wetland meadow complex. The 40-acre parcel is the largest open space within the town of Jackson and provides unique habitat and recreational opportunities for local residents. The town owns the property and the Jackson Hole Land Trust holds a conservation easement on it to protect its conservation values in perpetuity. LegacyWorks was asked to assess the potential to maintain the conservation values of the property while allowing light development of recreational trails, in line with the terms of the easement and the seller’s original vision for the property when it was transferred to the town. To gain a sense for the contemporary vision, I have interviewed over 20 community members, including former and current staff from local conservation nonprofits and pro-recreation organizations, town planning and administrative staff, town councilors, state agency natural resource experts, as well as individual members of the community with deep interests in and/or ties to the meadow. I am now in the process of synthesizing the findings into a final report to see whether it appears that consensus can be gained for the future of the meadow.

An aerial view of the locally significant wetland meadow complex in the town of Jackson. Image credit: Tim Brockish

I’ve been having a great time so far, and look forward to continuing to contribute to conservation efforts throughout Wyoming and Idaho for the remainder of my summer. In my second post, I’ll share the other major projects I’m undertaking for this internship.

Shea Flanagan, Research Assistant and WRF Fellow | Shea is a Master of Environmental Management candidate at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, specializing in Systems Leadership in Conservation and Business & the Environment. At Ucross, Shea works as a research assistant on a carbon offsets project related to the avoided conversion of grasslands. She also works as a writer for the Conservation Finance Network at the Center for Business and the Environment at Yale, and volunteers as a Nonprofit Board Fellow for The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut. Shea spent most of her time prior to Yale working for The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire and in the Adirondacks, serving on the chapters’ conservation and stewardship teams. See what Shea has been up to.  |  Blog