Anderson Design Group Interviews Greater Yellowstone Coalition!
As artists and wilderness explorers, our passion is to venture into the 63 American National Parks, photograph and document these wonderful natural places, and share our enthusiasm for our nation’s natural wonders by creating original, high-quality poster art.
Truly America’s Best Idea, the National Parks were created to preserve our nation’s natural beauty and cultural history. Each park represents a significant chapter in a story that predates the United States. To do our part as stewards of the parks, we’re always seeking new opportunities to support the conservancies, associations, foundations, and friend groups that protect the parks.
To raise awareness for the important conservation activities in Yellowstone National Park, we took some time this week to sit down with Scott Christensen, Executive Director of Greater Yellowstone Coalition.
Greater Yellowstone Coalition Executive Director Scott Christensen giving remarks at the Bison Conservation Transfer Facility Expansion at Yellowstone National Park. Photo NPS/Jacob W. Frank
Greater Yellowstone Coalition
ADG: What is the Greater Yellowstone Coalition? If you have an elevator pitch for what your group does, what would that be?
Scott: The Greater Yellowstone Coalition is a non-profit organization of people who love and are committed to conserving the lands, waters, and wildlife of one of the world’s most cherished wild places, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. We do this by engaging the wide range of people who care about this special place, creating space to find solutions and build consensus, and bringing new ideas and innovation to the table. The organization’s staff works with landowners, agencies, Tribes, and elected officials to advance campaigns and projects that protect the region’s forests and rangelands, wild, free-flowing rivers, and a rich array of wildlife, such as grizzly bears, bison, wolves, and elk.
ADG: Amazing! And I understand you do great work with the National Park Service and within Yellowstone National Park. Can you tell me about some of the programs and directives your group supports?
Scott: Greater Yellowstone Coalition works collaboratively with the National Park Service to protect and sustain Yellowstone’s world-renowned wildlife and other important resources. For example, the organization recently partnered with the park to raise funds to expand the Bison Conservation Transfer Program. This effort helps manage Yellowstone’s bison population and provides animals to Native American Tribes working to restore herds on lands across North America.
Greater Yellowstone Coalition Executive Director Scott Christensen (right) and GYC’s Senior Wind River Conservation Associate Wes Martel at the Yellowstone Revealed event. Photo GYC/Emmy Reed
ADG: How did the Greater Yellowstone Coalition get its start? What’s the story behind the birth of your group?
Scott: Greater Yellowstone Coalition was formed in 1983 by a group of activists and scientists concerned about the future of Yellowstone and the lands that surround it. The group’s formation was based on the idea that it takes an ecosystem to protect a park. The 20 million acres of wild lands in and around Yellowstone needed a voice and a larger vision. The Greater Yellowstone Coalition’s founders developed the concept of a Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the need for large landscape conservation around the world’s first national park.
ADG: What types of projects does your group work on each year? Do you have conservation activities or efforts in the pipeline you’d like to mention?
Scott: Our work is focused on four main pillars – land conservation and connectivity, wildlife conservation, confronting the impacts of climate change, and Indigenous conservation priorities and partnerships. Within our land conservation program, we are working toward buying out a proposed gold mine on the boundary of Yellowstone and protecting private lands through a new federal habitat leasing program in key wildlife migration corridors. Much of our wildlife conservation work is focused on preventing conflicts between humans and wildlife. We fund range rider programs that reduce conflicts between livestock and grizzly bears, place bear-proof food storage and garbage bins in campgrounds, and work with landowners on wildlife-friendly fencing projects. One of the new projects I am most excited about is an effort to restore and revitalize the Big Wind River on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming.
ADG: Is your group involved in research projects in and around Yellowstone? What would an example of such a research project be? And why are research projects in our National Parks so important?
Scott: We partner with researchers and academic institutions working to better understand different facets of the ecology, sociology, and economics of Greater Yellowstone. For example, we recently partnered with Montana State University, the University of Wyoming, and the U.S. Geological Survey to complete the first regional climate change assessment for Greater Yellowstone. This effort provides state-of-the-art modeling and historical climate information to help public land managers, conservation advocates, and communities plan for and adapt to a warming climate.
ADG: Given the extensive list of projects your group is working on, how do you enlist the community’s help in these projects? Do you organize volunteers? Or how do you otherwise fund your work?
Scott: Our staff is based in communities across the region, so we work from the ground up in Greater Yellowstone’s communities to create change. This means we organize local support for conservation campaigns and local projects among residents and decision-makers. We also engage local volunteers periodically for projects like building wildlife-friendly fences, restoring degraded stream banks, or participating in public hearings on projects that impact the region’s lands, waters, or wildlife. Our funding base is national in scope and includes thousands of people from across the country who share our love for Yellowstone and its surrounding lands.
Greater Yellowstone Coalition Executive Director Scott Christensen (middle) on a field tour with the Ruby Valley Strategic Alliance. Photo GYC/Emmy Reed
ADG: That’s so great. And what goes on in the educational side of Greater Yellowstone Coalition? What are some of the educational programs your team is invested in?
Scott: It’s really important that people know they are in bear country when they visit Greater Yellowstone. We promote educational opportunities and resources that keep bears wild and people safe. That means teaching people how to safely store food and garbage, deploy bear spray, and safely hike in the backcountry. On the Wind River Reservation, our Indigenous staff members work in local schools to connect young people to nature and share the deep cultural connections the Tribes have to Greater Yellowstone.
ADG: Looking to the future, what are the short-term and long-term goals for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition? Where do you guys see yourselves in 5 years? Ten years? What do you hope to be working on a decade from now?
Scott: We live in a time of immense change, which is both exciting and troubling. Climate change, more people moving to and visiting Greater Yellowstone, deep political divisions, and historic racism and exclusion challenge our ability to conserve this special place. At the same time, we see many opportunities to work with ALL people to conserve Greater Yellowstone through values-based approaches that unify and innovate. Ten years from now, I see healthy and abundant wildlife populations flourishing as the residents and visitors have the knowledge and tools they need to successfully make space for grizzly bears, bison, and more. I see more acres of land conserved and restored as communities collectively recognize the importance of wildlife habitat and watershed health. I see communities coming together to protect and better manage their rivers in a time of climate change. And I see Tribal communities expressing their rights and sovereignty to protect the lands and resources critical to their culture and future.
ADG: That’s a great vision, Scott! What do you think about our Yellowstone poster art? Any designs we should add to our series?
Scott: The Yellowstone posters look great! One design you might consider adding is something representing the deep connections Native American Tribes have to Yellowstone – the Teepee Village near Roosevelt Arch, or Madison Junction would be fantastic. As someone who loves rivers and trout, I would love to see a design incorporating Yellowstone’s iconic native fish, the Yellowstone cutthroat trout.
ADG: If there would be one thing about your group or National Park conservation/restoration/education generally that you’d want the broader public to know, what would that be?
Scott: Yellowstone is magic. It is a rich habitat for an astounding array of fish and wildlife, from grizzly bears and bison to cutthroat trout and wolverines. It is the headwaters of America’s great rivers, supplying clean water to millions of people downstream. Its sweeping vistas and stunning geothermal features attract and inspire millions of residents and visitors alike. It is sacred ground to nearly 50 Indigenous Tribes. The more of us that care about this special place – and take action to protect it – the better our chances of ensuring our kids and grandkids can experience the magic that is Yellowstone.
ADG: We couldn’t agree more, Scott. Thanks for meeting with us today.
Scott: Thanks for having me!
The Importance of Supporting National Park Associations and Friend Groups
If you represent a National Park Association, Foundation, History Association, Friend Group, or Conservancy that works in any of the 63 American National Parks, contact us today to schedule an interview! Just email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, we’ll return to creating vintage poster art for Yellowstone National Park and other National Parks. Let’s enjoy these beautiful, historic places and do our part to preserve them for future generations.
Anderson Design Group Staff Writer