Writers and researchers Hannah Habermann and Jesse Bryant have released the first two episodes of their new podcast and radio series, “Yonder Lies: Unpacking the Myths of Jackson Hole,” and while the infamous Jackson Hole is the central character of their narrative, Teton Valley also plays a role.
“We’re telling a story about Jackson, but the patterns of conflict you see here are generalizable, certainly to Teton Valley and the Intermountain West, and even to what’s going on across America,” Bryant said.
Habermann and Bryant have spent time on both sides of the pass and recently lived in Victor before returning to Jackson last year, so they have a first-hand appreciation for the issues that affect both communities.
“We’re covering a lot of big, broad topics and hope we touch on all the players and forces that are shaping not only Jackson but also its neighboring communities,” Habermann said.
Those topics include the histories of Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, and indigenous people of the area, but also issues that have recently come to a head, like chronic wasting disease and wealth inequality.
The rich history of Teton Valley has impacted the region, Habermann added. For example, when researching for an upcoming episode about the isolated and dwindling Teton bighorn sheep herd, she and Bryant learned that the retirement and reduction of sheep grazing allotments along the western slope of the Tetons may have been the big horn sheep’s saving grace, allowing them to descend into the lower canyons of Darby, Fox Creek, and Teton Creek during harsh winters. As they prepare for that episode, they hope to balance the story of conservation with the viewpoints of long-time sheep ranchers in the valley.
“Rather than to take a stance, the goal is to offer different perspectives,” Bryant said.
“Yonder Lies” is sponsored by the Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative with support and recording space provided by KHOL 89.1.
“The NRCC is such a wonderful asset to the project,” Bryant said. “It offers such a wealth of knowledge, and access to a network of people and perspectives outside of our 20-something-year-old circles.”
Bryant and Habermann have relished digging through the considerable resources of the Jackson Hole Historical Society and wish they could share even more from the society’s extensive and fascinating audio archives, like clips of Margaret Murie (“a total badass conservationist,” Bryant noted) talking about elk in the 1930s.
“It kills me to cut a clip down to a minute or two. I want to share the whole hour and a half,” Habermann said about an old lecture on Shoshone history and culture that she listened to in preparation for Episode 2. “I feel like I’m learning so much and I hope the series is reflective of that. It’s like detective work.”
Another angle the amateur historians are pursuing is the relationship between the extreme wealth of Teton County, Wyoming, and the workforces across the region that support it. Bryant is drawing inspiration from his grad school advisor Justin Farrell, who penned Billionaire Wilderness, a socioeconomic study of Jackson’s wealth disparity.
“Jackson Hole is nutso when it comes to the high end of wealth, and the connection between that and the pressures put on the working community and the people who commute hours each day is a story that’s not often told, and sometimes even intentionally erased,” Bryant said.
Habermann and Bryant are aiming for a ten-episode series that will wrap up at the end of May, but they might throw in a few more mini-episodes with material that doesn’t fit any of the larger themes. “Yonder Lies” is available in podcast form on iTunes, Spotify, and Stitcher, and will air each Sunday on KHOL 89.1 at 12:30 p.m.