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    Leslie Steen

    By Britney Magleby

    "Why not here? Why not now? Why not us?"


    It's a beautiful philosophy. One that inspires Leslie Steen's powerful work and makes her an authentic representative of Jackson Hole and the inexplicable magic found in the Tetons.

    Leslie Steen is a Jackson local, a conservationist, an outdoorswoman, a mother, and an inspiration. It's 3pm on a bank holiday, and already she's skate skied at Turpin Meadows, spent time with her family, answered emails, and is now volunteering her time to talk with me about the life she's created in Jackson.

    "Why not here? Why not now?," she explains as she talks excitedly about the origins of another powerful project. In those words I realize she's seeing Jackson simultaneously in the present and the future. She recognizes the beauty of today while understanding that work needs to be done to ensure the vision of tomorrow. She sees all this, and better yet, she does something about it. "Why not us?"

    As we chat, I try to imagine Jackson Hole through the eyes of Leslie Steen. She describes it so beautifully, but never inauthentically – “a vibrant place to live”, “dynamic”, “solutions-oriented”. It’s clear that she recognizes Jackson as a complex ecosystem – a place that’s both beautiful and imperfect. An already incredible community that still has so much potential.

    When she turns her attention to the lakes and streams of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, it’s the passion in her voice that captivates me. “I want people to understand that the world under the water is just as valuable as the terrestrial ecosystem on land,” says Leslie, “…and they need our help.” “For me, I’m just as happy catching a trout as I am knowing it’s there,” she explains. Another layer of complexity is added to my understanding of her vision of Jackson – the viewpoints of both human and nonhuman species.

    It’s fitting, as Leslie is the Wyoming State Director of Trout Unlimited and conservation is her passion. However, as we go on, she explains a number of other projects she’s involved in, all with equal or greater excitement than the last. I see now that viewing Jackson through Leslie’s eyes requires many changing lenses, depending on the many roles she holds in our community.

    There’s Leslie Steen, the Trout Unlimited Director who sees Jackson from underwater, recognizing the need to fiercly protect local watersheds. There’s Leslie Steen, the film festival co-director who uses her diverse viewpoint to tell the stories of BIPOC adventurers in the mountains. There’s the Jackson local, who volunteers in the community she calls home; there’s the forever visitor who hasn’t stopped playing and exploring since the first day of her visit. And there’s Leslie Steen, the mother who has created a loving home in the valley of the Tetons and who works to ensure her son will be able to do the same.

    When asked what she hopes for future generations, Leslie answers eloquently, “I hope we come together so we have a community where people from all walks of life can contribute to this place.”

    Leslie Steen of Jackson Hole Trout Unlimited near the Snake River

    On getting to Jackson…

    On a visit to Jackson during her time at Grad School in Bozeman, Leslie’s trip consisted of a few expected Jackson adventures – skiing and time in the backcountry – and some unexpected – meeting her would-be husband and life-long friends. After grad school, she moved to Jackson for what she thought would be a year. But, as with many locals, the vice of Jackson Hole doesn’t easily let go.

    On making a home in the Tetons…

    For Leslie, living in Jackson was an intentional decision. “I knew I wanted it to be home,” she describes, “It’s a vibrant way to live.” So she worked for it. Leslie was the first staff member of Trout Unlimited in Jackson Hole, a position that she herself helped to create, and is now the Wyoming State Director. Building this life in the Tetons meant she could have her dream job in her dream place.

    On her passions…

    “The conservation movement in Jackson is strong,” explains Leslie. It’s likely because there’s so much to protect. Jackson is home to the most intact cutthroat fishery in the lower 48. “I get to protect and conserve every day,” says Leslie with passion in her tone.

    Leslie Steen Jackson Hole Local and Conservationist

    On advice for visiting Jackson…

    1. “Get off the beaten path. To experience the magic of Jackson, take a little more of an adventure or go the scenic route any time you can.”
    2. “If you’re coming to fish, stop into a local fly shop first. It supports local business and gives you insider advice for Jackson’s unique waters.”

    On taking inspiration from Jackson Hole…

    If visitors get the chance to get out on our waters, Leslie hopes they go one step further and take action to protect life under the water. She advises that all visitors who are inspired by Jackson get involved, either here or in their own communities.

    The “Mountain of Youth” describes how Jackson seems to preserve people’s inner youth, their wild side. What do you think it is about this place that has that power?

    Living in Jackson naturally envokes a healthy lifestyle. It’s no secret that spending time outside is good for your health. But in Jackson, there’s always more adventure. There’s always something new to explore.

    #VisitJacksonHole