June 30, 2016
Coalition Leader Establishes Unique Initiatives to Effect Change and Protect Ecosystem
The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has a long history of land and wildlife conservation. Local residents and visitors alike are lured here by stunning landscapes, charismatic wildlife, and sky-high geysers. Our outreach efforts tap into this sense of appreciation by encouraging sound environmental stewardship practices that improve air quality and reduce petroleum use.
Alicia Cox's tenure with Yellowstone-Teton Clean Cities (YTCC) began in 2011 when she joined the coalition as an intern; today, she serves as its executive director. Unlike other Clean Cities coalitions that serve more urban areas, YTCC is unique in that it supports a sprawling 27,053 square-mile area covering Wyoming and parts of Montana and Idaho, including Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.
"While big-city-based coalitions can make a significant impact on greenhouse gas reductions by supporting a large fleet's transition to alternative fuels, we've had to be a bit more creative in finding ways to facilitate substantial change," Cox said. "The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has a long history of land and wildlife conservation," she added. "Local residents and visitors alike are lured here by stunning landscapes, charismatic wildlife, and sky-high geysers. Our outreach efforts tap into this sense of appreciation by encouraging sound environmental stewardship practices that improve air quality and reduce petroleum use."
The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, which is partly located in Yellowstone National Park, is one of the last remaining large, nearly intact ecosystems in the northern temperate zone. The 34,375 square-mile area is also home to more than 300 species of animals.
Since taking the helm, Cox has established an assortment of innovative programs, including an energy literacy curriculum that provides teachers with educational materials about alternative fuels and advanced vehicle technologies. Developed with funding from an environmental education grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, the curriculum is geared toward a full spectrum of students, ranging from elementary school students, to middle and high school students, to adult learners.
"Our energy curriculum enables us to reach students of all ages, increasing their awareness about environmental issues and providing them with the skills needed to weigh all sides of an issue and take responsible action," she said.
Cox has also spearheaded a number of other major initiatives on behalf of YTCC. Some of these have included the Sustainability Series, which features monthly meetings and events for the community highlighting local sustainability efforts, and Green Fleets, an alternative transportation consulting service. Additionally, she played a major role in creating the Greater Yellowstone Electric Vehicle Working Group, which is facilitating the use of electric vehicles and the installation of charging stations in the region; and the Wyoming Natural Gas Vehicle and Infrastructure Coalition, whose mission is to advance natural gas infrastructure and vehicle use in the state.
In partnership with Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, YTCC has secured more than $750,000 from the Clean Cities National Parks Initiative (CCNPI) to support these and other projects that advance cleaner, more efficient transportation in the region.
"In addition to supporting fuel-efficient and low-emission fleet operations in the parks, this funding has enabled us to educate area visitors—some 7 million a year—about clean transportation technologies that help preserve the natural beauty that draws them here," Cox said.
CCNPI funding has also supported the creation of an electric vehicle (EV) charging network via the purchase of six charging stations (three for each park) and two EVs (one for each park). The new charging stations increase the travel radius for typical EVs by hundreds of miles in each direction, allowing EV drivers to travel through the area emissions-free. Building on this success, the coalition tapped into additional funding—from the Teton Conservation District and the Environmental Protection Agency's Source Reduction Assistance Grant Program—and now offers $5,000 rebates for businesses and municipalities that install public charging stations in communities surrounding the parks.
"This project serves as a testament to the benefits of the CCNPI, as well as our coalition's capacity to establish the partnerships and support necessary to encourage alternative fuel vehicle use across the region," Cox said.
Cox offered this advice to other coalitions interested in fostering relationships with their local national park: "Find the right park employees—they don't have to be people whose jobs focus on sustainability, just people who can serve as your champions. Once you've found your champions, check in with them frequently, invite them to your stakeholder events and workshops, and encourage them to participate in your committees and forums."
"We are very fortunate in having retired Yellowstone environmental protection specialist Jim Evanoff on our board of directors," Cox added. "Jim was instrumental in reaching out to park employees and initiating relationships with our strongest champions."
When Clean Cities coalitions join forces with the national parks in their regions to foster sustainable transportation solutions, the partnerships help preserve America's natural treasures for generations to come.