A few days ago I had coffee with Carissa Klarich, a smart young Billings (MT) native who’s helping to develop a regional transportation cooperative, develop online trip-planning tools and bus tracking technologies, and build a viable co-op organization to bring cleaner, more accessible public transport to the Yellowstone region. She works for Yellowstone Business Partnership, one of the most interesting groups with “business” in the name that I’ve ever heard of.
I couldn’t resist the provocative headline from a recent post by Stiv Wilson on ecosalon.com about YBP. Wilson, who spoke at a YBP sustainability training in Idaho, calls YBP “a powerhouse of ideas for a sustainable future.” He adds, “I’ve spoken with elite environmentalists at the UN in Geneva and these folks could teach them a thing or two about how not just to talk the talk, but walk the walk. It was nothing short of inspiring.”
What is YBP, and what’s so amazing about it? In their own words, YBP “unites businesses dedicated to preserving a healthy environment and shaping a prosperous and sustainable future for communities in the Yellowstone-Teton region. The Partnership promotes scientific understanding, informed dialogue, and collaborative approaches to resolving our region’s most complex cross boundary socioeconomic and natural resource challenges.” YBP embraces these convictions:
- A Sense of Place is Our Heritage
- Our Parks are Our Future
- Environment Is the Cornerstone of Our Economy
- Conservation of the Region’s Natural Assets is Essential
- Seeking Creative Solutions is Our Objective
Carissa’s project is called Linx, and it’s all about getting people where they need to go in the vast rural areas of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming that make up the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, without unnecessary impact.
This concept taps into my deepest heritage in this region. My great uncles used to drive tour buses into Yellowstone National Park over the magnificent Beartooth highway, entertaining tourists with a running patter of tall tales that they remembered far into their old age. We kids used to beg them to tell it again. My grandpa (on the other side of the family) started the first bus line between Montana and Wyoming from a bus barn on North 27th Street in Billings. He also ran a freight line to the north. Solving the transportation challenges of our far-flung communities is absolutely critical to breaking our fossil fuel addiction. What poetic irony it would be if I wound up running bus lines like my grandpa – but clean, green buses this time, driving off into the future.
Out here in big truck country, a business organization that wants to find market-driven ways to wean us off our personal vehicles is really something to talk about. It’s tremendously exciting to see this work underway.