An interview with Grand Teton National Park Foundation President, Leslie Mattson
In 1997, a small group of advocates gathered together with this intention: “Grand Teton National Park should have a visitor center that rivals its magnificence.”
Ten years and and $25 million later, the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center was built —a state-of-the-art facility funded through a combination of congressional appropriation and private-sector gifts. The project garnered national attention and laid the groundwork for the Grand Teton National Park Foundation.
Over the years, the Foundation has championed numerous initiatives for park improvements, protection, research, and education. Today, through an array of innovative fundraising efforts, the Grand Teton National Park Foundation has raised more than $50 million for park projects.
On August 25 of 2016, the National Park Service celebrates its centennial birthday, which means it’s a perfect time to honor the impact of the National Park Service. It is also a time to lay the groundwork for continued conservation efforts and park enjoyment in the next 100 years.
To share in the celebration, we bring you the voice of Grand Teton National Park Foundation President Leslie Mattson who not only champions conservation and improvement efforts, but is also a dedicated educator and advocate for the organization.
Happy Birthday to the National Park Service from one of the 307.2 million who delved into your wonders last year.
Leslie Mattson, President Grand Teton National Park Foundation
PRE: Tell us a bit about your background and how you came to be involved with the Grand Teton National Park Foundation.
Leslie Mattson: I’m passionate about protecting this area’s beautiful open spaces. I spent 13 years overseeing the Jackson Hole Land Trust and joined the Foundation in 2004. Educating people about National Park support has been a great way to give back to a place that has played a huge role in my life. I want people to care about these special landscapes and be inspired by them.
PRE: Describe some of the primary efforts funded by your organization.
LM: GTNPF funds projects that enhance the Park’s cultural, historic, and natural resources as well as initiatives that improve visitor experiences and engage young people.
On an annual basis, we support wildlife research and protection, youth programs, and historic preservation. We are also approaching the end of a major capital campaign—Inspiring Journeys: A Campaign for Jenny Lake—to improve Grand Teton’s most iconic destination in celebration of the National Park Service centennial on August 25th. This $18 million public-private effort is restoring backcountry trails and front country visitor services for the next 100 years at Jenny Lake.
PRE: What initiatives are you most excited about/working towards in 2016?
LM: Our newest initiative is an effort to raise $23 million by the end of 2016 to help purchase state-owned land that lies in the heart of Grand Teton National Park. The parcel, known as Antelope Flats, is 640 acres and valued at $46 million.
We are working with the Washington DC-based National Park Foundation to raise half of the purchase price by the end of the year. The other half, $23 million, will come from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. If we do not meet our goal, the land could go to auction and has the potential to be developed.
Elk are just one of many species of wildlife that utilize the Antelope Flats Parcel.
PRE: The National Park Service turns 100 on August 25, 2016. Can you tell us about your new programming, and how these efforts support the goals set forth in the NPS 2016 Call to Action Plan?
LM: A main focus of the NPS centennial is engaging the next generation of park stewards who reflect the diverse population of the US. To achieve this goal, we are supporting two additional youth programs. Mountains to Main Street Urban Ambassador Program actively engages urban youth through leadership of young adults who are serving as park ambassadors. We also support a Student Conservation Association trail crew that is currently working to improve over 50 miles of trails in the park.
Incredible views on the Hermitage Point trail.
PRE: How can individuals and organizations can contribute to the Grand Teton National Park Foundation?
LM: Individuals and organizations can contribute to the Foundation by supporting a specific program area—like Prugh Real Estate who generously supported our winter grooming program last season—or by giving to our annual fund that helps cover the Foundation’s operations. In addition, individuals and organizations can give in-kind gifts, such as materials for our Jenny Lake renewal project or outdoor gear for our youth trail crew.
PRE: How else can people get involved with your organization?
LM: Get involved with the park. Throughout the summer and fall, there is a community volunteer day each Thursday where people can help improve trails throughout Grand Teton. We also post other activities and events throughout the year on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter—follow along for the Foundation’s most up-to-date news.
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/gtnpf/?fref=ts
Twitter – https://twitter.com/GrandTetonFdn
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/grandtetonfoundation/
Grand Teton National Park – https://www.nps.gov/grte/index.htm