A groundbreaking funding model is born
Taylor Phillips, owner of Eco Tour Adventures vision comes to life and will leave a great legacy for Wyoming's wildlife
Impact! How often do we think of it in terms that are mind boggling in their extremes? Take tourism, for example, in and around the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, sometimes known as the Serengeti of North America for its easily visible charismatic wildlife. The annual pilgrimage of millions of visitors has perhaps become synonymous with frustrations and infrastructure challenges but not for Taylor Phillips, owner and operator of EcoTour Adventures. ‘Impact’ for Taylor means opportunity. As someone whose livelihood depends on wildlife, he knows that the future of wildlife is made brighter by conservation.
Taylor has long explored the idea that while most of his vans follow prescribed routes, the animals that so lure and delight his clients are completely unaware of jurisdictional boundaries and nuanced policy. Without going into too much of a history lesson, Taylor’s inner compass for opportunity set him on a course to see how revenue might be integrated into the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, traditionally supported-up to 90%-by hunters and anglers.
Impact! President of the WYldlife Fund, Chris McBarnes, knows a little about it. If you read his bio here, you will see he came into his present position with the idea of positive impact as his NorthStar.
Chris’ mission from the Board was to ‘make a home for everyone who loves wildlife’…
This portal to contribute to projects that directly benefit wildlife, was exactly what Taylor was looking for when Chris accepted his position in March of 2020, but of course, the events that stalled a nation, kept them waiting too.
The wait was worth it. Over the year, ideas surged, and the delay gave them time to pitch and refine, adapt, discard, and start again! Taylor and Chris formed a strong bond through their commitment to the goal of opening doors for businesses that depend on Wyoming’s wildlife for their livelihood. Promoting the idea, to tourism-based establishments, that they would now be able to support projects that enhance wildlife, became the rallying cry and Wildlife Tourism for Tomorrow was born.
On April 20th, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commissioners, together with the Grand Teton National Park Superintendent and the Manager of the National Elk Refuge, and their key senior staff, graciously accepted an invitation to take a tour with Taylor to enjoy what watchers come from all over the world to experience.
Wyoming is the least populated state in the lower 48, so ‘day-tripping’ is a small portion of the 4-4.5 MILLION people that come every year, specifically to see landscapes and wildlife. Those far-flung visitors depend on Wyoming hospitality. They eat, rent rooms, houses, campsites, buy souvenirs, clothes, entertainment, and then return home with precious memories, which they cherish, and share, and maybe even renew as they are able. In fact, Taylor’s Ecotour Adventures is one of 50 road-based wildlife watching businesses in Jackson alone that collect toward an estimated $377M that wildlife watchers spend and the total $511M added annually to Wyoming’s economy, providing 5,184 jobs. (UW 2017)
Wildlife Tourism for Tomorrow has already become the ‘Ah-ha’ moment for at least 28 businesses in and around the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in just the last few weeks.
Although the wildlife itself remains blissfully unaware of the effort and collaboration that Chris, Taylor, and Wyoming’s business leaders are spearheading, the projects that the businesses select and make a tax-deductible contribution to-and you will know them by the beautiful plaque they display-will positively support and sustain the wildlife for generations to come.