Jacob Pries gravitated toward becoming a policy wonk early in his academic career, excited to one day help conserve the great outdoors he enjoyed so much while growing up in the Midwest. Halfway through his political science undergrad work at the College of Wooster, he also acquired an intense interest in geology, prompting him to take on a double minor in environmental studies and geology.
“If you’d told me I’d fall in love with rocks, I would have told you that you were crazy,” said Jacob who grew up hunting and fishing. But that passion helped build a solid foundation for a career that ties the geologic past to the present — and that connects those who inform critical environmental policy with the natural world.
“I want to give back to something that’s given so much to me.”
Jacob, 24, is working as an intern at the Wyoming Outdoor Council this summer, digging deep into National Environmental Policy Act matters related to water quality issues in Wyoming, among other things. So far, he’s worked long-distance from his hometown of Wadsworth, Ohio, but he plans on making his way to Wyoming soon. He’s especially excited to visit Yellowstone. “I understand it’s absolutely beautiful, so I’d love to get to see the crown jewel of Wyoming and the country.”
I had the opportunity to visit with Jacob recently. Here’s what we discussed about conservation and his hopes to bring people together for smart conservation policy:
What do you hope to give back in terms of connecting people and the outdoors?
People develop a connection to the land. One thing I love about hunting and fishing so much is that connection you feel. It means more to you than you can express in words. The greatest thing about being outdoors is when you’re out there you feel like part of something bigger than yourself, and that’s really rewarding. People are passionate about natural resources and public lands because of that connection — we’re part of an entire scheme of things, that’s what drives people to make sure these places they are connected to are conserved. It’s so important to get people outside and experience, that’s how you get people to care.
What are you working on at WOC this summer?
NEPA and Clean Water Act issues [related to Aethon Energy’s plan to dump oilfield wastewater into Boysen Reservoir], sage-grouse restoration, and mule deer migration corridor work. They are big issues in Wyoming and the West, so it’s really exciting. I learned that the Moneta Divide project is extremely complicated — it’s big in size and it’s big in its implications. That’s one thing I try to realize is the implications of what I’m working on, and I try to [understand] the implications for the people affected. It keeps you motivated and moving in the direction you want to move.
What do you see yourself doing in five years?
Foremost, I’m blessed to be doing what I am now, and I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes. I have a fiancé, so I look forward to getting married and starting a family — those are the big things. As for career aspirations, I’m grateful and thankful for whatever comes my way. I’m interested in policy work and giving back to what’s given me so much — make sure my children and their children get to experience what I’ve experienced in the outdoors.