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Keeping Our Eye on the (Snow)ball

East Gros Ventre Butte & Elk Refuge [Photo: Jenny Wolfrom]

As winter continues to march on here in Jackson Hole, the snow covered peaks and bitter cold temperatures are a daily reminder of the sometimes unforgiving nature of the place we’ve chosen to live. Just like our furry and feathered brethren of the area, we’re prone to hunker down on occasion – but rest assured that the Jackson Hole Land Trust staff continues to keep our eye on the (snow)ball when it comes to stewarding our conservation easements and pursuing new protection projects.

This winter, we continue to make great strides towards reaching conservation goals established in our June 2013 strategy planning session:

From the stewardship perspective
The snowy months offer us the opportunity to see occurrences that often go unnoticed during the growing season, or hone in on hotspots that become havens of winter wildlife activity. Whether it’s corridors where daily animal movements occur, patches of vegetation that experience heavy browse, or pockets of open water that offer unique habitat, the winter season helps us to piece together how conservation easement protected properties function in the dynamic ecology of the valley. Every other winter, we also look at Teton County’s most recent aerial photography to get a glimpse of changes occurring on the landscape over time.

From the protection perspective
An important winter task for Land Trust staff is the completion of baseline inventories for active projects that will have conservation easements placed on them in the coming months. It is always rewarding to line up data collected in the autumn on visits to potential conservation properties with working conservation easement documents, and to collaborate with landowners to finalize an agreement that represents both their conservation desires and the land’s conservation values that we will soon be entrusted to uphold in perpetuity. Exciting projects are in the works that will protect lush agricultural working lands, amazing scenic backdrops, and wildlife habitat and migration corridors that support crucial ecological functions for animals transitioning between the private lands of the valley and the large tracts of surrounding public land.

From the organizational perspective
We are settling into our new offices, becoming accustomed to the new workspaces, and familiarizing ourselves with our new environment. We’ve also taken the venue change as an opportunity to refresh our perspective on our existing perpetual monitoring processes and practices. We’ll be implementing changes in 2014 to be more responsive to our landowner partners, and will be enlisting technologies, techniques, and logistics to increase consistency in our duties. We are also upgrading our geographic information system (GIS) to better serve our needs, the needs of our landowner partners, and to be on par with our partners here in Wyoming and nationally.

The Jackson Hole Land Trust is looking forward to what the year ahead holds for us in stewardship and protection. And with all of the goings on, we seem to be putting to rest the myth of a dormant winter season.

-Steffan Freeman

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