Your conservation property lies within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the last intact ecosystem in the lower 48 states – a landscape of pristine waters, open sagebrush and meadows, steep mountainsides, and rich riparian areas – and the iconic wildlife that call these habitats home. As a landowner or land manager, we wish to provide you with resources to steward your property in keeping with the terms of your conservation easement, and within the context of this extraordinary landscape.
Habitat Enhancements: Guiding Principles
NOTE: the below information is solely to be a planning resource, and does not constitute approval.
The Jackson Hole Land Trust works with landowners to implement habitat enhancements that retain the conservation values protected by the easement while supporting the ecological function and productivity of the natural systems that the conservation property lies within. The Land Trust begins the review and approval process for all habitat enhancements by first assessing whether a proposed action is bona fide based upon the intent, terms and conservation values of the easement.
If you are engaging in any of the following activities on your conservation property, it is likely that you will need review and approval by the Land Trust. Landowner request forms are now available to take the guesswork out of this process. Please contact our stewardship staff for more information.
Enhancing Aquatic Resources:
Recognizing that aquatic resources are connected to the surrounding landscape and watershed, the Land Trust seeks to balance aquatic habitat enhancements with the needs of other wildlife in the riparian community. In fishery enhancement proposals, we look for the inclusion of a variety of aquatic habitat types in appropriate ratios that will support residency and foraging waters for all life stages of trout: spawning, eggs, fry, juveniles, and adult fish. Stream enhancements will not be approved at the total expense or detriment of upland habitat, insects, amphibians, birds, and their supporting vegetative communities. Both emergent and riparian vegetation are also required to assemble a diverse, sustainable, and productive aquatic system.
In pond enhancement proposals, we look for assurances that the biological and structural diversity in ponds and their associated riparian areas and uplands are achieved by having a diversity of habitat characteristics and by the ability to control water levels, water temperature, and nutrient regimes with minimal maintenance. In addition, the above ground structures and alterations required to support the ponds should be minimal and unobtrusive.
It is important that aquatic habitat enhancements: 1) improve existing water features rather than create entirely unprecedented ones; 2) do not convert other habitat types into aquatic habitat; 3) are self-sustaining versus human-dependent for their function; 4) have a known and reasonable life span with minimal maintenance; and 5) do not incrementally and/or additively degrade or alter existing associated ground or surface water features.
Managing Forests and Defensible Space:
The Land Trust supports the position that a healthy forest is one that is comprised of a diversity of tree species and associated plants of various ages and stages of health. In addition, there is a wide range of on-going ecological, successional, and evolutionary processes at play over time that is important to maintain and support. In other words, healthy forests are diverse and are ever-changing due to processes that occur on the land through time. It is important to conduct tree removals for appropriate reasons and at appropriate intensities so that natural and necessary processes are stimulated to sustain forest health. Managing a forest in a way that increases edge habitat, arrests the successional processes, decreases diversity, or is driven by aesthetic or visual preference would not be considered to be an enhancement of forested habitats. Safety can be an overriding need, but this exception must be reasonably applied relative to existing structures, or conservation values can be lost.
Ecological Value of Dead Wood in Forests
It is widely understood by scientists that forest biodiversity and ecological function is greatly enhanced by dead woody debris, both as standing snags and wood on the forest floor. The deadwood component of a forest adds a variety of microsites that provide habitat for wildlife and promote microorganisms that facilitate decomposition, nutrient recycling, and moisture retention in the soil. Clearing downed and dead woody debris for fire prevention or aesthetic purposes needs to be appropriately balanced with the countless benefits that result from decaying timber. If deadfall management in decadent forest stands is necessary, JHLT recommends that 25 – 35% (0.5 – 2.2 tons of large woody debris per acre) of the dead woody debris remain for wildlife habitat, for promotion of structural diversity, and for purposes of nutrient recycling and moisture retention necessary for new plant growth. Overall, the focus of the Land Trust is to help landowners promote the regeneration of young trees that will replace old trees, and thus maintain forests with a variety of tree age classes that are resilient to environmental changes over time.
Recent fire seasons in the West have highlighted the importance of having a defensible space around residential structures. While fire is a necessary restorative ecological process, the Land Trust’s conservation easements support management that increases the ability of the local fire authority to defend residential structures in the event of wildfire in the wildland/urban interface. Previous collaboration between the Land Trust and the Wyoming State Forestry Division to implement defensible space on easement acreage has followed a three tiered guideline where management action decreases with distance from a residential structure: zone 1 – 0-30 ft., zone 2 – 30-50 ft., and zone 3 – 50-100 ft. In the event that a wildfire threatens a residence on private land, our local Fire Department crews will rarely extend their activities beyond the immediate vicinity of a structure on private lands.
Managing Vegetation, Native Plants, and Rangeland:
Protected property owners often seek to alter plant productivity and diversity. Full consideration of plant community changes is important here in Jackson Hole, which still holds a full complement of wildlife species as part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. It is important to note that many properties and the plant communities were historically converted for agricultural productivity. Complex irrigation systems have influenced the presence or absence of some plant communities on properties for many decades. Changes to such communities must be conducted with care to avoid unintended consequences and dependence upon human-dependent artificial systems.
Managing Weeds and Invasive Species:
Invasive and noxious weeds are a threat to the native plant communities that make Jackson Hole unique. These non-native plants tend to reproduce at high rates and compete with native species for water and nutrients. Spreading across the landscape by means such as vehicle tires, wildlife fur, and waterways, noxious weeds are a threat to the conservation values that were intended to be maintained on protected properties. Teton County has made weed control a priority and the Land Trust supports the management and eradication of noxious weeds. Several weed control programs, including direct cost-share payments, are in place through the Teton Conservation District, Teton County Weed and Pest District, and the Jackson Hole Weed Management Association. JHLT encourages landowners to be diligent about weed management and to participate in the programs offered through the county: treatment cost-sharing, weed mapping, and vegetation identification services.
Managing for Wildlife:
The wildlife that utilize your lands may do so for a variety of reasons, such as feeding, migration, nesting, or shelter. Depending on what the land is used for there can be a variety of challenges associated with managing it in a way that benefits both you, the landowner, and the wildlife. Something as simple as the wrong type of fencing, or trash containers, can have devastating effects on wildlife, as well as your wallet. If you ever have any questions or concerns about the local wildlife on, or near, your land do not hesitate to contact us.
Teton County Resource:
Land Management Agencies and Organizations: