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Summer’s Harvest

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The monitoring season at the Jackson Hole Land Trust is wrapping up. We turn our attention away from field work, toward winter projects that can be completed from the comfort of a warm, dry office and reflect on the summer season. The stewardship staff is tasked with tracking changes on conservation easements, and more often than not, that refers to human related changes. Natural changes seem to occur much more slowly and can be more difficult to document from year to year, but this summer provided us with something different.

As we met with landowners this summer, a running theme emerged and we found ourselves asking the same question on every property: “have you had any trees come down this summer?” Inevitably, the answer was yes. Early June greeted us with a powerful, albeit short-lived, storm that brought rain, sleet and especially high winds. It was not uncommon to hear that upwards of twenty trees on an individual property had been blown over during the storm. It was easy enough to see the carnage left behind: the top half of large subalpine firs broken off and flung to the ground, Douglas firs that were entirely uprooted, skinnier lodgepole pine and aspen trees that had been knocked to the ground as larger trees around them toppled over.

Landowners lamented the work that had been undone in the storm and the work that lay ahead to clean up the damage, but we also heard stories of neighbors helping neighbors and jokes about job security. The hard work of the summer has now hopefully turned into a pleasant reward for the winter as fallen trees have become firewood and others remain where they fell, continuing as part of the natural habitat. Hearths will soon be sending warmth throughout homes, and families will be gathered together just as animals seek out dens and hovels – perhaps in recently downed trees – to brave the winter months.

When the snow melts, the spaces left behind by the old toppled trees will be home to the next generation of forest. Saplings will take advantage of the extra light and stretch upward, racing each other to maturity. Before we know it, those holes will be filled in and the June storm will be a distant memory. The stewardship staff at the Jackson Hole Land Trust will have the privilege of witnessing that process, and we look forward to next summer when we can hear stories of the passing winter and of the excitement that new growth brings.

-Joe Meier, Stewardship Associate

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