We’re Hiring: Director of Annual Giving

The Jackson Hole Land Trust is seeking a director of annual giving. Click here for details and to apply.

Deadline: August 4, 2021.

Photo: Lindley Rust

Wildlife Cams on the West Bank

After a few years of fieldwork experience, I have seen a lot of wildlife in truly wild places. In a more urban setting, like my place on the West Bank, I was curious how wildlife can exist while navigating the evolving challenges inherent in the landscape.

I was originally inspired to set up a game camera because of a set of muddy raccoon prints on the side of my cabin as if the raccoon was trying to Spiderman up the wall. I hadn’t seen any sign of raccoon other than those perfect paw prints, and I was curious what else was frequenting the property under the radar. Initially, I set up a game camera in a few locations with zero results.

As a stewardship associate for the Jackson Hole Land Trust, I have been privileged to visit numerous conservation easements around the valley. These conservation areas help retain a mosaic of protected wildlife habitat and open spaces, existing in perpetuity, that benefit our native fauna while they navigate the challenges posed by our increasingly convoluted and developing landscape. In conversation with landowners out on monitoring visits, I’ve enjoyed talking about wildlife sightings and migration corridors, whether formal or just patterns of movement across any given property.

Back at my cabin, I noticed a tree had fallen across a buck-and-rail fence and thought that might be an ideal location for wildlife, as it was an easy fence crossing.  Within the first week, I had captured the raccoon sneaking across the log in the middle of the night, and since then have captured footage of an ermine, fox, skunk, moose, mule and white-tail deer, chipmunks, red squirrels, songbirds, and even a bee. I have my favorite photos and videos saved on a folder on my computer, and I will compare different species phenology (when the deer pass through, when new fawns/calves are seen, etc.) to next year’s data.

On behalf of the local critters, I would like to thank our community for their efforts in protecting, conserving, and valuing wild landscapes. And, for anyone interested, the game camera set-up only cost around $50 and has been incredibly insightful – I try to check it every weekend and stay informed on how my local wildlife is doing, all while respecting the animal’s space. Watch the footage!

-Zach Andres, Stewardship Associate

Gun Barrel Flats Easement Protects 97.5 Acres

The Jackson Hole Land Trust (JHLT) announced today that 97.5 acres in the Buffalo Valley have been protected through a new conservation easement on the Gun Barrel Flats Ranch that was once the Walt and Betty Feuz Ranch. Nestled between Grand Teton National Park and existing conservation properties, the new easement protects essential wildlife habitat connectivity and homesteading legacy in the Buffalo Valley.

Protected in perpetuity on May 11, 2021, Gun Barrel Flats borders the east boundary of Grand Teton National Park. The conserved acreage safeguards historic working lands and open space. Landowners Brad and JoAnne Luton, respectively fourth and third-generation natives, have grown up together—they met in high school—stewarding this valley alongside their families.

“It’s really about her parents, Walt and Betty Feuz,” Brad said of his wife’s family and his own motivation to protect their parcel. In 1910, JoAnne’s grandparents originally homesteaded to the south along Spread Creek, and Walt was just 18 when he bought his own land along the Buffalo Fork and began ranching and haying. “We are rooted in this valley,” said Brad, “and we want future generations to see this land as it is.”

Today, the Lutons keep horses and host guests in their hand-hewn cabins. The horses are just for them and allow Brad and JoAnne to pursue their passion—horse packing into the wilderness and daily morning rides into the park with their pups Lacey and Buddy. The guest cabins keep the lights on and owe their rustic charm to a forest fire in Ditch Creek in 1988. With help from friends and a trade for firewood, the Lutons got a permit to cut and skid out 800 lodgepole pines over two summers that had been left standing. They hand-peeled and built each cabin, and this character keeps families coming back year after year—in some cases, 25 in a row!

It’s not uncommon for the Lutons and their guests to see wildlife on the property. Gun Barrel Flats’ location between private lands in the Buffalo Valley and the Snake River Riparian Corridor supports valuable big game, aquatic, and wetland habitats in the core of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Waterways that flow across the property feed into the Buffalo Fork of the Snake River, creating a mosaic of riparian willow shrubland, agricultural wet meadows, and wetlands. The property’s vibrant resources support a variety of native wildlife species. The entire 97.5 acres are within the Snake River Headwaters and the waterways provide aquatic connectivity for the bluehead sucker (a Wyoming Species of Greatest Conservation Need). Stands of willows offer essential habitat for neotropical migrant birds which flock to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to nest each spring. Located in a Big Game Terrestrial Crucial Habitat Priority Area, the ranch provides important resources for Wyoming’s native migratory big game species. Elk, mule deer, and moose use the property during their seasonal migrations. Brad and JoAnne have also spotted wolf tracks on their morning rides as Gun Barrel Flats is habitat for regional wolf packs, as well as the Primary Conservation Area for grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

“We are thrilled to partner with the Luton family to protect this important property,” said Max Ludington, JHLT president. “The Luton and Feuz families’ thoughtful stewardship has maintained the intact ecosystem directly adjacent to Grand Teton National Park for decades and this easement will now conserve that legacy in perpetuity.”

The easement would not have been possible without our generous funding partners: the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service, Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, North American Wetlands Conservation Act–with funds allocated through a partnership with Ducks Unlimited. In addition to the public funding, the landowners generously donated a portion of the easement’s value.

Block Construction Builds Toward New Greenspace

The Jackson Hole Land Trust (JHLT) is thrilled to announce that the Greenspace on the Block will open to the public later this summer following the community-powered campaign to “Save the Block” in the summer of 2019. Though Block businesses are open, construction is well underway and the greenspace is fenced and currently inaccessible. Once completed, the Greenspace on the Block will be a place for friends and neighbors to gather that offers connection to open space in the heart of town and a glimpse into Jackson’s past.

Work at the Greenspace on the Block resumed in April. Guided by the vision of Hershberger Design, Wyoming Landscape Maintenance is set to complete hardscaping by early summer with landscaping to follow. The completed service drive provides much-needed infrastructure to Block businesses that is cohesive with the overall design for the space. Graded walking trails and interpretive signage will invite visitors into the new community conservation property. Age and ability-friendly benches crafted by local designers Hise Sikora and Prospect Studio will offer opportunities for conversation with friends or quiet reflection.

Bruun Boulevard is currently closed for Town of Jackson infrastructure updates that will provide a seasonal flow of water through the Greenspace on the Block each year. The JHLT received a generous grant from Teton Conservation District that will put Cache Creek at the fore of this landscape. Nearly all of this stream is piped underground beneath the streets of Jackson. The Greenspace on the Block will provide an important view of what was once a flourishing waterway and invite reflection on the future of conservation and resource stewardship in the valley.

“We are thrilled to see the community’s vision for the Greenspace on the Block begin to take shape,” reflected JHLT Vice President Liz Long. “We are grateful to the anonymous family that carried this project, our local business and nonprofit partners that call the block home, and to each and every community member that made the Greenspace on the Block a reality. Once completed, it will provide a space for the community to come back together after a year of isolation. We look forward to celebrating this successful project with the Jackson community.”

With a groundswell of local support over a four-month window in the summer of 2019, the JHLT led a fundraising campaign that raised more than $7 million from 2,500 community members. On August 16, 2019, the JHLT successfully recorded an easement on a portion of the Genevieve Block that will protect its community greenspace and historic character forever. The JHLT is raising the final funding necessary to complete construction and bring the community’s vision to fruition with the opening of the Greenspace on the Block.

While landscaping timelines may preclude a full community gathering this year, the JHLT is looking to 2022 to host an all-out celebration. Once construction is complete, however, all are welcome at the Greenspace on the Block!

Meet our Seasonal Stewardship Team

Each spring, the JHLT welcomes stewardship associates to the team. They spend the summer months working in the field with fellow staff and landowners to sustain and enhance the conservation values of easements across Northwest Wyoming. Meet this year’s stewardship associates, Zach Andres and Jackson Ray!

Jackson Ray

Jackson grew up in Portland, OR where he loved to explore the forests and mountains of the Pacific Northwest. His passion for the outdoors led him to study Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Administration at Cal Poly. Upon graduation, Jackson spent some time working at an adventure travel company. This experience made him want to go back to school to study conservation and environmental education. He attended the graduate programs of the Teton Science Schools, and then completed his Masters at the University of Wyoming. After getting his Masters he conducted field research in New Mexico and has since moved back to Jackson, WY. He enjoys skiing, playing drums, and spending time in the mountains.

Zach Andres

Born in Texas and raised in Sheridan, Wyoming, Zach moved to Jackson three years ago. Zach spent his childhood watching grouse leks on the open landscapes of northern Wyoming and ever since has been inspired to understand natural processes and conserve wild landscapes and wildlife. Zach graduated from the University of Denver in 2015 with a B.A. in Geography. After working in the fly fishing industry for several years, he is now pursuing a career in conservation and wildlife biology. He has been fortunate to work on numerous wildlife projects, including research on mule deer migration, wolf-prey dynamics, moose mortality, and microplastics. Zach has a fondness for photography, fly fishing, grouse, hummingbirds, and thick-cut bacon.

Landowner Spotlight: The Morris Family and Camp GROW

Late in the fall of 1976, Dee Morris and Kay Hawkins drove from Big Piney and Jackson Hole, respectively, to meet for their first date at the Corral Bar in Pinedale. Thirty-four years later, the two returned to Sublette County and purchased the Mountain Springs Ranch. The property’s rolling glacial moraines and sprawling sagebrush steppe merge into the mixed forests of the adjacent Scab Creek Wilderness Study Area (WSA), a wary name for a stunning and remote landscape. The Morris’ ranch is a haven for wildlife, notably mule deer and sage-grouse, although other characters like black bears and a few stubborn moose occasionally amble through. Inspired by the conservation standards of the neighboring WSA, Kay and Dee partnered with the Green River Valley Land Trust, and later the Green River Valley Program of the Jackson Hole Land Trust, to protect more than 550 acres of their ranch. With those conservation easements, the Morrises ensure that critical wildlife habitat and working lands persist for future generations.

In 2017, with invasive plants on the rise and cheatgrass creeping in, the Morrises joined with their local National Resource Conservation Service and Sublette County Weed and Pest offices to steward the ecological integrity of their property. The Sage Grouse Initiative provided funding for prescribed aerial treatments that by 2020 had achieved an impressive 90% efficacy on all test plots. Their pilot project is now a successful collaborative model for other ranches.

From the belief that the future of wild places and open spaces depend on today’s youth, Kay and Dee helped establish Camp GROW (Green River Outreach for Wilderness) in 2009. Nearly a decade later the next generation of Morrises, Wesley and Natasha, have stepped into management roles. For the new directors, wilderness experiences and outdoor adventures are vital for kids learning to balance and navigate the tangible and virtual worlds in an increasingly digital age.

At Camp GROW, kids and young adults learn conservation ethics and develop outdoor skillsets through catch-and-release fishing, horseback riding, and Leave No Trace principles. Campers also discover the cultural past and learn about the region’s earliest inhabitants. For more information on 2021 programming and camp dates, please visit www.greenriveroutreach.com.

Join the WYLD Advisory Committee

Do you want to help shape the future of community conservation in Jackson Hole? Learn more and apply to join the JHLT’s new WYLD Advisory Council (link in bio). WYLD stands for Wyoming Leaders and Discoverers and we are listening for the emerging voices of conservation in the valley. Apply today or share with a friend who might be a good fit: jhlandtrust.org/wyld-ac

Sediment-laden Snow Piles Hauled Away from Edmiston Spring

Creeks and rivers throughout Jackson Hole will soon be swollen with snowmelt. In urban areas, melting snow carries sediment, salt, metals, hydrocarbons, and other pollutants deposited on roadways and parking lots throughout the winter into streams and rivers.

Snow storage piles adjacent to waterways present an opportunity to protect water quality. With the support of Hungry Jacks General Store and Basecamp, Teton Conservation District (TCD) and the Jackson Hole Land Trust (JHLT) partnered with Teton Heritage Landscaping on a project initiated by the JH Clean Water Coalition (JHCWC) to remove the snow storage piles adjacent to Edmiston Spring. The JHCWC is a partnership led by the TCD, Protect Our Waters Jackson Hole, and Trout Unlimited to address water quality issues in Teton County. The JHCWC also administers the Trout Friendly Lawns program to promote ecosystem-friendly landscaping practices in Teton County.

Edmiston Spring is a small, spring-fed tributary to Fish Creek. It bubbles up on the east side of Owen Bircher Park, meandering through downtown Wilson along the Wilson Wetlands Trail for about a half a mile before meeting its confluence with Fish Creek. Edmiston Spring is a valuable nursery for juvenile Snake River cutthroat trout and provides aquatic and wetland habitat for numerous other species. Excess sediment, especially fine silt, clogs up loose gravel streambeds, which are critical for both trout and macroinvertebrate reproduction cycles.

Teton Heritage Landscaping transported four dump-truck loads of snow away from the spring. Just how much sediment did this prevent from entering the spring? Trevor Deighton’s Jackson Hole Middle School 8th grade science class investigated that question. Deighton’s students melted down 22 liters of snow and filtered out the sediment. Averaging the values, they estimated that the four dump truck loads of snow prevented approximately 4,783 gallons of water of questionable quality and about 1088 pounds of sediment from draining into the spring.

“The results of the investigation by the young minds at the middle school illustrate how small actions by the community can have big impacts on the water quality of Teton County,” notes JHLT Director of Stewardship Derek Ellis. “The Jackson Hole Land Trust is proud to be a partner of the JH Clean Water Coalition to help protect the waters of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.”

“This project, despite its small size, has a big community and ecological benefit,” says Carlin Girard, Teton Conservation District’s water resources specialist & associate director. “We hope it inspires others to consider snow storage locations that are close to streams and waterbodies, and pursue snow storage removal projects that could have a large cumulative impact on water quality throughout the valley.”

This small project builds on the Edmiston Spring Channel Enhancement Project, a collaborative effort that began in 2015 to improve aquatic and wetland habitat. Partners of that project included Wyoming Game & Fish Department, Jackson Hole Trout Unlimited, Friends of Fish Creek, Teton Conservation District, and the Snake River Fund.

 

Photo: Phoebe Coburn

Spackmans Bring New Beacon Park to R Park

R Park is now home to a new community resource for backcountry snow safety thanks to the heartfelt generosity and adventurous spirit of the Spackman Family. The avalanche beacon training park features Backcountry Access’s wireless beacon training system and is now open for public use.

The Spackman Family are no strangers to the risks of backcountry sports. They generously sponsored R Park’s new beacon park through the Jarad Spackman Memorial Fund of the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole in memory of Jarad Spackman, who died in an avalanche in Grand Teton National Park in 2013. At the time of his passing, Jarad was on the Board of Directors for the Jackson Hole Land Trust and was passionate about the conservation of Jackson Hole’s open spaces. Jarad’s wife, Stephanie, his mother, Susie, and his brother, Brandon, are excited and honored to fund this community resource which will help others manage the inherent risks of backcountry travel, while still bravely pursuing what they love, as Jarad did. As Jarad once said, “Taking risks allows you to evolve. By stepping out of your comfort zone, you just might learn something about yourself that empowers you. Taking a risk might damage your ego, but it sure beats having regret over lost experiences.”

The beacon park will be open and operational throughout the winter as long as the weather allows. The beacon park is an addition to the Spackman Memorial near the East Pond Crossing at R Park. The Spackman Family has long had a special connection to R Park and a deep connection to conservation in Jackson Hole.

Backcountry skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling are becoming increasingly popular activities, making it critical that everyone who ventures out wears a beacon and knows how to assess and respond to the very real risk of avalanches. “As more people will venture into the backcountry due COVID-19 and usage limits at skiing resorts, we are ecstatic the Spackman Family underwrote this timely community asset,” said Jr Rodriguez, community conservation manager/R Park director. “We are hopeful that this beacon park will allow users to hone their transceiver skills without the need to buy a ski pass to access other beacon parks in the valley, all while enjoying the benefits of local conservation.”

“We feel very fortunate as a family to support this endeavor. It is so important for our community to have easily accessible educational tools and programs available for backcountry safety,” said Stephanie Spackman. “We hope this resource will be utilized, along with the many other tools offered in our community, to further support safe travel and a love for adventure in these mountains we are fortunate to call home.”

The beacon park features a Backcountry Access (BCA) wireless beacon training park with one control box and eight transmitters. Users will be able to efficiently practice single burial searches, multiple burial searches, probing, shoveling, and use of RECCO detectors. Each of the eight targets is equipped with an accelerometer so the control box will sound an alarm confirming each successful probe strike upon locating the beacon.

“Having a resource like this at R Park will allow for more people to get the practice they need. It is imperative that all backcountry users, novices, and professionals alike, practice their avalanche rescue skills every season. Regular practice will increase the likelihood of successful partner rescue in the event things take a turn for the worse,” said Liz King, Preventative Search & Rescue Manager for TCSR Foundation.

“As avid skiers ourselves and R Park being located at the halfway point between Teton Pass, Teton Village, and town, R Park has is an ideal place to host a beacon park,” said Ellie Stratton-Brook, R Park community outreach coordinator. “We’re excited for future collaboration opportunities with Backcountry Zero and Teton County Search & Rescue to add supplemental training to the beacon park that focuses on proper avalanche rescue training. We also encourage users to enroll in Avalanche courses in addition to utilizing the Beacon Park for practice.”

R Park is located at the intersection of Highway 22 and the Teton-Village Road (4270 River Springs Drive, Wilson). Participants are encouraged to use alternative forms of transportation to visit, such as START Bus or the community pathways.

736 Acres Protected in the Upper Green

The Jackson Hole Land Trust (JHLT) announced today that 736 acres in the Upper Green River Valley have been protected through a new conservation easement on the Bar Bar E Ranch, now held by the JHLT’s Green River Valley Program.

Protected in perpetuity on December 29, 2020, Bar Bar E Ranch II is contiguous to 873 acres that the landowners placed under a conservation easement in 2007. The additional acreage conserved will safeguard historic working lands and open space and support valuable big game and aquatic habitat.

The family of Bar Bar E Ranch has deep roots in the community of the Upper Green. The conservation property is part of a Wyoming Centennial Ranch, an honor reserved for families who have owned and operated their land for more than 100 years. They are also a founding family of the Upper Green River Cattle Association that move their herd along the Green River Drift, one of the oldest and longest cattle drives in the country. The new conservation easement ensures that the land will support continued agricultural use, including grazing and hay production, which in turn will help the culture and tradition of ranching continue to thrive in Sublette County.

“We are thrilled to partner once again with the family of Bar Bar E Ranch,” said JHLT Director of Conservation Liz Long. “It is incredible to see the result of careful stewardship on this now-historic homestead over three generations of living and working on the land. The Green River Valley Program of the JHLT is proud to play a role in ensuring the ranch will be a boon to the community and Wyoming wildlife for generations to come.”

The New Fork River and Willow Creek flow through the property, creating lush, resource-rich areas critical to sustaining resilient wildlife populations across the arid, sagebrush-dominated landscape that covers much of Sublette County. The property’s diverse topography, vibrant riparian areas and wetlands, and connectivity to vast swaths of adjacent open lands provide important resources for Wyoming’s native migratory big game species and is used by both pronghorn and moose on their seasonal migrations. Bar Bar E Ranch II supports native species of raptors and waterfowl and lies entirely within the Daniel Sage-Grouse Core Area, with multiple active leks nearby. Protection of Bar Bar E Ranch II ensures continuity between the Wind River Mountains, Willow and New Fork Lakes, and the New Fork River.

Funding from the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, and an anonymous donor through The Conservation Fund helped secure the Bar Bar E Ranch II conservation easement. In addition to the public funding, the landowners generously donated a portion of the easement’s value.

“The Conservation Fund is pleased to have secured and contributed funds that assist the landowning family, the JHLT, and our federal and state funding partners to complete this easement,” said Dan Schlager, The Conservation Fund’s Wyoming state director. “This effort will honor the agricultural traditions of Sublette County and protect its unique and vibrant wildlife resources, both essential components of Wyoming’s economy.”