Elk Refuge-Adjacent Easement Conserves 40 Acres

The Jackson Hole Land Trust (JHLT) announced a new conservation easement today northeast of the town of Jackson, bordering the National Elk Refuge and Bridger-Teton National Forest. Protection of the property permanently safeguards a crucial link between the elk refuge and surrounding public and private lands in the heart of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Protected in perpetuity on December 2, 2021, the easement preserves the property’s ecologically diverse open spaces that are vital for big game, large carnivores, birds of prey, small mammals, and reptiles. In conjunction with the elk refuge, the easement area lies within Wyoming Game and Fish Department-designated Crucial Winter Range for elk. Its protection also benefits other big game species such as bison, mule deer, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep that migrate long distances to seek out winter range on the elk refuge and surrounding lands. The new easement will limit disturbance in these crucial areas, preserving habitat quality for big game during times of the year when they are most sensitive.

“We are thrilled to partner with the family on this important conservation property,” said Ellen Incelli, JHLT conservation project manager. “Its protection maintains vital open space and permeability for wildlife moving between adjacent public lands, and the well-stewarded, high-quality habitat will continue to support the ecological viability of the Flat Creek watershed in perpetuity.”

The Twin Creek Ranch Road easement lies in an important transition zone between the open meadows of the elk refuge and the forested hillsides of the adjacent national forest. This connectivity is particularly important for many species of wildlife that must move between the two for their daily or seasonal habitat needs. Raptors such as the red-tailed hawk, great horned owl, northern harrier, and American kestrel can be seen hunting along forest edges and in open meadows on the property. Similarly, this area along the forest boundary provides important habitat for large carnivores such as the mountain lion and grey wolf as they transition between large swaths of adjacent federal land.

The easement is located in the Flat Creek watershed and supports a mosaic of habitats, including irrigated agricultural fields, grassland, sagebrush shrubland, mountain tall shrub, and conifer forest. Vegetation on the property filters runoff water before it drains into Flat Creek and associated wetlands. By limiting development, the easement ensures that the diverse landscape will continue to support the healthy function of the Flat Creek watershed, and the expanse of wetlands present on the elk refuge.

The easement was generously donated by the landowners and would not have been possible without their commitment to conservation.

Photo: Zach Andres

Jack Creek Easement Protects 280 Acres

The Green River Valley Program of the Jackson Hole Land Trust (JHLT) secured a new 280-acre conservation easement along Sublette County’s Jack Creek, building on three generations of stewardship to protect agricultural heritage, Wyoming’s big game migrations, and essential open space just northeast of Bondurant.

Protected in perpetuity on November 22, 2021, the unique topography and location of the Jack Creek easement support livestock grazing and a mosaic of diverse habitat types, including open grassland, riparian willow shrubland, wetland, sage-steppe, and stands of mixed aspen and conifer forest. Thanks to the Mack family, who purchased the ranch in 1948, the ranching operation is carefully managed with sustainable practices, efforts that are noticeable in the health of the land.

“I’ve spent my summers on this ranch since I was a teen and have always loved the balance between our cattle and the abundant wildlife that also needed this land,” said Jo Mack, rancher and wildlife artist. “Our family finds value in preserving part of the migration corridor for wildlife while allowing grazing for the domestic animals that are part of our ranching heritage.”

Working lands play an integral role in preserving the open spaces which sustain Wyoming’s wildlife.  Surrounded by the Bridger-Teton National Forest, the ranch lies at the northern end of the 150-mile Red Desert to Hoback mule deer migration corridor. In addition to mule deer, the property also supports pronghorn and elk migrations and provides crucial winter habitat for moose. The legacy of ranching and agricultural stewardship in Sublette County has ensured that big game species can still follow their historic movements across the landscape. The new conservation easement protects these uses in perpetuity, which in turn will help the culture and tradition of working lands in the region continue to thrive.

Conservation of this property contributes to the ecological viability of the Jack Creek basin and Hoback River corridor by protecting headwaters and providing habitat for important species, including native cutthroat trout. Approximately 1.25 miles of Jack Creek run through the ranch, combining with several freshwater springs to create almost 60 acres of wetlands. Coupled with open pastureland, the riparian corridor provides prime habitat for a variety of native birds like great blue herons, neotropical migrant songbirds, sandhill cranes, waterfowl, and shorebirds.

“Jack Creek is incredibly important to our regional wildlife populations, and it is also an important part of the vibrant ranching community around Bondurant,” said Jackson Hole Land Trust Max Ludington. “We are thrilled to partner with the Mack family on this very important conservation easement. The Mack family has thoughtfully stewarded this property for over 70 years and this easement ensures the key conservation and agricultural values they have worked hard to preserve will be protected in perpetuity.”

The easement would not have been possible without our generous funding partners: the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, North American Wetland Conservation Act with funds allocated through a partnership with Ducks Unlimited, Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Knobloch Family Foundation, and the Joe Albracht Memorial Migration Fund. In addition to the public funding, the landowner generously donated a portion of the easement’s value.