Closing the Loop: Compost at Community Spaces

The Jackson Hole Land Trust is excited to announce a partnership with WyoFarm Composting, underwritten by Brent and Shelby Belote, to fertilize the landscaping at the Greenspace on the Block and Rendezvous Park. Using premium compost made from locally sourced inputs, the JHLT is reducing its carbon footprint, diverting food waste from the local landfill, and supporting local business by participating in a closed loop composting system. The JHLT is thrilled to continue building a healthy soil system to ensure the longevity of the verdant landscaping at our favorite community conservation spaces.

 

Jackson Hole Land Trust: Curtis, when did you start Haderlie Farms and when did you see the need to start WyoFarm Composting?

Curtis Haderlie: Haderlie Farms started back in 1945 when the farmland was purchased by my parents. Originally a dairy farm which later added a beef operation, I got involved in 2001 and transitioned the farm to include growing vegetables and cut flowers.

As for the start of WyoFarm Composting, that’s been a more recent development. I was inspired in 2013 by Whole Food Rescue and Healthy Being Juicery and began collecting and feeding their leftover food scraps to my pigs. Although I’ve been composting as long as he can remember, I amped up my composting operation in 2018 with the creation of WyoFarm Composting. By increasing community partnerships to include more restaurants and consumers, WyoFarm Composting has moved closer to creating a closed loop composting system for the greater Teton County region.

 

JHLT: Can you talk about your goal of operating a local “closed loop” composting system?

CH: In industrial agriculture, often soil nutrients are depleted to the point where additional materials or nutrients, usually in the form of chemical fertilizers, are purchased from an outside source. In a more holistic approach, soil biology is maintained by feeding the micro- and macro-organisms that should thrive and produce all the nutrients needed by plants. When I was in college, they did not talk about a holistic approach to soil biology. That has changed–there is growing recognition of promoting healthy soil biome instead of simulating it with chemical inputs. One popular nitrogen source is anhydrous ammonia, a chemical that’s easy to apply on a large scale but kills beneficial organisms living in the soil.

A closed loop means you’re not purchasing outside inputs, instead producing necessary fertilizer right there on the farm. In my case, it’s compost. Using a waste product like food scraps makes sense both financially and holistically. As industrial agriculture depends on diesel and chemicals like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (NPK), when those prices go up so does food price. A closed loop composting system insulates Haderlie Farms from those price fluctuations.

 

JHLT: What makes WyoFarm Composting different from the competition?

CH: WyoFarm Composting is particular about what is used as feedstock, or input, for the compost. For our feedstock we collect a lot of food scraps, especially from Teton County, but do not accept yard waste because it typically is contaminated with pesticides, which would taint the compost. As for competitors, some of the more recognized and commercially available composts are made from biosolids recovered from waste treatment plants that can include pharmaceuticals (and whatever else might be flushed down the toilet) like hormone disrupting chemicals, some of which might not break down during the composting cycle.

WyoFarms Composting works hard to ensure that all inputs are clean and free of pesticides and harmful chemicals. Plus, being in Thayne means we’re local and have a small carbon footprint, due in part to the cyclical nature of commuting to Jackson to deliver our produce and pick up compost and food scraps to take back to the farm. We are the number one consumer of our compost – it’s used on the farm to fertilize the food we grow. And, in a process known as full circle nutrient cycling, consumers participate in the WyoFarms Compost program which returns leftover food scraps back to our compost pile.

 

JHLT: Can you talk about the local composting pick up program that businesses like Healthy Being Juicery participate in?

CH: Any business and/or individual can participate in WyoFarm Compost’s service. We supply buckets or 32-gallon roller carts, the participant can choose frequency of pick up and how many bins they need. We make a weekly round to pick up compost. There are even incentives if customers purchase food from Haderlie Farms in the form of credit towards compost.

 

JHLT: Anything else you’d like to mention about WyoFarm Composting?

CH: There are just things that make sense. How did we lose composting? Compost is the food that makes stuff grow. Back in the day, they recycled animal manure and food scrap and put it back on the soil because they understood the value. Composting is a no brainer, and we all benefit by participating.

Meet This Year’s Summer Seasonals

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, Eric Gokee and Micah Melczer!

Eric Gokee

Eric was born in northern Minnesota and grew up in central Vermont. After graduating from Dartmouth College with a BA in environmental studies, Eric was drawn to Jackson Hole for its unrivaled outdoor recreation opportunities, intact ecosystems, and tight-knit community. His seasonal work for the US Forest Service in Oregon and Wyoming has inspired him to pursue a career focused on conservation, natural resource management, and environmental education. Eric is especially interested in the reconciliation of human development and ecological resilience, and he is eager to better understand these dynamics through his work at the Land Trust. In his free time, Eric enjoys roaming the Earth by means of hiking, biking, skiing, and backpacking.

 

Micah Melczer

Prior to joining the land trust, Micah worked on the Idaho side of the border monitoring and mitigating the spread of an invasive nematode which vigorously attacks potato plants. Before that, he worked on prairie and woodland restoration projects in the Midwest, conducted forest and aquatic floral inventories, and did invasive species management work in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In his free time, he used to hike and run in the hills. Micah has a newborn girl,  however, so free time is harder to come by!

Summer Fun at JHLT Community Spaces

This summer, the Jackson Hole Land Trust will partner with a host of nonprofit organizations to bring you fun, community programming at R Park and the Greenspace on the Block. Check out this calendar to see what’s in store and follow us on social media for the latest!

Conservation Spotlight: OE Ranch

Relaxing in a rustic, Swedish cope cabin at the OE Ranch, we enjoy tea and crackers as we listen to caretaker Jack Turner ruminate on his life of adventure and the natural history of the ranch. Nestled in the lodgepole pine forest of Grand Teton National Park, the OE Ranch serves as a refuge for the Seligmann family. Over 60 years ago, the OE was purchased by Otto and Esther Seligmann. They discovered the ranch via their friendship with Inger and Bob Koedt, who were close with the influential Murie family. Bob and his son Peter later designed and built the cabin for the Seligmann family. Its rustic craftsmanship has provided the family a trusty basecamp within the natural tapestry of Grand Teton National Park.

The next generation, Katherine, Michael, Peter, and Monica, have upheld the conservation tradition of the pioneering naturalists of Jackson Hole. They are all active in conservation organizations and Peter, after years working for the Nature Conservancy, founded Conservation International, a global leader in sustainability and the protection of ecosystems. The siblings have fond memories of finding their connection to the natural world here and are grateful for the opportunity to have the chance to offer this special experience to their own children and grandchildren.

With lodgepole forest, sagebrush steppe, and a unique forested spring, the property is home to a great diversity of plant and animal life. Herds of elk, wandering foxes, hunting owls, and friendly ermine, not to mention black bears and grizzlies, are all commonplace at the OE. Jack notes that Grand Teton biologists regard the area around the OE as second only to Oxbow Bend for its richness and abundance of wildlife in the park. In 2004, the Seligmann family donated a conservation easement on the property to ensure that it remains that way.

Jack and his wife Dana have lived by the natural rhythms of the Tetons for many years. Prior to the 19 years as caretakers of the OE Ranch, they lived in a cabin on Jenny Lake⁠—a perk from the more than 40 years Jack served as an Exum Mountain Guide. As the years go by, Jack and Dana have grown more appreciative of the abundance of wildlife and seasonal patterns of Jackson Hole. They relish in the milestones of the seasons, angling to find the first sage buttercups of the spring and noting the freezing and thawing of the local lakes. Looking back at his journals, Jack recognizes that the wildflowers are coming earlier these days, as is the ice-off of Jenny Lake in the spring; approximately two to three weeks earlier, he notes.

A life focused on simplicity and in touch with the natural world has been the muse for Jack’s three books of nonfiction: Teewinot: Climbing and Contemplating the Teton Range, Travels in the Greater Yellowstone, and The Abstract Wild. The Jackson Hole Land Trust extends a hearty thank you to Dana, Jack, and the Seligmann family for their efforts to steward both the incredible habitat of the OE Ranch and the conservation ethic of Jackson Hole and beyond.

 

Apply Now to Host Community Programs and Events this Summer

The Jackson Hole Land Trust is excited to offer the opportunity for local nonprofits to partner in offering their programming and events at the JHLT’s Greenspace on the Block and R Park. All programs and events must be apolitical in nature, not for profit, and open to the public.

For further questions and information, please contact Liz Long at [email protected] or (307) 733-4707 (ext. 110).

Apply to use R Park

Apply to use the Greenspace on the Block

Additional Protections for Munger Mountain Wildlife Corridor Complete

Munger Mountain, Jackson Hole’s southern scenic sentinel, has long been a sanctuary for Wyoming’s incredible wildlife such as grizzly bear, black bear, bald eagle, elk, mule deer, moose and native Snake River fine-spotted cutthroat trout on the adjacent Snake River. The landscape serves as a critical migratory corridor linking the federally protected Bridger-Teton National Forest to the state-protected South Park Wildlife Management Area.

Today, The Conservation Fund and its partners announced a new conservation easement protecting 149 acres of private lands on Munger Mountain. The property is central to the crucial wildlife migratory corridor, while also protecting Teton County’s scenic and recreational resources, which help drive the local economy. In fact, the famous name Jackson “Hole” describes the spectacular and unusual scenic impact of the flat valley surrounded by steeply rising mountains—Munger Mountain being a major geographic feature within that visual. A conservation easement on part of the mountain helps preserve the undisturbed vista, visible from locations all around the valley and the Snake River.

These new protections help sustain the riparian corridor of the Snake River, which flows through the property for approximately two-thirds of a mile, as well as provides calving habitat utilized by hundreds of elk each year. The property also provides year-round habitat for moose and bald eagles, with four eagles’ nests located nearby. The Snake River and surrounding public land support popular recreational uses such as fishing, hunting, hiking and mountain biking, that are key drivers of Jackson Hole’s tourism economy.

This success is a testament to the partnership and, more importantly, to the landowning families of the Snake River Ranch, who have managed their ranch lands on and around Munger Mountain for nearly 80 years in a manner that benefits Wyoming’s wildlife and people.

The Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit that pioneers solutions that make environmental and economic sense, led the effort to secure federal funding from the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Legacy program, funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), in coordination with the Wyoming Division of Forestry. Also part of the partnership, the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resources Trust contributed critical additional funds, and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department will hold the conservation easement that ensures the 149 acres will not be developed. The Jackson Hole Land Trust contributed biological work and will steward the conservation easement in the future in coordination with surrounding conservation easements.

“The contributions of the landowners and many partners involved in this project were essential to achieving this shared outcome—from the conservation ethic of the landowner’s and their patience in working through the process; to the hand-in-hand work with the U.S. Congress, the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Legacy program, Jackson Hole Land Trust, the Wyoming Division of Forestry, and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department; to the support of the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resources Trust,” said Dan Schlager, Wyoming State Director at The Conservation Fund. “It’s personally gratifying to contribute to the success of the Forest Legacy program project in Wyoming, which Luke Lynch, my friend and The Conservation Fund’s former State Director helped get started, before tragically passing in an avalanche accident.”

“Working with partners on this project could not be more in line with Wyoming’s values,” said State Forester Bill Crapser. “A huge thank you to everyone involved, from the landowner that graciously worked with us, to the efforts of The Conservation Fund bringing it all together, and the Forest Legacy program for providing the majority of the funding to make it happen. Ensuring watersheds, habitat, and working forests are protected via a conservation easement is an important part of our mission to conserve, enhance, and protect Wyoming’s forest resource.”

“Conservation easements like this one are critical in protecting important habitat, wildlife movement and scenic areas throughout the West. The ability to limit subdivision and development on this property will have a lasting positive impact on the area. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department would like to thank the landowners and all the partners involved with this project that worked diligently to see it through to completion,” said Sean Bibbey, the Department’s Services Division Deputy Chief.

The Forest Legacy program is a highly competitive national program that uses federal funding from LWCF to support forests of national significance. This effort is only the third Forest Legacy effort in Wyoming’s history and builds off an earlier Munger Mountain success is 2014. Wyoming’s Congressional delegation includes U.S. Senators John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis and U.S. Representative Liz Cheney.

“The U.S. Forest Service is thrilled to contribute to this signature conservation project through our Forest Legacy program. Protection of these critical forestlands along the Snake River provides an irreplaceable wildlife and scenic corridor between the river, Munger Mountain, and the Bridger Teton National Forest. We are grateful to the landowners, the State of Wyoming, and the many partners who worked together to leave this lasting legacy for the public,” said Claire Harper, Legacy Program Manager. Forest Supervisor Tricia O’Connor added, “This successful partnership demonstrates the ability to work through landscape-scale conservation to meet public expectations on well-managed forest and grasslands for all the services the Bridger Teton National Forest provides for people, wildlife, and habitat conservation.”

The property will remain under private ownership by a dedicated, conservation-minded family. The landowning family said: “The ethos of conservation was instilled in our family by our great grandparents who, like many, were drawn to this incredible valley for its abundant natural resources and scenic grandeur. Thanks to the vision and persistence of many in the community, these conservation values persist throughout the valley today and are still worth fighting for. We are grateful to all of our partners, especially Dan Schlager at The Conservation Fund. Without his guidance and personal touch this would not have been possible.”

Not only is this an incredibly important piece of habitat in Teton County, but it is a classic example of how many different agencies and organizations can work together toward a common goal,” said Bob Budd, Executive Director at Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust. “Wyoming is better for this effort!”

“Dating back to the first easement completed by the landowners in the early 1990s, their vision has ensured the permanent protection of working ranchlands that provide a crucial linkage between the Snake River and surrounding public lands,” said Jackson Hole Land Trust Landscape Protection Specialist and Staff Biologist Erica Hansen. “The newly protected acreage will complement seven existing conservation easements held by the Jackson Hole Land Trust and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, bringing the total footprint of protected private lands in the area to over 920 acres. The JHLT is honored to support our partners in conserving this important piece of the Munger Mountain corridor, and we look forward to working with the landowners and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to steward the land in perpetuity.”

Photo: Mark Gocke

Collaring Moose to Understand Movement

I was invited to spend a day shadowing the efforts of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WYGFD) as they searched for cow moose to collar near Wilson. The morning began with a quick meeting in the Stilson parking lot, with a briefing from WYGFD biologist Aly Courtemanch on proper protocol to ensure the safety and wellbeing of us volunteers and the potential moose we were to find.

We jumped into our cars and fanned out in search of moose. Not long after, a tip came in that a cow moose was hanging around in Wilson on a Jackson Hole Land Trust (JHLT) easement, Centennial Ponds! We quickly located the cow moose and the WYGFD team determined she was in a good location, away from roads, so the decision was made to dart the moose with a sedative. Deeply asleep and snoring soundly, the biologists from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department quickly outfitted the female moose with a new GPS collar, including a yellow cattle tag with a two-digit identifying number. An antidote to the sedative is administered, and she’s back on her feet within five minutes. This entire process took no more than a half-hour, a testament to the practice of the WYGFD team.

The Centennial Ponds moose was collared as part of a larger effort to utilize seven GPS collars. As GPS collars can transmit location data multiple times an hour and remain online for years at a time, they have become an important tool for management and data collection. Agencies like the Wyoming Game and Fish Department deploy collars to track animal movement and habitat usage, garnering information that can be used to delineate crucial habitats and important wildlife corridors. In fact, the JHLT protects over 7,900 acres of designated crucial moose habitat in the Jackson work area.

The team at the Wyoming Game and Fish Department are outstanding stewards of our big game populations and the WYGFD serves as a critical partner of the Jackson Hole Land Trust in identifying important areas for land conservation.

I am grateful for the experience and look forward to seeing the collared moose as she continues to meander the West Bank.

Photo & Story: Zach Andres, Events and Outreach Associate

Vogel Hill Easement Conserves 120 Acres on West Gros Ventre Butte

The Jackson Hole Land Trust (JHLT) recently conserved 120 acres of open space and high-quality big game habitat on the slopes of West Gros Ventre Butte. The easement enhances landscape-scale connectivity in Teton County, linking West Gros Ventre Butte to JHLT-protected properties in Spring Gulch and Coyote Canyon while contributing to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s overall ecological function.

Protected in perpetuity, the easement conserves a diverse array of topography, aquatic habitats, and natural plant communities critical for the viability and survival of local wildlife. “We are very pleased to be able to donate this conservation easement to the Jackson Hole Land Trust,” said landowner John Shelton of Trident Partners. “We wanted to reduce the footprint of development on Vogel Hill to preserve an important wildlife corridor that had already been impacted by development in sensitive areas.”

The easement protects vital habitat for wintering mule deer and greater sage-grouse populations with east and southeast-facing slopes with interspersed pockets of mixed aspen, conifer, mountain shrub, and forb. Located in an area of high development pressure less than one mile from the town of Jackson, Vogel Hill also safeguards an elk migration corridor and mule deer Crucial Winter Range as designated by Wyoming Game and Fish.

The steep, varied terrain offers wildlife refuge from the roads, lights, and human activity below. Rocky cliffs, scattered trees, and shrubs provide a variety of nesting sites for a wide range of birds, and raptors can be observed riding the thermals along the butte while migrating and hunting. Large carnivores like gray wolves likely use the property as they move across the valley, and mountain lions may utilize the rocky outcroppings as cover, particularly during the winter. Several songbird species nest in the sagebrush, including Brewer’s sparrow, sage thrasher, and green-tailed towhee. Fisk’s Spring, a tributary of Spring Creek, flows through the eastern portion of the easement and provides spawning habitat for Snake River cutthroat trout. Vogel Hill’s waterways support important riparian and wetland habitats that reptiles, amphibians, and resident and migratory birds rely on.

The Vogel Hill easement’s protection would not have been possible without the landowner’s commitment to conservation. “We are incredibly grateful for the donation of this easement,” said Ellen Incelli, JHLT conservation project manager. “The property’s well-stewarded lands are relied on by some of Teton County’s most iconic wildlife and are a vital piece to protecting the rural character and ecological function of Spring Gulch.”

Photo: Zach Andres

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.