Notes from the Field: Landscape Recovery Post Roosevelt Fire

On September 15, 2018, a fire was reported by a pair of hunters in the Hoback River drainage near Bondurant, Wyoming. This small blaze began under hot, windy conditions and expanded with frightening speed. By the time what became known as the Roosevelt Fire had run its course, it had burned over 61,000 acres, tearing through the community of Hoback Ranches and destroying more than 55 homes. The diverse landscape of Hoback Ranches—old-growth conifer forest, open aspen stands, sagebrush steppe hillsides, and rich riparian willow communities—was left barren and charred. In the fall of 2018, as the determined community began to prepare for winter, many were wondering what this treasured landscape would look like come spring.

Hoback Ranches view shortly after the fire in 2018.

Much of Northwest Wyoming’s landscape is described by scientists as “resilient”. This means that the habitat has the ability to bounce back to its former condition following a disturbance like fire. High resiliency is generally a product of the cool temperatures and adequate annual precipitation that create ideal conditions for plant reestablishment. The area burned in the Roosevelt Fire, particularly in Hoback Ranches, has been an incredible example of landscape resiliency. In our visits to the Jackson Hole Land Trust’s protected properties in Hoback Ranches last summer, we were met with an abundance of new, green growth. Many native plant species thrive when exposed to sporadic wildfire, and it was impressive to see their establishment after less than a year.

Aspens thrive in “early-succession” environments, so they are some of the first trees to spring up after a disturbance event. Before larger trees with spreading canopies fill in, an aspen grove will send up a multitude of small shoots that all compete for the ample sunlight available after fire moves through an area. In several places we walked, we noted that aspen shoots were already up to 3 feet high. These stands will soon become thick with new, young aspen and gradually thin themselves over time as larger trees shade out the smaller ones. Likewise, disturbance encourages the growth of willows, which can re-sprout from stumps remaining after fire. These willows will help stabilize the soil in stream drainages as other water-loving plants take root.

In areas formerly dominated by sagebrush, we were greeted by an explosion of grasses and wildflowers. Lupine, an iconic purple flower with silvery, palm-shaped leaves, blanketed several hillsides in such abundance that the hills looked purple from afar. Although sagebrush generally does not re-sprout after being burned, its seeds persist in the seed bank underground. In the spring, young sagebrush plants will appear between the scattered bunchgrasses, and the land will start to return to its former character.

We were also delighted to see plentiful signs of wildlife as we walked protected properties this summer. We documented numerous ungulate tracks left behind by elk, mule deer and moose. The green shoots of new plants are particularly nutritious for these species, and will have provided crucial forage this fall. The fire also left many burned tree snags, which are ideal habitat for cavity-nesting birds such as woodpeckers. We hope to see many of these small, charismatic birds on future visits.

Hoback Ranches has changed dramatically since the Roosevelt Fire. The tenacious residents of the community have made incredible strides in rebuilding their homes just as the flora and fauna of the area are rebuilding the ecosystem. Although signs of the fire will remain evident for many years, new growth is spreading across the landscape, restoring the scenic vistas and wildlife habitat of the area once again.

Hoback Ranches view one year after the fire.

Photos: Jansen Gundersen; Erica Hansen; Erica Hansen.

Employment Opportunity: Land Steward

The Jackson Hole Land Trust is seeking a Land Steward. Job description is linked below.

Deadline: February 1, 2020. To apply, email your resume and cover letter to derekellis@jhlandtrust.org. No phone calls please.

Laurie Andrews,President of the Jackson Hole Land Trust, Announces Departure

Laurie Andrews will continue career as a community leader as President of the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole

Jackson, WY –It is with gratitude and commendation that the Board of Directors announces today the departure of Laurie Andrews as President of the Jackson Hole Land Trust, effective late February 2020. Andrews will be starting her new position as Executive Director of the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole in March 2020.

Since 2005, Andrews has played a critical role in land conservation for Northwest Wyoming and beyond. During her 15-year tenure at the Jackson Hole Land Trust, Andrews was responsible for the protection of over 8,000 acres of conservation land, led the organization through multiple forward-thinking strategic plans, and expanded the reach of the Jackson Hole Land Trust to encompass the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

“Laurie has been an exceptional President and leader for the Jackson Hole Land Trust” said Jason Snider, Board Chair. “We are grateful for Laurie’s visionary direction, which embraced inclusivity, produced strong results, created strong partnerships and prioritized the conservation needs of the whole community.”

“Under Laurie’s leadership, the staff of the Jackson Hole Land Trust more than doubled, the organization successfully completed two significant fundraising campaigns – Forever Our Valley and Save the Block, and we experienced record-breaking annual fundraising and asset growth benchmarks. While we are sad to see her go, we are excited about what her new role means for Jackson’s community and network of non-profits,” continued Snider.

The Board of Directors of the Jackson Hole Land Trust have created a search committee to identify an Interim Director and hire a new permanent leader for the Jackson Hole Land Trust. While the search is underway, the organization is in an excellent position with its accomplished senior leadership team of Jennifer Wolfrom Holladay, Director of Advancement and Engagement, Liz Long, Director of Conservation, and Derek Schaefer, Chief Financial Officer.

“I feel so fortunate to have been a part of such a strong and impactful organization for the past 15 years,” said Andrews. “The Jackson Hole Land Trust has taught me so much about what community means and the passion and generosity that I’ve seen shine through over and over again has been incredibly inspiring. I’m excited to continue my journey as a leader in this special place, and to continue working with extraordinary partners on meaningful projects.”

Continued Andrews, “While it is bittersweet to leave the Jackson Hole Land Trust, I know that the organization is in good hands. The current board and the leadership team are knowledgeable and talented and I will miss working with such a tremendously effective team. While my career is changing directions, my commitment to protecting open spaces is steadfast and I know I will be working with the Jackson Hole Land Trust in some capacity in the future.”

Lori Fields, Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for the Jackson Hole Land Trust, will head the committee that will conduct a wide ranging and broad-based search for a new Executive Director.

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About the Jackson Hole Land Trust

The Jackson Hole Land Trust is a private, non-profit organization that was established in 1980 to protect and steward the treasured landscapes of Northwest Wyoming including Fremont and Sublette counties. With over 55,000 acres protected, our vision is a legacy of protected open spaces, wildlife habitat, working lands and community spaces that inspire current and future generations. For more information, please visit jhlandtrust.org.

R Park Ribbon Cutting Celebration

R Park is excited to announce the official unveiling of new park amenities and photos from the 2019 Slide into R Park program this Friday, September 27, for its 5th Anniversary Celebration.

Read the full press release, here.

605 Acres Protected in Sublette County

The Jackson Hole Land Trust announced today that 605 acres in Sublette County located along the Red Desert to Hoback Mule Deer migration corridor have been protected through the Willow Lake Pasture Conservation Easement now held by the Green River Valley Program of the Jackson Hole Land Trust.

Read the full press release, here.

We Saved the Block!

Learn the full story of the Save the Block closing, here.

Read the Jackson Hole News & Guide cover article about the project’s successful completion, here.

Browse the full list of donors, here. Anonymous cash donations excluded.

Thanks to everyone who supported the Save the Block project.

Land Trust successfully raises over $7M to Save the Block

The Jackson Hole Land Trust is excited to announce the successful completion of the Save the Block campaign, which raised over $7 Million through more than 5,500 individual gifts.

A 500-person crowd cheered on Sunday afternoon at the Jackson Hole Land Trust’s Annual Picnic at Snake River Ranch as bottles of prosecco popped while JHLT President Laurie Andrews announced the much-anticipated news: the organization had met the $7 Million fundraising goal for the Save the Block project.

Read the full press release, here.

Four Days to Save the Block

The race to Save the Block is quickly coming to a conclusion, with just four days to secure a final 425 gifts from the community, after an extension on the fundraising deadline was announced Monday afternoon.

The Jackson Hole Land Trust, leading the fundraising for the project, is emphasizing the need for quantity of gifts, as opposed to number of donors, in their “Last Chance” challenge to raise the remaining funds for the campaign to save the historic community greenspace on the Genevieve Block in downtown Jackson, Wyoming.

Read the full press release, here.

Gifts of every size make an impact, and you can give as often as you’d like. Donate here.

Last Chance to Save the Block

With an early August deadline swiftly approaching, the Save the Block project partners are excited to announce the “Last Chance” challenge to raise the remaining funds for the campaign to save the historic community greenspace in downtown Jackson, Wyoming, which earlier this year was under threat of development from a 90,000 square foot hotel.

Inspired by the community’s enthusiasm, several anonymous donors, led by the local family that has been the lead partner on this project and currently has the property under contract, have joined together to present the community with one final challenge to wrap up all aspects of fundraising just in time for the campaign’s deadline.

The challenge gifts totaling $1 Million are being leveraged for a last chance to Save the Block, under the stipulation that the project receives another 1,500 gifts by August 5, and rounds out the total number of campaign gifts to 5,000 since April 2019.

Read the full press release, here. Donate online today here.

Save the Block: New $1M Challenge

On the heels of a successful Million Dollar May, a new anonymous $1 Million gift has been pledged to the Jackson Hole Land Trust in the form of another exciting fundraising challenge.

If the Save the Block Campaign secures an additional 1,000 gifts of any size by July 4th, we will be granted an additional $1,000,000.

Read our full press release on the challenge for details.

Every dollar counts and time is running out.

Visit www.SaveTheBlock.org to donate