Historic Preservation Month: The Block

Today, the Genevieve Block hosts a cherished community greenspace and historic buildings that are currently home to beloved local business. The Block is not only a community hub, but also provides a glimpse into Jackson Hole’s history. May is National Historic Preservation Month, and in honor of that we recognize the unique historic buildings, properties, and places that make up the heritage and character of our treasured landscapes. From homesteaded working lands and houses to the first businesses that lined main streets, our western roots continue to shape Wyoming communities today.

In August of 2019, the Jackson Hole Land Trust celebrated the monumental completion of an ambitious $7 million community campaign to “Save the Block” to safeguard the community greenspace through a conservation easement and protect its historical character. The Block represents the town’s early history from the lens of a foundational family, the Van Vlecks. The 1.2-acre lot located just off of Broadway and Deloney, pays homage to the grit and determination of what was once a modest agricultural town and the residents who called it home. The three original structures nestled in the lot’s greenspace characterize Jackson’s architectural past as it evolved from a small western town into a tourist destination. But beyond their squared joints and wooden bones, the buildings memorialize the people who walked through their rooms and into a mountain town’s history.

The Van Vleck House, visible today as Café Genevieve, has been a community-gathering place for over 100 years. The log cabin was originally constructed by Clare Roy (Roy) Van Vleck in 1910 and was the only property in Jackson with a water well at the time. Neighbors would often stop by for meetings, social activities, and, of course, water. Roy and his wife, Genevieve, resided in the cabin until 1960, during which they helped shape the town as it grew around them. Roy Van Vleck was a businessman and operated the town’s first mercantile, which he later sold to his son-in-law, Harry Weston. Roy invested in his community as a board member for the school and hospital and then later served as Land Commissioner. Genevieve Van Vleck gained fame as one of five women elected to town council in May 1920. After their election, Genevieve and her fellow councilors continued to appoint women to administrative positions, making Jackson the first in the nation with an all-woman municipal government. Genevieve served for three years and helped solidify the ethos of independent women in the West.

The Weston and Stewart Houses are situated to the east of the original Van Vleck House and sit slightly farther back from Broadway. The Van Vleck children, Estella (Stella) and Katherine Jean (Jean), built the homes on land gifted or sold to them by their father, Roy. Stella and her husband, Harry Weston, constructed the Weston House in 1936 as a cross between Roy and Genevieve’s log cabin and the bungalow-style popular during the time. Stella and Harry were community leaders, conservationists, and, like many people in northwestern Wyoming, outdoor-enthusiasts. Stella helped found the local Girl Scouts, served on several community organization boards, and enjoyed annual hunting trips for sage grouse and antelope. Civic duty was also important to Harry, as he served on the town council, as a board member of the Grand Teton National Park Natural History Association for over 50 years, and maintained membership numerous other local organizations. In 1950, Jean and her husband Robert Stewart, built a red ranch-style home on land gifted to her by Roy and purchased from her sister, Stella. The Stewart House is the western-most house on the Genevieve Block and represents the last of the Van Vleck family houses built at a time when downtown Jackson was becoming a busier, residential area.

As a result of the tremendous community and partner support during the Save The Block campaign last summer, we showed that greenspace and heritage matter. As Jackson continues to evolve, The Block will remain constant. The space will persist with its cherished businesses, greenspace, and historic character that reminds us of the town’s humble beginnings and the Van Vleck family who helped shape its future.

As part of the plan for The Block, the Van Vleck House and the Weston House remain protected by character easements that will ensure the buildings are forever maintained and restored in accordance with the façade restrictions placed on them. Meanwhile, the eastern-most lot, where the 1950s home of Jean and Robert stands, is slated to become the campus of the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum (JHHSM). In the future, visitors to The Block will be able to patronize local businesses in historic buildings, relax for a moment under the shade of a large Cottonwood tree next to Cache Creek on the greenspace, and dive deeper into the area’s history with a stop at the JHHSM.

Thanks to the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum archives for providing historic photos, the Weston House survey (conducted and prepared by Teton County Historic Preservation Board), and the Van Vleck House National Register for Historic Places nomination (prepared by Amy Kiessling for the Teton County Historical Society)!

Story: Carlie Ideker
Photo: Jackson Hole Historical Society and Musem

Landowner Spotlight: Wyoming Wetlands Society at Valley Springs

Heading south out of the hustle and bustle of Jackson, the eye soon relaxes as it is greeted by the open pastures of working cattle ranches and the meandering riparian corridor of the Snake River. The Valley Springs conservation property owned by the Wyoming Wetlands Society (WWS) lies at the forefront of this pleasing landscape. In 2001, the citizens of Jackson voted for Teton County to impose a Special Purpose Tax (SPET) to obtain a 200-acre piece of the Valley Springs Ranch. A portion of this property was then purchased by the Jackson Hole Land Trust and donated, under conservation easement, to the WWS. The WWS now manages the ponds and wetlands to support its mission of helping to restore the Rocky Mountain population of trumpeter swans.

After retiring from Wyoming Game & Fish, Bill Long founded the WWS in 1986. His team, including Executive Director Carl Brown, has been working to respond to a recent decline in trumpeter swans in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). Although frequent in Jackson Hole in the winter, these swans are migrants from Canada. The number of swans nesting and breeding in this area has been struggling. The WWS takes eggs from active nests in Canada, hatches them, and then “grafts” the young cygnets to the few active nests in the GYE. This increases the number of swans that will look to return to the GYE to nest, restoring historical migration patterns and an important biological connection of the GYE to other wilds of North America. It also helps diversify the population by introducing genetics from northern flocks.

Taking a big picture perspective on the conservation of Wyoming’s iconic wetland species, the WWS offers a number of other services to help preserve and improve Wyoming’s wetlands. The WWS provides a consulting service for private landowners that are looking to enhance existing wetlands, including the design of pond islands that offer trumpeter swans the amenities they require for nesting.

WWS also offers the crucial service of beaver relocation. Adept wetland engineers, beaver pose problems to private land managers with their incessant lodge building. The WWS will trap beaver for private landowners and relocate them to the headwaters of Teton County, where their diligence creates wetland habitat and imparts crucial water quality services to the entire watershed.

For more information on the Wyoming Wetlands Society, visit wyomingwetlandssociety.org.

JHLT Protects 68.5 Acres of Wildlife Habitat along the Wind River

The Wind River Program of the Jackson Hole Land Trust (JHLT) announced today that 68.5 acres in Fremont County along the Wind River have been protected through the Wind River Rookery conservation easement, now held by the JHLT’s Wind River Program.

Protected in perpetuity on April 23, the Wind River Rookery contains important open space that supports working lands, riparian, and big game habitat. Its permanent conservation contributes to the long-term ecological viability and connectivity of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

“We are pleased to participate in the ongoing conservation protection of important wildlife habitat along the Wind River,” said the anonymous landowners, who generously donated a portion of the easement’s value. “The JHLT’s plan for protecting important land complements the other conservation easements like pieces of a larger puzzle for wildlife moving through the Wind River Valley.”

The Wind River Rookery contains 4,300 feet of both riparian and aquatic habitat along the Wind River, a Class II trout fishery of statewide importance. The conservation of this property directly benefits native wildlife in this section of the Wind River corridor, as well as the species in the arid region through which the river flows.

The property’s working agricultural lands provide diverse wildlife habitat — irrigated, hay-producing meadows, wet meadows with associated shrub-scrub wetlands, cottonwood forest, and tall-shrub communities where water seeps from sloped sagebrush-grasslands. These varied habitats benefit several of Wyoming’s Species of Greatest Conservation Need, including bald eagles and great blue herons.

Wind River Rookery’s location also promotes wildlife resilience by expanding connectivity with neighboring protected lands that stretch from the Wind River Mountains to the Wind River riparian corridor. This connectivity is of particular importance for a core population of Wyoming’s bighorn sheep, which live in the nearby Whiskey Basin, Dubois Badlands, and Spence & Moriarity wildlife habitat management areas. Wind River Rookery supports the migration of large game and contains Winter Crucial Range for pronghorn and mule deer, and year-round habitat for elk, moose, and pronghorn. The easement also permanently protects nesting, feeding, and shelter habitat for waterfowl and other birds, as well as for small mammals.

“This is a significant conservation gain for the Wind River Valley and Northwest Wyoming,” said Liz Long, JHLT director of conservation and interim co-director. “The property has been incredibly well stewarded by the current landowner. Its working lands, riparian and wildlife habitat, and adjacency to other conserved properties established the property as a priority conservation project for the JHLT. We are thrilled that the ecological and cultural values created by this dynamic open space are now protected forever and we are grateful to our funding and landowner partners who each played a critical role in completing the project.”

The Wind River Rookery conservation easement was accomplished with funding from Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust and the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. In addition to this public funding, the landowners donated a portion of the easement’s value.

Position Specification for JHLT’s Next President

The Jackson Hole Land Trust Board of Directors and contracted search consultant, Russell Reynolds Associates, are pleased to share the Position Specification for the next president of the Jackson Hole Land Trust. Qualified candidates are invited to apply by contacting JHLT@russellreynolds.com.

Following Laurie Andrew’s announcement that she would be stepping down as president in February 2020, the board of the JHLT established a search committee led by Second Vice Chair of the Board Lori Fields. The search committee has identified the current leadership team—Director of Conservation Liz Long, Chief Financial Officer Derek Schaefer, and Director of Advancement & Engagement Jenny Wolfrom Holladay—to serve as interim co-directors of the organization. The committee selected Jamie Hechinger and her team at Russell Reynolds Associates to assist with the search, working with the JHLT board and staff to select the best candidate possible for the position.

The position specification is the result of a thorough needs assessment conducted by Russell Reynolds Associates with thoughtful input from all members of JHLT staff, board members, and many members of the larger JHLT community, including landowners, donors, and people who JHLT partners with on an ongoing basis.

“We are confident that the position specification we have put forward will be a blueprint for the JHLT’s next president and will attract a deep pool of quality candidates,” said Lori Fields. “We look forward to this next phase of our search, and to ultimately introducing our next leader in the coming months.”

The search committee is committed to advancing the search process, but will continue to monitor the impacts of the current COVID-19 pandemic and prioritize the health and safety of all involved.

Working Lands: Nature Journal Templates + Virtual Events

The Jackson Hole Land Trust is excited to continue rolling out new ways to virtually connect you, our community, to open spaces and conservation. Every other week, we’ll unveil a new theme with opportunities to connect virtually and resources to help kids get to know the natural world.

April Part II (4/13-4/26): Working Lands of Northwest Wyoming

Open Space Adventure: Journey of Food Coloring Book

This week we are exploring how foods grown on farms beyond your backdoor make it to your local market. Download our printable pages in English or Spanish and bring them to life with color and creativity to learn about the journey of food.

Open Space Adventure: Nature Journal

Welcome back to Open Space Adventures! For the next two weeks, we are going to be learning all about working lands like farms and ranches. This week we have two new activities for kids. First, follow along with this video to create a nature journal. Then, have your little ones grab their journals and binoculars from last week to head outside and explore. Go for a walk on the Jackson Hole Community Pathway System’s Grand Loop or out towards Teton Pass and you’ll pass numerous JHLT-conserved working lands* and experience the habitat that sustains the incredible wildlife of Northwest Wyoming. Kids can use the first observation page of the nature journal to draw and write about what they observe. Download the Nature Journal Template in English or Spanish.

*Never trespass on JHLT-protected working lands—they are private properties belonging to their respective landowners.

Open Space Adventure: Start a Garden

Looking for a fun at-home activity? Start your vegetable garden with this helpful video from another local nonprofit, Full Circle Education, at http://www.tetonfullcircle.org/. Hot tip: Kids are great gardeners!

Don’t have any seeds? Watch this video from the Land Trust for Tennessee about how to harvest and plant seeds from food you might already have around the house.

Past Event: 4/16 Virtual Happy Hour
Didn’t make it? Catch the recording here: https://vimeo.com/412910372

JHLT-protected working lands not only preserve wildlife habitat connectivity, but they support our local food system. Join us for another virtual happy hour on Thursday at 4 pm MST with panelists Kate Mead of Mead Ranch, Sonja Rife of Killpecker Creek Cattle Company, Huidekoper Ranch Head Farmer Brent Tyc, and JHLT Stewardship Manager Derek Ellis. Tune in to hear how they’re preparing their working lands for summertime, explore how working lands and wildlife coexist, and have a dialogue about the roles of conservation and ranching in Northwest Wyoming.

Past Event: 4/23 Virtual Trivia: Working Lands
Do you know your local producers? Thank you to those of you who joined us last week at our second virtual happy hour featuring the working lands and ranchers of Northwest Wyoming! This week, put your farming and ranching IQ to the test with trivia. Perfect for both families and quiz-loving adults alike, we invite you to join us this Thursday, April 23 at 4 pm. Grab your favorite beverage and gear up for an exciting hour of brain-teasing questions. Winners will receive a special JHLT prize as well as the opportunity to compete in our trivia championship to come.

Grab your smartphone or computer and connect via the zoom link: https://zoom.us/j/9809695673 or visit zoom.us and click Join A Meeting and enter the meeting code 9809695673.

Photo: Arnie Brokling

Birds of NW Wyoming: Activities for Kids, Trivia + More

The Jackson Hole Land Trust is excited to continue rolling out new ways to virtually connect you, our community, to open spaces and conservation. Every other week, we’ll unveil a new theme with opportunities to connect virtually and resources to help kids get to know the natural world.

April Part I (3/30-4/12): Birds of Northwest Wyoming

4/9 Trivia
Put your regional bird IQ to the test with trivia. Perfect for both families and quiz-loving adults alike, we invite you to join us Thursday, April 9 at 4 pm. Grab your favorite beverage and gear up for an exciting hour of brain-turning questions. Winners will receive a special JHLT prize as well as the opportunity to compete in our trivia championship to come.

Grab your smartphone or computer and connect via the zoom link: https://zoom.us/j/9809695673 or visit zoom.us and click Join A Meeting and enter the meeting code 9809695673.

Open Space Adventure: DIY Binoculars

For the kids (or truly young at heart), follow along with our video and make a set of binoculars out of items found around the house. Then, encourage your kids to observe the incredible nature all around. Safely head out to one of our public access community conservation properties while respecting social distancing. Walk the perimeter loop at R Park to experience several different habitats or check out the Wilson Wetlands and you may be lucky enough to see a Yellow warbler.

Past Event: 4/2 Virtual Happy Hour
Didn’t make it? Catch the recording here: https://vimeo.com/405172386

Join JHLT for a virtual happy hour with our staff biologist, Erica Hansen. Follow along as she explores the ways birding can connect you with the outside world from your own backyard. She’ll delve into which birds are making their way back to Northwest Wyoming and how JHLT-protected properties support their migration.

Bird: Swainson’s hawk
Photo: Tom Koerner/USFWS

April 2020 Update: The Search for JHLT’s Next President

The Jackson Hole Land Trust is embarking upon a search for the organization’s next president, and the JHLT board has partnered with the executive search firm Russell Reynolds on this important search. In this beginning phase of the search process, Russell Reynolds is spending time with various Jackson Hole Land Trust staff, board members, partners, and other stakeholders to understand the context for leadership and formulate a position description for the role. If you would like to provide your insights and ideas to the search committee, we invite you to participate in our online survey.

If you would like to express interest in the role or nominate a potential candidate, please reach out directly to JHLT@russellreynolds.com. We benefit from the multitude and diversity of perspectives our community can offer about the JHLT’s next chapter.

Meanwhile, as the search process moves forward, the JHLT continues to be led by Interim Co-Directors Liz Long, Derek Schaefer, and Jenny Wolfrom.

Photo: Apres Visuals

Next for The Block: Partnership with Hershberger Design Landscape Architects

It is with great excitement that the Jackson Hole Land Trust announces today a partnership with the local landscape architecture firm Hershberger Design, marking another step by the JHLT toward creating and enhancing a community-friendly greenspace on the historic Genevieve Block. JHLT chose Hershberger Design to lead the project based on the firm’s extensive experience in designing beautiful and engaging public spaces that express the spirit of the place, and their ability to creatively address the unique dynamics presented by the conservation easement-protected property.

The greenspace on The Block was protected in August 2019 following a four-month long fundraising campaign led by the JHLT during which over 2,600 individuals donated more than $7 million to purchase the conservation easement and underlying fee on the greenspace. Additional contributions to the Save the Block campaign were designated for funding the design and creation of a space where the community can safely enjoy a quiet piece of nature in the heart of bustling downtown Jackson. Once completed, the 1.2 acres of community greenspace will offer low impact pedestrian connections, plenty of shade under the community-cherished cottonwood trees, open common areas to gather and socialize, and functional access to the local businesses that inhabit the preserved historic buildings on the block.

“We are honored to be collaborating with the Jackson Hole Land Trust on The Block landscape. As a local firm, we followed and supported the campaign to save this block through its entirety and are committed to designing a space that is inspired by the community’s strong vision and passion for this important piece of our town,” said Bonny Hershberger, Vice President, Managing Partner, Organizational Genius at Hershberger Design. “As we embark on our visioning for the possibilities of this greenspace, we are concentrating on capturing the spirit of this project for current and future generations to experience while visiting the block.”

The timeline for construction to start on the block is mid-to-late spring. Utility updates and enhancements as required by the Town of Jackson, including burying the power lines that currently run through the property, will need to be completed prior to the landscape design implementation and

construction. Visitors to the greenspace on the block will need to expect closures to the property during the utility burials and portions of the landscape construction process throughout summer 2020.

“The greenspace on the block has been a place for the community to gather, escape the frenzy of town, enjoy a locally made treat or beverage, and reconnect to the history and roots of this special place. We are so proud to have been a part of the campaign to safeguard the space and the public’s ability to access it,” said Jenny Wolfrom, Interim Co-Director and Director of Advancement and Engagement at the Jackson Hole Land Trust. “We are confident that Hershberger Design joins us in our passion for this community space and we look forward to working closely with their team to transform the greenspace into a more usable and vibrant common area for all to enjoy, forever.”

The JHLT and Hershberger Design will work together to provide the community with more details on the design plan as the creative process unfolds. The JHLT is not currently planning programs or events on the block for summer 2020 due to the utility and construction work planned for the space.

 

Photo: Orijin Media

Jackson Hole Land Trust’s Response to COVID-19

Dear Community and Supporters,

It is times like these that the power and camaraderie of this community become clear as we band together to prioritize the health and safety of our local, national, and global populations. The Jackson Hole Land Trust (JHLT) is monitoring the status of COVID-19 in Northwest Wyoming and doing our part to prevent the risk of exposure and potential spread of the virus. In order to safeguard the health of our staff, board, partners and community, JHLT has implemented the following policies based on the recommendations made by state and local government and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Mandatory office closure and remote work for all staff, including the Jackson and Green River Valley Program office in Pinedale. All JHLT staff are actively working in a remote setting and can be reached by email, or through voicemails left via JHLT’s messaging system by calling the office at 307-733-4707. This will be in effect through March 31, 2020, and extended if necessary.
  • All internal and external meetings will be conducted through video and teleconferencing technology in order to limit close person-to-person contact within a confined area.
  • Temporary hold on nonessential, work-related travel for employees through April 2020.
  • Cancellation of all community events through April 2020 including:
    • WYLD Beacon Search with Teton County Search and Rescue at R Park on 3/19/2020
    • Eastern Egg Hunt at R Park on 4/10/2020
    • GRVP Happy Hour at Wind River Brewing Company on 4/22/2020
  • Rendezvous “R” Park will remain open to the public at this time, although the office will be closed to staff and visitors and office hours will be cancelled through at least March 31, 2020. We do recommend and request that visitors to R Park implement preventative measures recommended by the CDC, which include social distancing of at least 6 feet from other individuals and families, washing or sanitizing hands before and after visiting the park, and staying home if you or a member of your household are feeling sick.  We are proud to offer a safe, community greenspace that can provide residents with a positive connection to nature and open space- which has been directly linked to enhancing the function of the immune system and increasing mental health- in these times of uncertainty and isolation.

As the situation is changing daily, and sometimes hourly, we will adjust our policies and procedures to reflect recommendations made by local, state, and national entities. Meanwhile, our talented and dedicated team will continue their work towards fulfilling our vision of a legacy of protected open spaces, wildlife habitat, working lands, and community spaces across Northwest Wyoming that inspire current and future generations.

Please use the online staff email directory to contact the appropriate JHLT team member with questions and concerns.

Thank you,
JHLT Interim Co-Directors Liz Long, Derek Schaefer, and Jenny Wolfrom

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 devastation and displacement of people was heartbreaking, and 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 came together to recover and 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.

-Erica Hansen, Landscape Protection Specialist and Staff Biologist

Hoback Ranches view one year after the fire.

Photos: Jansen Gundersen; Erica Hansen; Erica Hansen.