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