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.