Additional Protections for Munger Mountain
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