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Conservation Spotlight: OE Ranch

Relaxing in a rustic, Swedish cope cabin at the OE Ranch, we enjoy tea and crackers as we listen to caretaker Jack Turner ruminate on his life of adventure and the natural history of the ranch. Nestled in the lodgepole pine forest of Grand Teton National Park, the OE Ranch serves as a refuge for the Seligmann family. Over 60 years ago, the OE was purchased by Otto and Esther Seligmann. They discovered the ranch via their friendship with Inger and Bob Koedt, who were close with the influential Murie family. Bob and his son Peter later designed and built the cabin for the Seligmann family. Its rustic craftsmanship has provided the family a trusty basecamp within the natural tapestry of Grand Teton National Park.

The next generation, Katherine, Michael, Peter, and Monica, have upheld the conservation tradition of the pioneering naturalists of Jackson Hole. They are all active in conservation organizations and Peter, after years working for the Nature Conservancy, founded Conservation International, a global leader in sustainability and the protection of ecosystems. The siblings have fond memories of finding their connection to the natural world here and are grateful for the opportunity to have the chance to offer this special experience to their own children and grandchildren.

With lodgepole forest, sagebrush steppe, and a unique forested spring, the property is home to a great diversity of plant and animal life. Herds of elk, wandering foxes, hunting owls, and friendly ermine, not to mention black bears and grizzlies, are all commonplace at the OE. Jack notes that Grand Teton biologists regard the area around the OE as second only to Oxbow Bend for its richness and abundance of wildlife in the park. In 2004, the Seligmann family donated a conservation easement on the property to ensure that it remains that way.

Jack and his wife Dana have lived by the natural rhythms of the Tetons for many years. Prior to the 19 years as caretakers of the OE Ranch, they lived in a cabin on Jenny Lake⁠—a perk from the more than 40 years Jack served as an Exum Mountain Guide. As the years go by, Jack and Dana have grown more appreciative of the abundance of wildlife and seasonal patterns of Jackson Hole. They relish in the milestones of the seasons, angling to find the first sage buttercups of the spring and noting the freezing and thawing of the local lakes. Looking back at his journals, Jack recognizes that the wildflowers are coming earlier these days, as is the ice-off of Jenny Lake in the spring; approximately two to three weeks earlier, he notes.

A life focused on simplicity and in touch with the natural world has been the muse for Jack’s three books of nonfiction: Teewinot: Climbing and Contemplating the Teton Range, Travels in the Greater Yellowstone, and The Abstract Wild. The Jackson Hole Land Trust extends a hearty thank you to Dana, Jack, and the Seligmann family for their efforts to steward both the incredible habitat of the OE Ranch and the conservation ethic of Jackson Hole and beyond.