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Growing Our Conservation Impact in 2023

In 2023, the Jackson Hole Land Trust (JHLT) made huge strides in conserving private land throughout Northwest Wyoming with the launch of a new regional program in Park County and the protection of a whopping 4,681 acres. Acre by acre, these protected lands safeguard the connectivity that is the hallmark of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

The JHLT’s Green River Valley Program secured 4,014 acres in Sublette and Sweetwater counties, protecting two working ranches, vital tributaries of the Green River, and high-quality pronghorn winter habitat in the Red Desert.

In Teton County, the JHLT will now forever protect 327 acres at the foot of the Snake River Range, comprising critical elk calving lands and building upon existing protections along the corridor from the Snake River to Munger Mountain. This acreage includes two new easements on the Lower Snake River Ranch that are now held by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission. The Conservation Fund led the effort to secure federal funding from the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program and the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resources Trust. and the JHLT contributed technical assistance and will steward this easement in perpetuity in partnership with the landowners.

The JHLT’s newest program, Park County Open Lands, closed its first easement at the Four C Ranch and the JHLT’s Wind River Program has conserved 234 acres along the Lander Front.

“Altogether, nearly 5,000 acres permanently conserved in 2023 represents a significant investment in the legacy of open space in Northwest Wyoming,” said JHLT President Max Ludington. “This work is not ours alone – it is done through partnerships with committed landowners, conservation-minded community members, and a host of nonprofits and agencies working towards a collective vision of working agricultural lands, intact wildlife habitat, and thriving community open spaces.”

Momentum for community conservation continues to grow, with more than 1,000 gifts of all sizes to support the ongoing programming and maintenance of the JHLT’s community open spaces, creating a significant funding impact that has generated numerous opportunities to better these favorite community open spaces like R Park and the Greenspace on the Block. The JHLT manages these spaces for locals, and each year, the number of people who visit these places continues to grow through inclusive JHLT events and programming and the efforts of nonprofit partners.

Dozens of groups, including Coombs Outdoors, Teton County Search and Rescue, and Wyoming Game and Fish Department hosted events, camps, and experiential learning opportunities. The JHLT was thrilled to host the Wilson Firefighters Chicken Fry, an annual staple that this year brought hundreds of people to the JHLT’s flagship community open space. Ben Roth’s “Bison and Wallow” interactive sculpture at the Greenspace on the Block invited play and learning in the heart of downtown Jackson.

“All of this visitation adds up to more than just people at a park,” says JHLT Vice President Liz Long. “For many, a trip to R Park is an accessible way to dip a toe into the great outdoors, whether that’s a first-time foray or lunchtime refresher on an otherwise hectic day.”

The JHLT’s community conservation efforts also expanded throughout the region to include a partnership with the Wind River Tribal Buffalo Initiative. Guided by the vision of Jason Baldes and the Northern Shoshone and Eastern Arapahoe tribes, the JHLT supports their effort to restore buffalo through fundraising for and providing a potential mechanism to conserve essential habitat.

The JHLT has also secured nearly $2 million in partnerships and public funding for 25 active priority protection projects across Northwest Wyoming. This will add to more than 62,000 acres of existing JHLT conservation easements that safeguard critical water sources and wildlife habitat, ensure continued agriculture, and link together existing conservation areas throughout Northwestern Wyoming.

This year the JHLT stewardship team partnered with conservation landowners to log the condition of nearly every acre held under conservation easement. The team also completed nine baseline reports, thoroughly documenting the conditions on the ground in advance of completing each JHLT and partner-held conservation easement.

The JHLT welcomed Mike Fenn as the new board chair for the organization. Mike is currently in his third term on the JHLT board and his passion for Wyoming’s open spaces will inspire his board leadership term. The JHLT is pleased to welcome new board members Garrett Growney, Pati Rocha, and Nicole Sheehan. Each brings a unique skill set and perspective to the board. Finally, the JHLT added additional regional advisory councils in both Park and Fremont counties to provide local conservation guidance.

Jackson Hole Land Trust Career Job StaffFour additional staff members joined the team in 2023: Advancement Manager Ella Driscoll, Park County Open Lands Director Alex Few, Conservation Project Manager Emily Reed, and Conservation Project Manager Alex St.Clair. The JHLT was also thrilled to have additional capacity for the summer, welcoming back Stewardship Associate Micah Melczer and Coombs Outdoors EMPOWER Intern Nate Espejel.

The support of this community makes a huge impact for on-the-ground conservation that can be seen in the growing number of acres under easement and community spaces like R Park. Please consider a gift to the Jackson Hole Land Trust this year-end.