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Chimney Draw Corridor David Stubbs

New Easements Protect Munger Mountain to Snake River Connectivity

Today, the Jackson Hole Land Trust (JHLT), The Conservation Fund, and their partners announced two new conservation easements protecting 256.5 acres at the foot of the Snake River Range near Munger Mountain in the southwestern portion of Jackson Hole. Chimney Draw Corridor I & II easements are part of larger working agricultural lands contiguous to an existing conservation easement and USDA Forest Service land, providing an important link in wildlife and open space connectivity between the nearby Bridger-Teton National Forest and Bureau of Land Management land along the Snake River riparian corridor.

“These easements expand the mosaic of conserved public and private lands along the base of Munger Mountain that support a significant migratory elk herd,” said JHLT President Max Ludington. “The Snake River Ranch’s commitment to stewarding these lands through responsible ranching has long supported these critical habitats, and this easement ensures that their conservation legacy will be carried on for generations to come.”

“Achieved through the unwavering collaboration of an outstanding group of partners and a landowning family long dedicated to conservation in the Jackson Hole valley, these easements stitch together the fabric of protected lands near Munger Mountain, preserve vital corridors for wildlife migration, and nurture the heritage of responsible land stewardship for generations,” said The Conservation Fund’s Wyoming State Director Dan Schlager.

Public, private, nonprofit, and community partners have been essential to completing these easements. The Conservation Fund 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 Office of State Lands and Investments, Forestry Division. Congressionally authorized, LWCF helps support critical land conservation efforts across the US. The Forest Legacy Program provides funding to states and private landowners seeking to protect environmentally valuable forest areas from the threat of conversion to non-forest uses. This Forest Legacy Program-funded conservation land is protected from current and future development. Working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and the State Forester, the landowner committed to conserving this land in perpetuity for your benefit and for the benefit of future generations. This land remains in private ownership.

“State Forestry is honored to be a participant in this important easement project,” said Wyoming State Forester Kelly Norris. “The success of this conservation easement is attributed to the collaboration of many exceptional partners and the willing landowner. Keeping forested lands available to be managed, grazed, and recreated into the future is a true legacy.”

The Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resources Trust contributed critical additional funds, and the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission will hold the conservation easements. The JHLT contributed technical assistance and will steward the conservation easement in the future in coordination with surrounding conservation easements.

“The conservation of these amazing properties, along with other easements in the area, will ensure wildlife can migrate and have critical habitat for generations to come,” said Wyoming Game and Fish Department Lands Branch Chief Roy Weber. “The Wyoming Game and Fish Department wants to thank all of the partners and landowners who worked tirelessly to see this project come to fruition and for donating these conservation easements to the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission.”

Parts of the Snake River Ranch consist of forest stands and wet meadows, providing a rare combination of crucial summer and winter habitat for wildlife, including the elusive great gray owl. The new easements along this land support continued grazing and hay production. Maintaining the agricultural nature of the parcels also preserves one of the few remaining ranching operations in the valley. 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 approximately 80 years in a manner that benefits Wyoming’s wildlife and people.

“Now there is nearly a completely protected corridor from the east side of the valley to the west side of the valley with the feed grounds at the center,” said Turner Resor of the Snake River Ranch families. “Previous conservation efforts on Munger Mountain, similarly provide a migration path from the feed ground to the south.”

Chimney Draw Corridor is located within the area designated by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department as a crucial habitat for elk and moose. Notably, the parcels provide a key migration corridor and calving area used by hundreds of elk to move seasonally between the Bridger-Teton National Forest and winter range on the Wyoming Game and Fish South Park Wildlife Habitat Management Area.

The properties are also recognized as valuable habitat for grizzly bears and gray wolves, along with 47 species listed by Wyoming as “Wyoming Species in Greatest Need of Conservation,” including the great gray owl. Chimney Draw Corridor is located within an important bald eagle management zone as identified by The Greater Yellowstone Bald Eagle Management Plan and also provides important habitat for upland birds and raptors, including hawks and osprey.

Photo: David Stubbs