Protected earlier this month, a 40-acre easement on Twin Creek Ranch Road conserves critical big game habitat connectivity. Photo: Zach Andres

JACKSON, Wyo. —In 2021, the Jackson Hole Land Trust (JHLT) seized opportunities to connect this community to conservation and completed several exciting projects that protect the wide-open spaces, ranching heritage, and strong communities quintessential to the character of Northwest Wyoming for generations to come.

“We strengthened our connections with community members, landowners, supporters, and partners to protect and maintain the characteristics that make this part of the world so special,” reflected JHLT President Max Ludington. “That resulted in more protections for migration corridors, strides toward more inclusive access to nature, protections for local food production and enhanced land stewardship.”

In the second year of the pandemic, the JHLT created opportunities for this community to gather safely outside on protected open spaces from R Park to Valley Springs and Walton Ranch. Though our 41st Annual Community Picnic and R Park Summer Solstice were scaled back in numbers, the ability to meet friends, partners, and supporters face-to-face was a welcomed antidote in the midst of waves of social distancing. The JHLT also continued a popular series of virtual happy hours with an array of local partners and experts covering conservation topics from moose and bighorn sheep to Wyoming water use.

True to the core work of the Land Trust, this year the JHLT conserved 537.5 acres of land across both Teton and Sublette counties. Just this month, the JHLT secured two new conservation easements in Jackson Hole. Twin Creek Ranch Road’s 40 acres protect critical wildlife habitat in between the National Elk Refuge and the Bridger-Teton National Forest. A brand new 120-acre easement on Vogel Hill ensures landscape-scale connectivity for wildlife, linking West Gros Ventre Butte to JHLT-protected open space in Spring Gulch and Coyote Canyon. Just northeast of Bondurant, a new 280-acre easement along Jack Creek secured in November safeguards working lands and open space. The new easement, held by the JHLT’s Green River Valley Program builds on three generations of stewardship to protect agricultural heritage and Wyoming’s big game migrations at the northern end of the Red Desert to Hoback mule deer migration route. Gun Barrel Flats, protected last May, conserves 97.5 acres adjacent to Grand Teton National Park. The new easement protects essential wildlife habitat connectivity, builds on existing protections in the area, and cements a homesteading legacy across a swath of private land in the Buffalo Valley.

The JHLT has also secured partnerships and public funding for active priority protection projects that will bring the JHLT’s total conserved acreage to just over 60,000 acres. This exciting milestone will add to more than 57,000 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.

As always, the JHLT seeks to partner with landowners to ensure conservation is successful on the ground. Over the year, the JHLT monitored all existing easement properties. In partnership with the Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation, the JHLT modified fencing on West Gros Ventre Butte at the iconic Walton Ranch. The new fencing is now wildlife-friendlier with a smooth, higher bottom strand and a solid wooden rail in places identified as core habitat for big game species.

In 2021, the Jackson Hole Land Trust also prioritized programs and partnerships that continue to ensure access and adventure in nature for all members of this community. The JHLT welcomed Wyoming Game and Fish’s Kids Fishing Day back to R Park in partnership with Jackson Hole One Fly Foundation, Trout Unlimited, and Teton Conservation District. Over the summer, R Park also hosted Coombs Outdoors camp, where students enjoyed fishing, floating and so much more. A giant troll, Mama Mimi, took up residence at the JHLT’s flagship community park. JH Public Art’s installation created by world-renowned sculptor Thomas Dambo arrived in early June and has been inviting imagination and exploration ever since.

The JHLT completed historic greenspace enhancements following the successful 2019 Save the Block campaign. “The Greenspace on the Block is a highlight for me as it provides opportunities to connect with friends and neighbors alike over a cup of coffee as kids climb on boulders and splash in Cache,” said JHLT Vice President Liz Long. “We look forward to increased community programming at both the Greenspace on the Block and opportunities to connect with you all in the new year – save the date for the grand opening on June 7, 2022.”

Three additional staff members joined the team in 2021: Events and Outreach Associate Zach Andres, Advancement Associate Mika Burdette, and Annual Fund Manager Katie Jarve. New board members as of October 2021 include Des Jennings, Emilé Newman, Amy Staehr, and Lindsay Wilcox. Finally, the JHLT created a new WYLD Advisory Council to drive future community conservation protection efforts through strategy and fundraising, develop youth education opportunities, and steer programming and events that will continue to bring this community together. Inaugural members on the WYLD Advisory Council include Lucas Ayoub, Molly Broom, Julie Dery, Laura Gaylord, Kari Hall, Kahlynn Huck, Mekki Jaidi, Eli Martinez, Hal Wheeler, and Dan Visosky.

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. Consider a gift to the Jackson Hole Land Trust this year-end: