Conservation Partnership Transfers Popular Bridger-Teton Access Point To Forest Service
September 4, 2013
View of Hoback River (right) and Beaver Mountain from Poison Creek property. Photo by Luke Lynch/The Conservation Fund.
Jackson, Wyo. — A partnership between the Jackson Hole Land Trust and The Conservation Fund has enabled the permanent protection of a 37-acre property within crucial wildlife winter range in central Teton County. In late August, the USDA Forest Service acquired the property, with support from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), and added it to the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
Located about 15 miles south of Jackson, the Poison Creek property lies deep within the 18 million acre Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem—the last intact ecosystem in the lower 48 states—and rises above the Congressionally-designated Wild and Scenic Hoback River. An important island of once privately-owned land inside the boundaries of the Bridger-Teton National Forest, the inholding is the last parcel along Highway 189/191 before it enters the Hoback Canyon to the east. Blanketed by sagebrush and bisected by Poison Creek, the largely undeveloped property offers critical winter habitat for bighorn sheep, elk, and mule deer as well as important habitat for many other species. A popular trailhead and trail on the property used by hikers and hunters provides public access to the parcel and to the Gros Ventre Wilderness during the summer and fall months, and is closed during the winter and spring to protect winter range for wildlife.
Opportune funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)—a federal program that receives a percentage of proceeds from offshore oil and gas royalties for the protection of irreplaceable lands and improvement of outdoor recreation opportunities across the nation—allowed for last week’s transfer of the Poison Creek property from the Land Trust to the Forest Service by way of The Conservation Fund. These LWCF funds were appropriated in fiscal year 2013 by the U.S. Congress.
“Poison Creek has been a top priority for us for years, so when we found out that the LWCF funding would be available for use in the Greater Yellowstone Area by mid-May, we moved quickly,” said Michael Schrotz, Bridger-Teton National Forest Planning and Lands Staff Officer. “To be able to negotiate and complete these complex land deals by August was exciting and speaks to the expertise and commitment of our partners at the Land Trust and The Conservation Fund.”
The Poison Creek parcel has been owned by the Jackson Hole Land Trust since 1997, when a partnership effort led by the Land Trust and backed by financial support from private donors and organizations secured its purchase from private landowners. The property had been sought after for acquisition by various public agencies because of its strategic position and high conservation values, but the cost of the property had been prohibitive. Following its purchase, the Land Trust has held and stewarded the property in anticipation for an eventual transfer to the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Advocates of LWCF funding for this recent acquisition include the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Snake River Fund, Wild Sheep Foundation, Wyoming Wild Sheep Foundation, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, and Teton County Commissioners.
“We are thrilled to be a key partner in securing the Poison Creek property for the Forest Service and fulfilling the original intent of this conservation project,” said Laurie Andrews, executive director of the Jackson Hole Land Trust. “Partnerships have always been essential to the success of this project, and we are incredibly grateful to The Conservation Fund, the Bridger-Teton National Forest—as well as our original partners—for all that they contributed to see this LWCF project to completion.”
Responding to the expedited time frame for the project, The Conservation Fund stepped forward to facilitate the land transfer and contribute their experience working with private-to-public land transfers at the regional and national levels.
“This is community-based conservation at its finest, and it provides great access to the Gros Ventre Wilderness,” said The Conservation Fund’s Wyoming State Director, Luke Lynch. “We’re tremendously grateful for the good sense of the Jackson Hole Land Trust to purchase this land when it came on the market more than 15 years ago and for Congress’ support of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to finally secure its permanent conservation.”
“As the new Forest Supervisor, I am honored to be a partner with the Jackson Hole Land Trust and The Conservation Fund, and am thankful for their quick work in acquiring this inholding. This acquisition minimizes the chance for fragmenting wildlife habitat and ensures access to these public lands,” said Clint Kyhl, Bridger-Teton Forest Supervisor.
Management of the Poison Creek property will be guided by the Bridger-Teton National Forest’s Forest Plan. “The lands will adopt the desired conditions of our 1990 Forest Plan –public access, dispersed recreation, Wild and Scenic River recreation, and backcountry big game hunting,” said Michael Schrotz. “Management change from the Land Trust to that of the Forest Service should be seamless for the public.”
The Jackson Hole Land Trust plans to commit the funds from the Poison Creek sale towards priority Forest Service inholding conservation projects in the Greater Yellowstone Area. “We plan to reinvest these funds in other projects like Poison Creek that inspire partnerships and help keep the ecosystem intact,” said Pete Lawton, board president of the Jackson Hole Land Trust.
About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we combine a passion for conservation with an entrepreneurial spirit to protect your favorite places before they become just a memory. A hallmark of our work is our deep, unwavering understanding that for conservation solutions to last, they need to make economic sense. Top-ranked, we have protected more than 7 million acres across America.
About the Jackson Hole Land Trust
The Jackson Hole Land Trust is a private, non-profit organization that was established in 1980 to preserve open space and the critical wildlife habitat, magnificent scenic vistas, and historic ranching heritage of Jackson Hole. By working cooperatively with the owners of the area’s privately owned open lands, the Jackson Hole Land Trust has ensured the permanent protection of over 23,000 acres in and around Jackson Hole and the Greater Yellowstone Area. For more information please visit www.jhlandtrust.org.
About The Bridger-Teton National Forest
The Bridger-Teton National Forest is home to world-class headwaters, wildlife, wilderness and wildlands. Conserving these values, in concert with providing for sustainable uses, is our legacy. For more info about your 3.4 million acre public land National Forest, please visit www.fs.usda.gov/btnf.
Ann Simonelli | The Conservation Fund | 703-908-5809 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Liz Long | Jackson Hole Land Trust | 307-733-4707 | email@example.com
Mary Cernicek | Bridger-Teton National Forest | 307-739-5564 | firstname.lastname@example.org