Teton Regional Land Trust Announces 2022 recipients for Michael B. Whitfield Scholarship Maren Jorgensen of Ashton and Tili Anderson of St. Anthony both receive $1,000

April 27, 2022

Maren Jorgensen of North Fremont High School and Tili Anderson of South Fremont High School are the recipients of this year’s Michael B. Whitefield Scholarship. The $1,000 award is given annually by the Teton Regional Land Trust to a senior who lives in the Land Trust service area with a passion for environmental or agricultural studies. 2022 marks the first year the Land Trust has extended the scholarship award to two high school students.

Maren Jorgensen will attend Utah State University to study Agricultural Education so she can be an advocate for the agricultural industry. She has been involved with the Future Farmers of America Organization (FFA) for the past four years and currently serves as the President of North Fremont High School’s FFA Chapter. Jorgensen is a two-time FFA district champion and won a FFA state championship in Agricultural Issues. She has been a dedicated class representative for Student Council, serving as the Vice President of her junior class and President of her freshman class. Currently, she holds the position of Executive Student Council Vice President and is a member of the National Honor Society. Jorgensen has enjoyed running cross country since her freshman year and takes score for the women’s basketball team. In her free time, she loves to do anything outdoors including hiking, camping, and backpacking. Jorgensen said of the Michael B. Whitfield Scholarship, “The Teton Regional Land Trust Scholarship will be really beneficial to me as it will help me pursue my goal of becoming an agricultural education teacher and help kids realize their place in agriculture.”

Tili Anderson will attend Brigham Young University-Idaho to study Civil Engineering and plans to complete a Master’s degree in Environmental Engineering. She is a National Honor Society Member and has completed almost 20 college credits during her high school career. This summer, Anderson will work as a Youth Conservation Corps intern for the Caribou Targhee National Forest doing trail maintenance at Mesa Falls. Her father, who works for the United States Forest Service, taught her the importance of preserving natural resources to maintain a balanced environment.

Anderson said of the scholarship award, “This will be a big help in accomplishing my goals and working to conserve our natural resources.” She hopes to pursue a career where she can make a large impact in preserving the environment for future generations. In her free time, Anderson loves to hike, waterski, rock climb, backpack, paddle board and watch wildlife.

Teton Regional Land Trust created the scholarship in 2009 to honor Michael B. Whitfield who helped found the organization in 1990 and served as its Executive Director for 18 years. Michael’s passion for land conservation in Teton Valley and throughout the Upper Snake River Watershed, has been instrumental in the preservation of key landscapes in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. To learn more about the scholarship and how to apply please visit www.tetonlandtrust.org.

Teton Regional Land Trust Member Donates Home Sale for Conservation Fund

(December 2, 2021) Richard Grundler first came out to fish in Teton Valley in 1961 and ever since then has been drawn to Teton Valley for its skiing and fishing. In 1999, he bought his current home in Victor and moved here permanently from Vermont in 2001. He has always been enamored by the beauty of open space and farmland in the valley and feels that presently, with the increasing development pressures, there is an urgency to ensure that the land is properly protected for future generations. Richard inherited a home on Nantucket Island which he committed to donating to the Teton Regional Land Trust in 2014. This summer, his extremely generous donation came to fruition when he transferred full ownership to the Land Trust with the intent for TRLT to sell it. Once the property was sold, the proceeds of the sale established the Richard G. Grundler Teton Valley Conservation Fund to support conservation efforts in Teton Valley. “I recognized Teton Valley as a last remaining location where nature still had a chance. I want to do as much as possible to assure that that happens. I have traveled the world and realized how fortunate we are. I feel privileged that I will be able to see what my involvement in the valley results in.” said Grundler.

Richard grew up in western New York and went to the University of Vermont and then to the University of Buffalo School of Dentistry. He joined the Navy and spent a year in Vietnam with the Marines and upon his return set up his dental practice in Burlington, Vermont. During this time, he made his first trip to Teton Valley to camp and fish in Teton Canyon. “I caught fish for breakfast before my coffee was even done”, and he was hooked. After running his dental practice for 28 years he retired in 1990 and spent the next ten years coming out to ski at Teton Village, along with some heli-skiing and cat skiing trips to Grand Targhee before deciding to buy a home in Teton Valley. He moved in on Christmas Day in 1999. He is at home here now. He told us he enjoys watching the many different species of birds in his backyard and shared a memory of an evening having burgers and beers with friends on his deck when he spotted four mountain lions on the hillside that they were able to watch for a while.

Richard first became acquainted with Teton Regional Land Trust when he attended the annual “Taste of the Tetons” picnics at Six Springs Ranch, home of the Land Trust. He got to know the people involved and became a member. In 2014, he was invited to go fishing with the executive director at the time, Chet Work, after which Richard set up a meeting with him and told him he wanted to donate his Nantucket property to the Teton Regional Land Trust. He had realized how unique Teton Valley was and wanted to help “protect the valley’s open spaces.” Richard told us that a big concern of his is “non-harmonious, uncontrolled development, isolated parcels of land that are left behind and are not farmable any longer.” We asked him what his vision is for Teton Valley moving forward and he said, “keeping it peaceful, quiet, serene, and ‘short lift lines.”

Teton Regional Land Trust is honored and grateful for Richard Grundler’s generous gift to the Land Trust and to Teton Valley. Richard’s inspiring gift will make a lasting impact on conservation in Teton Valley, and we are beyond thankful for his vision and foresight. Planned gifts like his will benefit our wildlife and community for many generations to come, making Richard’s legacy live on through the land forever. I look forward to showing Richard first-hand the future projects that we can complete with the Richard G. Grundler Teton Valley Conservation Fund, says Jeske Gräve, Development Director. If you have named the Teton Regional Land Trust in your estate plans, or are planning to do so, please let us know so we can thank you in your lifetime. As Richard says perfectly: “Do it now when you are able to see the benefits of your donations while you are still living.  You can also offer input on how best to see your donations used.

Three Regional Conservation Projects Protect Working Lands, Wildlife Habitat, and Scenic Views

(November 1, 2021) Teton Regional Land Trust (TRLT) completed three important conservation projects this summer on properties throughout our region in Teton Valley, on Pine Creek Bench in Swan Valley, and adjacent to the Tex Creek Wildlife Management Area. These conservation easements add over 2,500 acres to the Land Trust’s conserved properties. “Congratulations to Renee Hiebert, Conservation Specialist and Josh Holmes, Land Protection Specialist, who led these projects that reflect the landowners’ goals for their properties while protecting the conservation values. All three projects build upon past conservation work by TRLT and our partners and help ensure the long-term ecological function of core conservation areas in east Idaho. It’s no secret that east Idaho is facing unprecedented pressures on resources. Strategic conservation of working lands that provide key wildlife habitat and habitat connectivity contributes to common goals of many people who call this area home—open space and robust wildlife populations” said Tamara Sperber, Conservation Director.

Earlier this summer, Three Forks, LLC conserved 130 acres of pivot-irrigated farmland adjacent to their existing conservation easement properties that are located in the Three Forks area of the Teton River approximately five miles west of Driggs. The property provides important foraging habitat for Sandhill Cranes and waterbirds in both spring and fall and is part of a migratory corridor for big game. The family donated the value of the conservation easement, which provides the needed private match for TRLT’s current North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grant.  This is TRLT’s sixth $1 million NAWCA grant that benefits Teton Valley and brings funds to local landowners interested in conserving their land to benefit wetland-dependent bird species. Each grant has been leveraged by several million private dollars in the form of both easement donations and monetary donations from private foundations and individuals, benefitting local communities, both human and wild. The Cross Charitable Foundation helped with the needed match to complete this conservation project. The recent easement meets two distinct conservation purposes: the preservation of the relatively natural habitat of fish, wildlife, or plants and the protection of open space including farmland pursuant to a clearly delineated governmental policy.

In early September, a conservation easement granted to TRLT by the Bradford family preserved one of the last pieces of unprotected farmland on Pine Creek Bench in Swan Valley. Overlooking the South Fork of the Snake River, this 140-acre easement is surrounded by other protected farms and land owned by Bureau of Land Management, which collectively protect the incredible scenery along the famed trout stream.  “This was an exceptionally rewarding project to be a part of. Anytime you see an inholding conserved, you know the resources in the area have a greater chance of remaining intact for the future benefit of local wildlife.  Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse and big game are a few of the species that rely on the open space and habitat of the Pine Creek Bench. The Bradfords have made a significant and lasting impact on conservation in the area.” says Josh Holmes, TRLT Land Protection Specialist, who worked on the conservation easement.  This project builds on the 30-year effort by the Snake River Conservation Partnership to protect lands along the South Fork, adding to the more than 10,000 acres that have been preserved from development along the river. Funding was also provided by Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the JKL Family Foundation, the Cross Charitable Foundation, and a private bequest.

Most recently, one of TRLT’s largest conservation easements was granted by a family on their ranch adjacent to the Tex Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA), in Bonneville County east of Idaho Falls, preserving critical transition habitat that is vital for big game herds that winter on the WMA. Elk, mule deer, moose, Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse, and a multitude of other wildlife species will benefit from the protection of this large property. This conservation project met the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) qualification for Grasslands of Special Significance because of the sagebrush habitat, which allowed the NRCS to contribute a significant amount of funding for the easement under the Agricultural Land Easement program.  An NRCS Agricultural Conservation Easement Program Agricultural Land Easement allows for farming and ranching of properties, as well as limited residential construction. It also permanently limits the amount and type of future development. “Conserving over 2,000 acres of rangeland next to the WMA couldn’t have happened without the landowners’ vision and help from our dedicated partners. The NRCS has been a wonderful partner all along the way, helping us overcome numerous hurdles to get the ranch protected. You don’t see too many ranches of this size in this area. I can’t thank the family enough for working with us to implement their conservation vision to protect such a special place.” Josh Holmes, Land Protection Specialist for TRLT. In addition to the support received by NRCS, other partners that supported the project include the Cross Charitable Foundation, the JKL Family Foundation, the local Safari Club chapter, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and private donors.

For over 30 years, the Land Trust has worked with partner organizations and willing landowners to protect more than 39,000 acres in east Idaho through conservation easements and other voluntary conservation options.

Cover Photo:  Pine Creek Bench in Swan Valley

Three Forks in Teton Valley

Tex Creek in Bonneville County

Land Trust and longtime Teton Valley family protect scenic farmland and wetland habitat

(March 23, 2021) Teton Regional Land Trust (TRLT) and the Kearsley family recently closed on an 80-acre conservation easement that protects the family’s farm and preserves scenic open space, important wetland habitat, and a portion of two streams within the Teton River watershed. Thanks to the Kearsley family, the iconic scenic view as you enter Teton Valley coming over Pine Creek Pass on Highway 31 will remain that way. The property has been farmed by the Kearsley family for more than 100 years and this will allow them to continue that tradition.  David Kearsley worked closely with the Land Trust on the easement. “We appreciate working with TRLT on this project. Funds received through the conservation easement will allow us to keep the property in the family and keep the agricultural usage. There have been five generations of family members who have operated the farm. We look forward to having many more.”

The farm is surrounded by other private lands that were previously protected by conservation easements, making the Kearsley farm an important piece of the conservation puzzle in the Teton Valley’s south end.  Significant ecological connections tie the farm to more than 12,340 acres of other TRLT conserved properties in Teton County, as well as a number of other protected properties and public lands. Protecting the wetland and riparian habitats on the farm adds to the conservation of resources that are important for native plants, fish, and wildlife in Teton Valley, including the Greater Sandhill Crane, Long-billed Curlew, and Swainson’s Hawk.

“The Kearsley family is leaving in place a conservation legacy on the landscape that will be intact for many more generations to come.” said Josh Holmes, TRLT’s Land Protection Specialist who led this project to completion, “I can’t thank them enough for that.”

The property’s wetland attributes and the streams that flow through the farm are important contributors to the health and function of the Teton River. These features join other water sources to form the headwaters of the Teton River, which provides habitat for native fish such as the Yellowstone cutthroat trout. The wetland, floodplains, and riparian habitats within the Teton River watershed are vital to the protection of wildlife populations, nutrient cycling, water quality, erosion control, and groundwater discharge. Protection of the Kearsley farm, as well as other lands within the Teton River corridor, is an important part of securing long-term conservation of these precious resources. “Well-managed family farms and ranches play a critical role in protecting and conserving clean water, healthy streams, and a thriving wild fishery in the Teton River Watershed. Friends of the Teton River is thrilled to have been able to help bring funding support to this project”, Amy Verbeten, Executive Director of Friends of the Teton River.

In 2017, TRLT, Friends of the Teton River, and LegacyWorks Group succeeded in acquiring funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Idaho to support conservation work in Teton Valley as part of the NRCS’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). Within the RCPP, the NRCS made federal matching funds available to support conservation easements in Teton Basin through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). Because the Kearsley farm met the conservation goals of the Teton Basin RCPP by protecting farmland and natural resources beneficial to the health of the Teton River and wildlife species, TRLT was able to secure NRCS support through ACEP.

“NRCS is excited to welcome this parcel into ACEP,” said Wade Brown, Easement Coordinator for NRCS Idaho. “It provides a long-term grazing management program that will, in turn, improve wetland and riparian habitat. That, along with its location within the Teton Basin made it a perfect fit for our easement program.”

Conservation of the Kearsley farm builds on the protection of already conserved valley habitat and working lands that benefits both people and wildlife. For 30 years, the Land Trust has worked with partner organizations and willing landowners to protect more than 37,000 acres in east Idaho through conservation easements and other voluntary conservation options. An ACEP conservation easement allows for farming and ranching of properties, as well as limited residential construction. It also permanently limits the amount and type of future development.

More Open Space Protected Along the Teton Creek Corridor

(December 22, 2020) Last week, the Teton Regional Land Trust (TRLT) and Teton County, Idaho completed the most recent conservation easement along the Teton Creek Corridor. The property borders Teton Creek north of Cemetery Road and was once a proposed site for Teton County’s new Road and Bridge Facility. After deciding not to build there, the county considered selling the property to help finance a new site but decided instead to work with the Teton Creek Collaborative (TCC) to protect the property from future development by selling a conservation easement. The proceeds will be used to help fund the new Road and Bridge facility without having to sell public land along Teton Creek.  The property will remain in Teton County ownership with a conservation easement held by Teton Regional Land Trust. The conservation easement preserves the open space along the Teton Creek Corridor and allows for public access along a gravel pathway. The intended recreational uses for the pathway include biking, walking, and horseback riding with a winter closure to provide secure and undisturbed habitat for wintering big game. “Teton County is proud to be a partner in this collaborative effort to restore and conserve the Teton Creek Corridor for the benefit of our community,” said Cindy Riegel, Teton County, Idaho County Commissioner.

Over a one-half mile of Teton Creek flows through the property. Mature cottonwoods, aspens, and other riparian shrubs line the creek corridor. The property’s natural features also include sagebrush steppe which provides habitat for a number of wildlife species including wintering elk, white-tailed deer, and moose. Mountain lions, black bears, and other mammals frequent the creek corridor, and the area supports raptor species such as Great Gray Owl, Great Horned Owl, and Bald Eagle, along with numerous songbirds. “For a relatively small property, it has quite a bit of Teton Creek frontage, which is great for both the scenery and wildlife habitat value.  Conserving this property keeps it free from residential and industrial development while providing a unique opportunity for the community to recreate in a natural setting close to town while limiting winter public access to benefit wildlife,” said Renee Hiebert, TRLT.

The Teton Creek Collaborative, a partnership that includes the Teton Regional Land Trust, Friends of the Teton River (FTR), Valley Advocates for Responsible Development (VARD), Teton Valley Trails and Pathways (TVTAP), and LegacyWorks Group (LWG) formed in 2015 to work with other interested non-profits, municipalities, and community members to fulfill the vision put forth in the Teton County Comprehensive Plan. This vision aligned with the goals of the TCC including habitat protection and restoration, farmland protection, public pathway, and incentive-based options to reduce development within and along the corridor. “Less than two years ago, an industrial facility was proposed on this site. Now it is protected forever. This is the result of determination, collaboration, and community-driven conservation,” said Shawn Hill, VARD.

The project conserves open space for the general public to enjoy the property’s natural surroundings and the Teton Creek trail system. Establishing the public pathway along Teton Creek has been years in the making. Since 2015 TCC has been working with private property owners, Teton County, and the City of Driggs to negotiate and establish a public pathway easement between Cemetery and Stateline Roads. Once the access easements were in place, TCC, led by Teton Valley Trails and Pathways, set out to raise funds for pathway construction.

This past year, the pathway was constructed through Teton County’s property and the Land Trust’s land upstream of Cemetery Road. The partners are still working to raise the funds to connect the path all the way to Stateline Road, but are excited to share that the trail will be opening in 2021 once winter range closures are lifted. In working to balance habitat protection for wildlife with public access for our community, the pathway has been sited along the upland bench and outside the corridor to provide safety and security for wildlife. The pathway will be closed during the winter to ensure animals, like the wintering elk, have a secure space free of disturbance during that critical time for their survival.

“During the summer 2020 construction season, TVTAP completed 1.6 miles of finished gravel pathway. In 2021 TVTAP will complete the final 0.4 miles of the pathway. Work also will begin on a pedestrian bridge over Teton Creek to improve pathway connectivity and safety between Ski Hill and Cemetery Roads,” said Dan Verbeten, TVTAP.

Since this collaboration began, significant progress has been made, collectively achieving impressive results including in-stream restoration of Teton Creek, permanent protection of over 300 acres, and the establishment of pathway connectivity between Driggs and Stateline Road. Achieving the goals of the TCC is a balancing act, and the collaborative has worked hard to incorporate the desire of the community to have the ability to access nature close to Driggs while also protecting habitat for wildlife, improving flood protection, and sustaining open space and productive agricultural lands. “It’s incredible to realize how much progress has been made on this project in such a short time. At Friends of the Teton River, we are really excited about the way this project will make it possible for people to connect with the Teton Creek corridor, and to learn about all of the community benefits of protecting healthy, functioning stream channels and floodplains,” said Amy Verbeten, FTR. The Teton Creek Collaborative is excited to welcome the community to the site when the pathway opens this spring once the winter closure is lifted. For more information visit tetoncreekproject.org.

The LOR Foundation has taken a lead role in empowering the community organizations to make this project possible through their generous financial support of this conservation easement. Additional support for the conservation easement came from an agreement between Grand Targhee Resort and Teton County, Wyoming. Numerous other granting entities and individual donors including the Community Foundation of Teton Valley have generously supported other aspects of the project. “Many thanks to the visionary funders, government partners, and nonprofit leaders in our community and beyond who made this all possible. From the LOR Foundation’s initial support to all the private and public funding that followed from there, the Teton Creek Corridor project brought millions of dollars into the valley to achieve one of the community’s long-standing goals – protecting wildlife and agriculture, restoring habitat, and creating recreational access and safe pathways,” said Carl Palmer, LWG.

Wildlife Photos in Teton Creek Corridor by Marty Edwards

Teton Regional Land Trust celebrates 30 years

By Julia Tellman, Teton Valley News

(August 19, 2020) The Teton Regional Land Trust, founded in August of 1990, now oversees 36,400 acres of land in conservation easements split among 132 landowners in its six-county eastern Idaho service area (with some spill-over into neighboring states). But Michael Whitfield, a founding member of the nonprofit who also served as executive director for 17 years, remembers closing on the very first easement.

It took almost five years.

“Land trusts were not a well-known concept back then,” Whitfield said. “I went to a presentation in Jackson put on by the High Country News in ’88 and it was the first I’d heard of land trusts.”

At the turn of the decade, there was a real estate boom and the valley was in the throes of land use planning controversy (some things never change). Whitfield and other community members held sessions at which people defined the qualities that made Teton Valley special. The Teton River and its surrounding wetlands and tributaries were at the top of the list. The TRLT started small, originally known as the Teton Valley Land Trust.

“Landowners were pretty apprehensive about easements,” Whitfield remembered. “It’s a huge commitment to leave that legacy in place forever.”

Finally, in January of 1995, TRLT signed an easement on a piece of property on Teton Creek, the culmination of “many deliberate and intense conversations over a kitchen table,” as Whitfield put it.

“Sometimes we’d engage with a family for ten years before they decided on that path,” he continued. “Then they’d become ambassadors for conservation easements—people would watch them to see how it went.”

Whitfield said that building those life-long relationships has been his favorite part about the land trust. He remembers visiting property along the Snake River, making exciting waterfowl discoveries on easements, and giving farmers the guarantee that their land would never be developed.

The land trust’s earliest easements were all donated, meaning the owners protected the land in exchange for tax incentives. Now in the majority of projects, the land trust buys the development rights or buys the land outright.

“It’s always incentive-based,” explained current TRLT executive director Joselin Matkins. “We’re not asking people to give their greatest asset away just for the public good.”

As the number of properties overseen by TRLT increases, the organization splits its time and resources between pursuing new land and maintaining existing projects.

“We find that it usually takes us twice as much time and energy as we expect to ensure landowners are meeting the terms of their perpetual contract,” Matkins said.

While Whitfield and Matkins don’t view any one project as the pinnacle of TRLT’s accomplishments, they both feel that the Six Springs Ranch, where the land trust office is located, is representative of the bigger picture of Teton Valley conservation. The ranch, a collection of three easements, encompasses pasture that the nonprofit leases for grazing, several Teton River tributaries, rich wildlife habitat, and one of the most productive cutthroat trout spawning areas in the valley.

“I’m always amazed that over half the river corridor and its wetlands are protected, through 70 different owners,” Matkins said. “That speaks to the landscape-scale impact on the protection of a resource, and to the founders’ focus on the most important resources in the region.”

In addition to its work in Teton Valley, TRLT also has projects all along the South Fork and Henry’s Fork of the Snake River and in Island Park. Future regional projects include the Tex Creek area east of Idaho Falls and the High Divide west of Island Park. Both of those areas are essential winter range for ungulates and key to maintaining the connectivity of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

“We’re sitting in one of the largest intact ecosystems left in the world, and we need to strike that balance and have a functional landscape with a whole suite of species still living here, and pass on the legacy of this iconic place,” Matkins said.

This August to celebrate the 30th anniversary, TRLT had hoped to hold a Taste of the Tetons, a popular culinary event that began in 1997, but that celebration will have to be postponed until next year. Instead, TRLT will hold a week-long virtual event starting on Aug. 21, with a series of special volunteer and land steward awards as well as videos featuring stories from landowners. The week will culminate on Aug. 27 with an online auction and keynote speech from Mark Elsbree of the Conservation Fund.

Every year the TRLT gives the Ed Hill Conservation Award to a person or group that has made a significant conservation impact, and this year’s recipients are landowners.

“It’s a way to acknowledge that incredible vision and commitment to maintaining the integrity of the landscape, working lands, and wildlife habitat,” Matkins said.

It’s not only the landowners who support TRLT; Matkins said she’s always amazed by the people who don’t own land but make donations because they value the mission and the agency and nonprofit partners who join forces to effect change.

“It’s really meaningful to me how people come together to protect land. We work with so many people with different backgrounds and views, but a love of the land is a shared value that transcends short-term differences,” she said.

Teton Regional Land Trust Board President John Nedrow took some convincing, but now he’s a big believer in conservation easements – it saved his family farm

Story and Photos by Steve Stuebner

(November 7, 2020) Before knowing much about land trusts, Ashton farmer John Nedrow thought they were some kind of sinister force seeking to take over his farm and force landowners off their property.

“Back then, I thought they were the enemy,” Nedrow said in an interview on his alfalfa and malt-barley farm, which straddles the banks of the famed Henrys Fork River, a blue-ribbon trout stream. “I thought they wanted to turn this whole area into national park.”

But then one of Nedrow’s neighboring farmers, who was a Teton Regional Land Trust board member, shared some of the potential benefits of working with the land trust, including the possibility of getting a nice chunk of change to protect his farm from being subdivided or turned into a shopping mall.

The Nedrow family was struggling to make ends meet at the time, the late 1990s, he said. They had had several bad years in a row – poor commodity prices and poor yields. They had incurred some debt in the early 1980s to upgrade equipment and put in a new irrigation system. They were having a hard time covering the debt.

On top of that, the local Coors malt-barley plant had been recently shut down after being a dependable buyer of malt-barley, bringing a consistent source of revenue. “That really took the wind out of our sails,” Nedrow says.

Nedrow contacted the Teton Regional Land Trust staff to schedule an appointment and learn more.  His son, Greg, was home from the University of Idaho. They talked about the potential benefits of a conservation easement on a portion of their 840-acre farm, a portion on the banks of the Henrys Fork with primo fish and wildlife values.

Cash from the deal could help put his two sons through college, pay off his debts, and allow him to make some additional investments in the farm. A national Farm and Ranchlands Protection Program under the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) gave farmers the option to sell their development rights while allowing them to retain ownership.

The Teton Regional Land Trust put the deal together, and within 6-7 months, Nedrow received payment for the conservation easement. “It was exciting to get that check,” he says with a big grin. “It let us get our feet back under us. It let us keep going and make a decent living.”

Today, Nedrow is Board President of the Teton Regional Land Trust. His story is still as relevant as ever as Idaho’s oldest land trust celebrates 30 years of conservation in 2020.

In essence, the conservation purchase saved the Nedrow family farm, and the family rests easier now, knowing that their farm is safe in their hands and never will be subdivided. “It would take a man down to see something like this destroyed,” he says. “The river and the land are part of our family.”

The Nedrows signed the first conservation easement in 2002. They added a second easement in 2003 with an additional 300 acres under the North American Wetland Conservation Act grants program.

“I like that we continue to own our property, even though it’s protected by a conservation easement,” said Sheila Nedrow, John’s wife. “It’s an easement, so we need to protect those conservation values. We can’t destroy the habitat, but we’d never want to do that anyway. But still, it’s our land to manage and continue to produce for our farm.”

The Nedrows also continue to pay taxes on their farm property, continuing their contribution to the local tax base in Fremont County.

Over the last three decades, the Teton Regional Land Trust has protected over 36,000 acres of working lands and habitat in six counties in Eastern Idaho, including 53 miles of the Teton, South Fork of the Snake, and Henrys Fork rivers, involving 166 properties and 133 partner landowners. Their list of accomplishments is long and impressive as the state’s oldest land trust organization.

On a beautiful east Idaho evening at Nedrow’s farm, we saw ospreys flying overhead with a fresh catch in their talons, the Henrys Fork flowing by, kingfishers squawking in the bushes, a few anglers fly-fishing, and a prize sighting of four otters swimming by in the river.

“Whoa, I’ve never seen four otters at one time, that’s cool!” said Kate Nedrow, who is the wife of John’s son, Greg.

Greg and Kate are now helping run the Nedrow farm while operating a dry grain farm they have taken over from relatives in Kate’s family. Greg reflected, “putting the land under conservation easement started as a means to an end. Now almost two decades later, it is about the legacy we have created for our family and for the future.”

John Nedrow also became a believer in open space and conservation after serving on the Fremont Planning and Zoning Commission. He watched farmland get gobbled up by trophy homes and subdivisions. He noticed that growth doesn’t always pay its way, and local taxes often have to go up to cover the increased costs of roads and services to serve newcomers.

The 2007-2010 Great Recession slowed down the growth, but ever since then, development pressures have ramped up again, putting more open space and wildlife habitat at risk in this scenic corner of Idaho, which lies in the shadows of the Grand Teton and the Teton Mountain Range.

“The threat posed by development is very real. There’s no way we can compete with the money that developers pay for farm and ranch land,” says Joselin Matkins, Executive Director of the Teton Regional Land Trust. “At the same time, we know that ranchers and farmers in this region own working lands that provide value to our agricultural economy and wildlife habitat. Situated within the world-famous Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the largest intact ecosystem in the lower 48 states, we have the opportunity to work with landowners to safeguard family farms and ranches and maintain the integrity of this iconic ecosystem including the world-renowned fisheries of the Henrys Fork and South Fork of the Snake Rivers We have to protect these really special places.”

In the Ashton farm country, that means protecting farms and open space and keeping working lands, working. Looking ahead, Nedrow wants to spread the word about the benefits of working with the Teton Regional Land Trust, telling his story to more farmers who might fear the same things he did back in the day. Matkins says that’s critical.  “Landowners need to know that their property rights are always protected, no matter what,” she says. “No one is ever going to force anyone to sign a conservation easement. It’s always up to them what they want to do with their property.

“When you work with a landowner for several years on protecting their property from development, you know that they have their own very personal reasons for realizing a lifetime dream and making an impact. It’s very rewarding and really cool at closing to see how much it means to them.”

Steve Stuebner is a Boise-based professional writer who specializes in conservation success stories. Funding for this story was made possible by the national Land Conservation Assistance Network www.landcan.org

Trumpeter Swans in Teton Valley

(October 12, 2020) Trumpeter Swans are one of our region’s most iconic birds and embody the extraordinary landscape we call home. Trumpeter Swans are the largest waterfowl species native to North America, and in addition to being visually magnificent, they exhibit highly cognizant behavior, form strong family bonds, and can live up to 25 years in the wild. In the Greater Yellowstone region, Trumpeters can be seen and heard near ponds, rivers, and streams year-round.

The Teton Basin Trumpeter Swan Restoration Project is a partnership between Teton Regional Land Trust, IDFG, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Intermountain Aquatics, and other local partners. The goal of the partnership is to restore Teton Basin’s population of nesting Trumpeter Swans and through that, conserve the ecology and natural heritage of nesting Trumpeter Swans in Yellowstone National Park and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. To accomplish this goal, project partners are committed to a long-term effort involving releases of captive-bred Trumpeter Swans in Teton Basin in an effort to restore the population, in addition to continuing to conserve critical swan habitat. Since 2013, project partners have released 28 swans. One of the Trumpeters released in 2016, affectionately named R13, was spotted this summer in the Bechler area of Yellowstone National Park paired with a wild swan. Although the hope is that someday there will be nesting Trumpeters in Teton Valley, it is exciting to see them making a home anywhere in the Greater Yellowstone region.

We recently released six cygnets onto a protected wetland in Teton Valley and have been monitoring them for a month and have observed them bonding with a wild swan.  We would like to remind hunters to know your target. There is no hunting season for Trumpeter Swans in Idaho Trumpeter Swans are considerably larger than geese and adult swans have solid white wings and bodies. Young swans, called cygnets, are medium gray with a pale belly and wing lining.

Most of our released Trumpeter Swans are marked with large green neck collars with white alphanumeric codes, but this year’s released cygnets have a green leg band instead. If you observe green-collared or banded swans in our region, please notify the Teton Regional Land Trust.  For more information or to support the project, please visit www.tetonlandtrust.org or contact Nicole Cyr via email at nicole@tetonlandtrust.org.

Photo by Anna Kirkpatrick

Caribou-Targhee National Forest Gains Priority Inholding The protection of the Maytag-Teton Timbers property will ensure additional access to public lands and enhance wildlife habitat protection

DRIGGS, ID (September 29, 2020) —The U.S. Forest Service and The Conservation Fund
announce that approximately 960-acres of land located in a remote forested area in Teton
County, Idaho is now protected in perpetuity, thanks to a partnership that also includes the
Teton Regional Land Trust, supportive landowners at the Beartooth Group, Teton County
Commissioners, the Valley Advocates for Responsible Development (VARD), and Idaho’s
Congressional delegation.

The Maytag-Teton Timbers property has been a top Forest Service priority for protection in the
Caribou-Targhee National Forest for several years. As a private inholding surrounded by public
lands, the parcel created navigational issues for outdoor enthusiasts interested in accessing the
national forest. The Forest Service’s acquisition of this property effectively helps consolidate the
area within the northern end of the Big Hole Mountain range, eliminates subdivision threats,
reduces wildland-urban interface fire concerns from the local community, and protects critical
wildlife habitat and watersheds. This conservation effort was made possible through funding
from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which was permanently and fully
funded by a new law enacted last month.

“The Maytag-Teton Timbers property is a prime example of LWCF working in a collaborative
way,” said Congressman Mike Simpson. “Engaging with the local community and ensuring
their needs were met, was critical to the success of this project. I applaud the U.S. Forest
Service and all the partners involved, for working diligently to accomplish this great project.
When the Great American Outdoors Act was signed into law last month, I said this bill is for
future generations. The Maytag-Teton Timbers property will achieve this goal by opening up
public access for Idahoans for centuries to come.”

With elevated views of the Tetons, a multitude of aspen groves and open meadows, the
potential for residential subdivision on this property was incredibly high. The acquisition
conserves open space, protects habitat from future development, mitigates wildfire risk, and
protects clean water for the benefit of fish, wildlife, and people. This parcel is rich with water
resources and encompasses stretches of Porcupine, Irene, Brown Bear, and Hillman Creeks, as
well as the upper reaches of Pack Saddle and Horseshoe Creeks.

“Protection of these critical riparian areas and headwaters stretches will ensure high-quality
water flows from the upper reaches of Pack Saddle and Horseshoe Creeks to their confluence
with the Teton River, a world-class, blue-ribbon trout fishery,” said Mel Bolling, Caribou-
Targhee National Forest Supervisor.

The conservation of this private inholding ensures the American people, including hikers,
hunters, equestrian riders, anglers, mountain bikers, snow sports enthusiasts, and others will be
able to use an additional 960-acres of public lands and eliminates future concerns about
possible trespass issues on the property.

When the property went up for sale in 2017, The Conservation Fund began working with
Beartooth Group and then stepped in to purchase the Maytag property in April 2020, allowing
the Forest Service the necessary time needed to acquire funding. The Teton Regional Land
Trust assisted The Conservation Fund in the effort to acquire, hold and ultimately transfer the
land to the Forest Service.

“Partnerships and collaboration go a long way in making these important conservation projects
viable,” said Mark Elsbree, Western Director and Senior Vice President at The
Conservation Fund. “Securing the Maytag property for a community that highly values its
public lands for wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities will have a lasting positive impact.”
“The Teton Regional Land Trust is happy to be a partner in this acquisition to incorporate the
private inholding in the Big Hole Mountains into the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. This is a
great outcome for the public and wildlife in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem” stated Joselin
Matkins, the Land Trust’s Executive Director.

“It is our mission to restore, enhance and protect critical properties throughout the West – and
this transaction will be one of our proudest moments,” said Robert Keith, Founder and
Managing Principal of Beartooth Group. “We started working with the Teton Regional Land
Trust and The Conservation Fund before our acquisition in 2014 on how to make such an
outcome occur. After the demolition of a large and hazardous structure, clean-up associated with
abandoned coal mining operations and a sustainable timber operation to improve forest health,
The Conservation Fund made this goal a reality. It was truly a pleasure to be involved with this
Forest Service great group of partners in this wonderful transaction.”

“From my initial conversation with The Conservation Fund, and as a Board member with VARD,
I was beyond thrilled and honored to present to them the opportunity to preserve the Maytag
property,” said VARD Board Member Linda Unland. “Through the hard work of The
Conservation Fund, the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, and many others, the project is
coming to fruition. This is an exceptional shared legacy for the Teton Valley and generations to

About Caribou-Targhee National Forest
The Caribou-Targhee National Forest occupies over 3 million acres and stretches across
southeastern Idaho, from the Montana, Utah, and Wyoming borders. To the east, the Forest
borders Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, and the Bridger-Teton National
Forest. Most of the Caribou-Targhee is part of the 20-million acres Greater Yellowstone
Ecosystem and is also home to the Curlew National Grassland. The spectacular scenery of the
Forest is easily reached from highways, byways, and back doors. The bond between forest and
community spans generations through family activities such as camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, and riding off-highway vehicles. During the winter, the forest offers vast expanses of untracked powder.

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that
make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its
essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have
worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect more than eight million acres of land, including over
135,000 acres in Idaho. https://www.conservationfund.org

About Teton Regional Land Trust
Teton Regional Land Trust is a 501(c) (3) whose mission is to conserve working farms and
ranches, fish and wildlife habitat, and scenic open spaces in eastern Idaho for this and future
generations. For more information, please call 208-354-8939 or visit our website at:

About Valley Advocates for Responsible Development
Valley Advocates for Responsible Development (VARD) is a Driggs, Idaho-based nonprofit with a
mission of promoting open spaces, wild places, and vibrant towns in Teton Valley. We promote
a synthesis of responsible development and sustainable use of rural and natural resources in
Teton Valley, a key sub-region of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem that lies under 5 local
government jurisdictions and two US States. Since our founding in 2001, we have influenced
countless community planning decisions and have leveraged over $31 million toward
conservation and community development efforts.

Expanded Protection of the Spring Creek Wetland in Teton Valley

On Thursday, September 17, 2020, the Teton Regional Land Trust increased the protection of a large wetland complex at the head of Spring Creek, near Tetonia, and secured important habitat for Sandhill Cranes. Just upstream of the confluence of Spring Creek and North Leigh Creek, the Spring Creek Ranch is a mix of wetlands and spring creeks surrounded by sagebrush-covered hills. In 2015, the Land Trust purchased 180 acres adjacent to their Petzoldt Preserve, a small parcel protected for its wetland habitat in 2004. The property was purchased because of the valuable wetlands that provide habitat for five Sandhill Crane nests and important fall roosting habitat for staging Sandhill Cranes. The uplands also provide critical winter range for elk and moose.

The new conservation easement will add an additional 110 acres of conserved land to the existing 200 acres already protected and enhance habitat protection for native plants, fish, and wildlife including “Species of Greatest Conservation Need”  as outlined in the Idaho State Wildlife Action Plan including Ferruginous Hawk, Sandhill Crane, Northern Leopard Frog, Common Nighthawk, Trumpeter Swan, Short-eared Owl, and Columbian Sharp-tailed grouse.  “We are very excited to protect more important habitat in Teton Valley. This land is used year-round by wildlife including wintering elk and nesting and staging Sandhill Cranes in the summer and fall,” says Joselin Matkins, Teton Regional Land Trust Executive Director.

This marks the 81st conservation easement completed in Teton Valley in partnership with willing landowners and the Land Trust. It builds on the protection of over 11,000 acres of valley habitat and working lands that benefits both people and wildlife. For 30 years, and across eastern Idaho, the Land Trust has worked with partner organizations and willing landowners for the last thirty years to protect over 34,000 acres through conservation easements and other voluntary conservation options. A conservation easement is a legal agreement that allows for farming and ranching of properties as well as limited residential construction, but permanently restricts the amount and type of future development.