Conservation Easement on Lower Henry’s Fork  

Teton Regional Land Trust and Mike and Sheralee Lawson partnered to complete a conservation easement on Friday, December 28, 2018.  This 44-acre property in Parker, Idaho includes ¾ of a mile of Henry’s Fork river frontage and an upland bench which is in agricultural production. The property lies in a complex of protected property bordered by Bureau of Land Management and Idaho Department of Fish and Game owned lands. It is also across the river from other privately-owned conservation easement properties. The property’s farmland, grass meadows, cottonwoods and willow riparian areas provide habitat for a wide variety of big game, water bird, song bird, raptor, and wild and native trout species. Notable species that will benefit from this land protection include Sandhill Cranes, Bald Eagle, Wild Turkey, cougar, moose, and Yellow-billed Cuckoo-which is listed as threatened by the Endangered Species Act.

As founder of Henry’s Fork Anglers 42 years ago and current general manager, Mike Lawson is an avid fly fisherman who values conservation of the Henry’s Fork River.  Lawson said, “It’s the right thing to do. It’s about maintaining a way of life. Ensuring farming and ranching remains part of the landscape. We wanted to conserve the property to be a part of maintaining the character of the area. Having grown up in the area, I’ve seen the development happen slowly over time, but in recent years I’ve really come to see how much of the farmland, ranchland, and wildlife habitat has been lost to development.”

Mike and Sheralee both grew up in the Parker area.  The property is special to them both as individuals and as a couple.  For Sheralee, a fourth-generation area resident, the property has significant meaning. Her dad grew up in Parker and would often spend time fishing the area river bottoms. She likes to think that maybe her dad walked across this very property in his youth.  Mike has floated this section of the Henry’s Fork for over 40 years and he has long admired this stretch of the river for brown trout fishing.  Just downstream of the property at the Fort Henry monument, Mike proposed to Sheralee  along the Henry’s Fork many years ago.  When they saw the property listed for sale, they knew it was important to conserve this special place to ensure the wildlife habitat remains intact and not developed.  Mike and Sheralee’s kids are also supportive of their parent’s decision to protect the property with a conservation easement.

“It was wonderful to work with the Lawsons. Their family history in the region and lifelong love of the Henry’s Fork make it especially meaningful to work with them to protect this special property for generations to come,” said Joselin Matkins, Teton Regional Land Trust’s Executive Director.

A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a qualified organization, such as the Land Trust, that limits certain uses of the land, like large scale development, in order to conserve the natural and traditional values of the land. Landowners grant conservation easements to protect the resources of their property for perpetuity while retaining the rights of private ownership. Conservation easements stay with the land forever. This conservation project was accomplished through a partnership between the Land Trust and the landowners. Funding for this project came from the Teton Regional Land Trust’s Eastern Idaho River Conservation Fund and a donation from Mike and Sheralee Lawson.

TRLT has worked with partner organizations and willing landowners for the last twenty-eight years to protect over 34,000 acres through conservation easements and other voluntary conservation options.

Conservation Comes Full Circle

Teton Regional Land Trust and Teton Full Circle Farm partnered to complete a conservation easement on Wednesday, December 19, 2018.  The 21-acre farm northeast of Victor, Idaho is owned by Erika Eschholz and Ken Michael. The property is located in between the Targhee National Forest and Victor city limits. The small farm is highly valuable for production with water rights and a microclimate that create conditions which are some of the most favorable for agriculture in the valley. The Natural Resource Conservation Service considers 100% of the property’s soils as prime farmland.  Conservation of the Teton Full Circle Farm protects farmland and open space, along with habitat for big game, songbirds, and raptors from the neighboring forest. Wildlife is spotted frequently on the property. Organic farms are also important to conserving rare pollinator species since pesticides can threaten their survival.

Eschholz and Michael chose to put a conservation easement on their property because it was important to them that this land will always remain as farmland. “The permanent protection of farmland supports local food, young farmers, healthy ecosystems, healthy lifestyles, and community. The funds from the conservation easement payment will go directly to pay off our farm loan which will allow us to put future farm-generated income into building a new farm sooner verses later. To top it off, because this land cannot be developed, it will be much more affordable for the next farmer,” they explained. “The quilt that is Teton Valley is full of beautiful, diverse squares, all held together by the thread of nature.  The more land we protect for farms and wildlife habitat, the stronger this thread becomes, making a quilt to last for countless generations to come.”

Without being in a generational farming family, or having deep pockets, the cost of land is the biggest barrier of entry for new farmers.  Conservation easements provide a financial-based solution and an important tool for making land affordable.  These easements stay with the land forever. A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a qualified organization, such as the Land Trust, that limits certain uses of the land, like large scale development, in order to conserve the natural and traditional values of the land. Landowners grant conservation easements to protect the resources of their property for perpetuity while retaining the rights of private ownership.

The majority of the Land Trust’s conservation projects focus on landscape scale conservation of farms, ranches, and wildlife habitat. But supporting community projects, like Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, provides community benefit and community conservation outcomes. CSA programs are an agreement between farmers and customers.  By purchasing vegetables preseason, or making a workshare commitment, members receive vegetables and other farm products on a weekly basis.  CSA members save time and energy while eating seasonal selections of our area’s finest and freshest certified organic food, all below farmers’ market prices.

“Completing this project was a unique opportunity to partner with the landowners and the community supported farm to protect vital farmland close to Victor for future generations,” said Joselin Matkins, Executive Director of the Land Trust. “We were so happy to see members of the community supporting this CSA. We received donations from over 40 individuals that gave to the Farmland Forever Fund.”

“Thank you to the Teton Community for your invaluable support in preserving the prime farmlands we all rely on.  It is an incredible feeling to live in a place that values local food, farms, and a healthy connection to the natural world,” expressed Eschholz and Michael.

This conservation project was accomplished through a partnership between the Land Trust, the landowners, and other partners. Funding for this project came from the local community including the farm’s Community Supported Agriculture members, a generous donation by the Donald C. Brace Foundation, and Land Trust supporters.  We also received a grant from New Belgium Brewing Company and other funding was provided by the United States Department of Energy in connection with the settlement of an enforcement action taken by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality for alleged violations of the requirements of the Hazardous Waste Management Act.

TRLT has worked with partner organizations and willing landowners for the last twenty-eight years to protect over 34,000 acres through conservation easements and other voluntary conservation options.

 

 

Greater Yellowstone Crane Festival Coming to Driggs, Idaho

Teton Regional Land Trust is presenting the Greater Yellowstone Crane Festival on Saturday, September 15th from Noon to 5pm at the Driggs City Center Plaza. The afternoon will include nature-themed arts and crafts for kids, live music, traditional and non-traditional crane dances, poetry readings, and food and drinks from local vendors. The festival is being held to celebrate the migration of Sandhill Cranes through Teton Valley.

The festival also includes some special workshops. A photography workshop taught by Mary Lou Oslund and Linda Swope for those 16 and older will be held on Tuesday, September 11 from 5-8pm; Dancer’s Workshop, from Jackson, will host a will host a 2-hour session on Saturday, September 15 from 1-3pm for ages 12 and under; Jackson poet Matt Daly will teach a 90-minute poetry workshop to write original poems focused on cranes. This workshop will be held on Saturday, September 15 from 11:30am-1pm for ages 14 and over and readings will be shared during the festival performances that afternoon.  Participants should sign up for the workshops ahead of time at: https://tetonlandtrust.org/event/greater-yellowstone-crane-festival/

Live music by will be from Noon to 3pm. At 3:30pm, there will be a presentation on the plaza stage that will feature remarks from Driggs Mayor, Hyrum Johnson and George Archibald, co-founder of the International Crane Foundation and world-renowned expert on cranes. Followed by poetry readings and dance performances by Idaho Falls School of Ballet, Teton Valley Hispanic Resource Center, local Girl Scouts, and Dancer’s Workshop.

After the afternoon on the Plaza, sign up for a special presentation in the Driggs Senior Center from George Archibald. Learn about crane conservation across the world and the Land Trust’s efforts to conserve the staging habitat for the largest staging population of Sandhill Cranes in the Greater Yellowstone.  The talk will be followed by a field tour to observe cranes as they fly between the grain fields and their night roosts along the Teton River. Limited space is available for the field tour and you can reserve your spot at: https://tetonlandtrust.org/event/greater-yellowstone-crane-festival/

In addition to celebrating the Sandhill Crane migration and the exceptional natural and agricultural resources of the Teton Valley, the Land Trust is raising awareness about efforts to conserve critical habitat for cranes and other iconic species of the Greater Yellowstone. Because of the unique alignment of proximate wetland roost habitat and grain fields for forage, Teton Valley hosts the largest population of pre-migration staging Sandhills in the entire Greater Yellowstone. Historically over 5,000 Sandhill Cranes spent the fall in Teton Valley, fueling up before migrating to the south for the winter. Due to habitat degradation and development, numbers fell to as few as 500 birds in the 1980s.

Alarmed by this dramatic decline, the Land Trust began working to protect the wetland roosts and agricultural lands the birds rely on during this critical time. In recent years, we recognized that even more needed to be to sustain this iconic species in our region. Since 2015 we have worked to provide food plots adjacent to wetland roosts. This program has been extremely effective and has helped us stabilize and grow the regional population of migrating Sandhills. A study of banded Sandhills in both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks found that every Sandhill banded relied on the Teton Valley to fuel up for their fall migration, demonstrating the importance of this project.

In 2017, we were happy to report that we recorded 1,489 Sandhills in a single day and estimate that over 2,000 came to the Teton Valley to build up the energy reserves needed for their fall migration. This is incredible progress and a sign that the food plot program is helping the population recover. We believe if we are able to provide stable food resources, we can sustain Teton Valley as the most critical staging area for Sandhills in the entire Greater Yellowstone.