Family Conservation on Fox Creek

“Our family has come to love this land. Enamored with its Teton views and spring creeks, we acquired the property in the late 1990s,” Nancy Huntsman shared with us. “In the spring before he passed away in 2012, my husband, Blaine, wrote to his family, ‘the land and its critters have increasingly enticed us with enduring experiences we couldn’t have foreseen when we began our journey.’ As a family, we made a deliberate choice toward stewardship and conservation. We hope that the expanded easements on Fox Creek Ranch will better protect the wildlife and rural values that originally beckoned us to Teton Valley.” The family has permanently conserved 220 acres of their Fox Creek Ranch and has significantly invested in restoring the land since taking ownership of the ranch about 30 years ago.

The Huntsman’s property adjoins almost 3,000 acres of permanently conserved private land held in easements by the Teton Regional Land Trust. It is also adjacent to 251 acres of land owned and managed by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, known as the Fox Creek East and West, which provide access points to the headwaters of the Teton River.

Historically, the ranch was used for livestock grazing and hay production, and today the property is still an operating ranch, but the restored riparian areas and wetlands are no longer grazed. Improving fish and wildlife habitat and associated recreation opportunities are principal goals of the Huntsman family. They have transformed the management of the property and have undertaken large-scale restoration to improve aquatic, riparian, wetland, and upland habitats.  The family has restored and enhanced over two miles of Fox Creek and a half-mile of Little Fox Creek, planted thousands of willows and other native plants along these creeks and has created a series of three wetland ponds.

Little Fox Creek is spring-fed and originates about one mile outside of the property and flows through the northern portion of the ranch before reaching Fox Creek which is a major tributary to the Teton River. Fox Creek is found to be crucial for the conservation of Yellowstone cutthroat trout (YCT) in the Teton Basin. It is one of only three large tributaries in the Teton Valley that still shelters the redds, spawning nests, of YCT. They are an important native fish species in the Greater Yellowstone providing a significant source of food for an estimated 16 species of birds and mammals including bear, river otter, and mink. Because their populations have declined throughout their natural range, state and federal wildlife agencies, as well as non-governmental organizations, have invested in their conservation. They also play an important role in east Idaho’s world-class trout fishery.

In addition to the creeks, a series of enhanced wetland ponds lie in the southern portion of the ranch. The primary function of the ponds was initially water storage. However, since the wetland ponds and associated vegetation have become well established over the past 12 years, they have come to provide significant wildlife habitat for many bird species. In addition to waterfowl, key species including Bobolink, Long-billed Curlew, Sandhill Crane, and Trumpeter Swan can be found thriving on Fox Creek Ranch’s ponds, creeks, and meadows.

Renee Hiebert, the Land Trust’s Conservation Specialist who has worked with the Huntsman family over the years, observed that “It’s encouraging to see how connection to a piece of land can inspire a family to think bigger picture; not just about the current generations, but also about the future generations and their relationship to the land, as well as the land’s future as a part of the family”. Current ownership of Fox Creek Ranch consists of eight Huntsman Family siblings and Nancy Huntsman.

Teton Regional Land Trust has worked with partner organizations and willing landowners for the last thirty years to protect over 36,000 acres through conservation easements and other voluntary conservation options. A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement that allows for continued private property ownership, farming and ranching of properties as well as limited residential construction, but permanently restricts the amount and type of future development.

A Treasure Worth Preserving – South Fork Property Conserved

Thanks to the vision of landowner, Al Davis, another stretch of the South Fork is forever protected. The Teton Regional Land Trust (TRLT) recently completed this conservation easement that builds on decades of conservation along the South Fork. The recently conserved property has been in Davis’ family since the turn of the last century and is located across the Heise bridge near Ririe, Idaho.

As part of the South Fork Conservation Partnership, Teton Regional Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy, the Conservation Fund, and the Bureau of Land Management, have worked together for almost 30 years to leverage private funding, easement donations, and the Land and Water Conservation Fund to protect much of the South Fork. The result of this effort is the permanent conservation of over 20,000 acres, keeping this remarkable river relatively undeveloped. This includes projects from the Palisades Dam to the confluence with the Henry’s Fork that help ensure that the largest intact cottonwood gallery in the lower 48 states. The South Fork hosts some of the most biodiverse habitat in Idaho, providing habitat for wildlife, shade and spawning grounds for trout, and a high-quality recreational experience for people from all over the world.

The Davis family has a long history along the South Fork. In the early 1900s. Al Davis’ grandparents built their home and established the first ferry across the South Fork, just downstream of Heise Hot Springs. For Al Davis, his family’s history on this special property inspired him to conserve it through the Land Trust. He explained that “The land has always been special to me. My mother was born on the property in 1923 and once I came along 23 years later, we always spent some time at my grandparents’ house on the land every summer.  It was a real treat for a kid living in the suburbs of Utah and California to spend time in a rural and mostly wild environment.  It was a wonderful place to be a kid and the charm of what I thought at the time was a wild place left an indelible mark and shaped some of what I would eventually become.”

For Davis, seeing the United States population more than doubled since his childhood, and seeing so many of his childhood places along the river and in the mountains being developed, inspired him to conserve this land in its natural state. Davis purchased the land in 1976 when the family decided to sell the property.  He explains, “It had sentimental value and I certainly didn’t think of the purchase as a monetary investment.  Now that all of my mother’s family are gone, the sentimental value has only grown.  There was a time when I had an ill-formed idea that maybe I’d build a modest house there someday but as the years passed and so many wild places have been destroyed, I realized that I wanted to just leave the property as it was.  Hence when I was contacted by the Teton Regional Land Trust, the decision to permanently conserve the land was an easy one.  Knowing that the land is now preserved in perpetuity is a great feeling.”

This project conserves approximately one-third mile of South Fork River frontage lined with cottonwood trees to and a spring creek that flows down the steep hillside. In addition to the conservation along the banks of the South Fork, the property extends to the top of the mountain, sustaining important upland habitat. The property adjoins public land on all sides and is visible from the river, ensuring unobstructed scenic views of the mountainside and along the riverbanks. This area along the South Fork is very popular for recreation which includes boating, fishing, hiking, 4-wheeling, climbing, and hot-springing. Public access will be permitted along a strip of the property’s South Fork River frontage, south of the Heise Road.

Beyond the scenic values, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) specifically recognizes the property’s value for wintering mule deer and provided financial support for the project through their Mule Deer Initiative program. The south facing slopes dominated by juniper and sagebrush provide winter range for mule deer and white-tailed deer that summer throughout the Big Hole and Palisades Mountains.  Winter aerial survey counts for mule deer have been very high in this area.  A majority of the Heise Face is currently protected through federal ownership, but this property is one of the few private parcels within this winter range.  IDFG states that “Protection of this property through a conservation easement will help ensure mule deer in this area will have secure winter range in the future.”

Other project funding was provided by a bequest from a Teton Regional Land Trust donor whose vision was to conserve the South Fork River Canyon corridor. TRLT has worked with partner organizations and willing landowners for the last twenty-nine years to protect over 34,000 acres through conservation easements and other voluntary conservation options.




Celebrating 10 Years of “Wrunning for Wray” and Honoring His Legacy through Conservation

Join the Teton Regional Land Trust on Saturday, June 22 at Grand Targhee Resort for the 10th Annual Wrun for Wray Targhee Hill Climb held in honor of Wray Landon IV. The 2.9-mile race starts at 10am at the base of the Dreamcatcher chairlift and climbs 1,840’ to the top of Fred’s Mountain. Come join us to race or cheer on the participants. After the race, there will be a raffle and celebration. Proceeds from the race and the raffle will benefit the Teton Regional Land Trust’s Wray Landon Legacy Fund. You can register online at: or at Grand Targhee on the day of the race. This year’s overall male and female race winners will win a Grand Targhee season ski pass.

Wray Landon IV who was born on September 6, 1979, in Westerly, Rhode Island and passed away in an avalanche on February 21, 2010, on the South Teton Peak. Wray began his professional career with Teton Regional Land Trust as an intern in 2007. Due in large part to his hard work ethic, his goal-oriented zeal, and his ability to communicate with a variety of landowners, Wray was soon offered a full-time position as the Resource Specialist for the Land Trust.

Wray was a skilled naturalist and biologist who developed an impressive understanding of the natural systems of the Upper Snake River Watershed. He applied his knowledge with fervor and skill towards the stewardship of conservation easement lands. His field work and knowledge of the resources helped guide the permanent contracts negotiated with landowners to protect private lands.  His good sense and courtesy endeared him to the landowners with whom the Land Trust worked, helping build those strong relationships essential to the conservation of private lands.  His surveys of Yellowstone cutthroat redds, Sandhill Cranes in Teton Valley, song-birds on the South Fork, and waterfowl along the Henry’s Fork, added to the knowledge of wildlife resources in eastern Idaho.

Wray’s wit, like the man himself, was characteristically understated and on target – often conveying the humor in a situation with a couple of wry words and a twinkle in his eye. Wray had an extremely positive attitude and was an incredible listener. For the level of his athleticism and strength, he was extremely modest. Whenever people would ask how he did in a race he would often respond pretty well, when he really had won and possibly even smoked the competition.

Wray was a man of the high mountains; and he was also passionate about wetland conservation, plant ecology, and wildlife. At the time of his passing, Wray was part of the grant-writing team working on a project that resulted in the protection of thousands of acres of important habitat along the Henry’s Fork River. The grant was successful in raising $1,000,000. Wray was also the lead on the Woods Creek Fen Kiosk project. It was his idea to construct the observation platform and install a viewing scope so that everyone could see this landscape from a higher perspective. The observation platform is marked with a plaque dedicating it in memory of Landon.

To carry forward his legacy and love for the land, the Wray Landon Legacy Fund was established. Altogether, the fund has raised just over $113,000. Of the money raised, approximately half is held in the Wray Landon Legacy Fund at the Land Trust. These funds will be used to advance conservation projects in the Teton Valley in coming years.

Over the past 10 years, the fund has also been used to catalyze a handful of projects and support the Land Trust’s stewardship program. In the year after his passing, funds were used to complete the Woods Creek Fen Outdoor Classroom and to help match the $1,000,000 North American Wetland Conservation grant that he was helping to write. The fund has been used to enhance the Land Trust’s summer internship program and to hire a permanent land manager position. The funds have helped us advance our monitoring efforts of iconic species of the Greater Yellowstone including Yellowstone cutthroat trout, Sandhill Cranes, and songbirds. Other funds have been applied to conservation easement acquisitions and habitat restoration across the Teton Valley.

If you are interested in donating to the Wray Land Legacy Fund or learning more about the fund, call 208-354-8939, email or send your donation to PO Box 247, Driggs, ID 83422. Gifts can also be made through the Community Foundation of Teton Valley’s Tin Cup Challenge which is now open through Friday, July 26th at 5pm. Please mark your gift for the Wray Landon Legacy Fund.

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:

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:

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.