For over 20 years the Teton Regional Land Trust has been working with local landowners in Teton Valley to protect critical wetlands, nesting, and foraging habitat for Sandhill Cranes and other fish and wildlife emblematic of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. As a result of these efforts, we have protected over 11,000 acres in Teton Valley including the majority of the wetland roosting habitat for Sandhill Cranes.
Beginning in 2003, we initiated a monitoring program to better understand the population and habitat usage of Sandhill Cranes during pre-migration staging. During the pre-migration staging period, Sandhill Cranes from around the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem congregate in Teton Valley to build up their energy reserves before making their annual migration to wintering grounds in the southern US and Mexico. We have made over 90,000 observations of staging cranes since 2003. What we’ve learned from these observations is that Sandhill Cranes seek out harvested or cut grain fields within two miles of their wetland night roosts. This proximity helps them build critical \ energy reserves and provides security during this critical period. Our observations have led us to understand the important interplay between wetland habitat and grain fields.
Because Teton Valley has a unique alignment of wetland and grain habitat, it hosts the largest premigration staging population in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The Land Trust and its partners initiated the Greater Yellowstone Sandhill Crane Initiative to advance efforts to secure and conserve these habitats for generations to come. Our concerted, multi-partner effort works to both purchase property that can be managed for the production of grain for foraging cranes, and to establish annual food plots with willing landowners to ensure adequate crane food resources across the Valley. We are prioritizing forage areas for conservation protection based on the locations of already protected roosting sites in order to sustain the pre-migration staging crane population in Teton Valley