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 12,500 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 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
- Create educational opportunities in Teton Valley for wildlife viewing
- Create economic opportunities in Teton Valley by increasing tourism during migration seasons
- Increase sense of place by creating ways for people to connect with the Valley’s special
- Increase population of pre-migration staging Sandhill Cranes by protecting and expanding foraging grounds
- Preserve open space and farmland for the scenic enjoyment of the general public
- Enhance spring stopover for various birds such as Trumpeter Swan, Northern Pintail, and other waterfowl
- Protect natural habitat of fish, wildlife, and plants including· priority species
- Maintain family farms and prime soils
- Teton Regional Land Trust
- Idaho Department of Fish and Game
- US Fish and Wildlife
- Intermountain Aquatics
- LegacyWorks Group
- Meg and Bert Raynes Wildlife Fund
Two Ways to Support the Crane Conservation Initiative
Rod Drewien Crane Conservation Fund
Throughout his 54-year career, Rod worked for many agencies as their partner and good friend, studying migratory birds from the Arctic to southern Mexico. Until his retirement in 1999, he was affiliated with the University of Idaho and Hornocker Wildlife Institute. Rod had the unusual freedom to work across administrative and geographical boundaries to study the birds and the challenges they faced throughout their annual cycle. He loved that freedom and dedicated his life to furthering his knowledge of waterbirds and clearly communicating that knowledge to the scientific, wildlife management, and layman communities. In addition to submitting countless reports to contracting agencies, Rod published over 50 scientific papers on migratory birds, including 36 on Sandhill and Whooping Cranes.
Much of his research was foundational, often providing the first documentation of the behavior, migratory traditions, pathways, and seasonal habitats used by species such as the Greater Sandhill Crane, Whooping Crane, Snow Goose, Ross’s Goose, Trumpeter Swan, and many other associated waterbirds. From 1969-2016, he studied Sandhill Cranes in the Rocky Mountain Region, documenting their year-round ecology. He refined capture and marking methods and developed fall population and recruitment surveys which are now conducted annually by federal and state agencies. His studies of crane mortality on nesting, wintering, and migrational resting areas have been integral to the establishment of protection measures used by managers for Sandhill and Whooping Cranes (eg. fences and powerlines).
The Rod Drewien Crane Conservation Fund is set up to honor Rod’s career-long commitment to crane conservation in the region. The Fund will support the Greater Yellowstone Sandhill Crane Initiative, a program facilitated by the Teton Regional Land Trust in partnership with other state and federal agencies and non-profit organizations. The intent is to build the Fund over time to support the annual programmatic work of the Initiative as well as larger initiatives and conservation acquisition and restoration projects.
Grain for Cranes
Sandhill Cranes are one of the most iconic species in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and are especially effective drivers for conservation initiatives due to their status as an umbrella species. Each fall, Sandhills from around the Greater Yellowstone, including Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, congregate in large numbers in Teton Valley to build up the energy reserves needed for their long migration to their wintering grounds because of the valley’s unique alignment of wetland roosting habitat and farmland. As a result, the Valley hosts the largest pre-migration staging population in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and one of the most important pre-migration staging areas for the Rocky Mountain Population of Sandhill Cranes.
This alignment of resources is unique and irreplaceable. With development pressure increasing across the region, the farm fields that Sandhill’s rely on for food is becoming fragmented and disappearing, replaced by homes and subdivisions. To ensure that Sandhill’s have the food resources they need, the Teton Regional Land Trust has partnered with landowners on the Grain for Cranes Initiative. This effort establishes annual food plots with willing landowners to ensure adequate crane food resources across the Valley.
We currently maintain four food plots for cranes in their prime staging ground. You can contribute directly to our food plot program by donating $350. Your $350 contribution enables us to grow, cut, and leave one acre of barley, the preferred food resource for staging Sandhills. Your support of this program ensures that they leave the valley in prime condition to survive their long journey south.
Virtual Event September 14-19, 2020