Why did you want to protect your land?
Wendy and I started off with 8 acres in 1994. We had moved to Idaho in 1985 due to a job opportunity. Seeking a place in the country, we had worked our way north from Idaho Falls to Rigby to our current location six miles west of Rexburg. We had responded to a little black and white ad in a real estate circular touting a place in the country with hundreds of trees. It turned out to be a double-wide on the Texas Slough, a tributary of the Lower Henry’s Fork with a big chunk of the eight acres underwater and an inaccessible peninsula. Wendy cried at first thinking she had talked me into buying a place in a swamp. Over time we learned what a unique wildlife habitat it is. We have been devoted to it ever since.
The aging adjacent landowner widow, Bonnie Krause, who was also the original owner of our eight acres, was being approached in 2002 by people who wanted to buy her remaining 70 acres and build home sites. Her son told her she should ask Tim and Wendy. Bonnie valued her family’s land and their personal history of living on it. Wendy worked with Bonnie to buy the land. Later their family asked to spread their ashes on the land when they passed. We were honored.
Later another adjacent landowner made the fortunate decision to sell 40 of her acres in order to keep it natural rather than subdivide for houses. That piece connected three easements into a contiguous segment. All 110 acres are now under conservation easement.
How did you hear about Teton Regional Land Trust?
We were approached by Kim Goodman (Trotter) in 2004 when TLRT had a NAWCA grant for our area, the Lower Henry’s Fork, west of Rexburg. Wendy’s parents were instrumental in starting a land trust in Wisconsin and so she was familiar with the concept. We pledged a portion of our acreage and followed through with the easement in 2005.
How are you currently using your property?
About 80 acres is being farmed in alfalfa, barley, and grass hay by a local family. The rest is for habitat. The property includes about three-quarters of a mile of Texas Slough stream bank on both sides, some ponds converted from a rural trash dump, and hawthorn woods. Wendy enjoys riding her donkeys, Hank and Pete, around the property with our dog Trip.
Years ago I heard an NPR story about a man who worked to improve the habitat value of his property. He garnered great satisfaction from caring for it. It is a never-ending challenge, but very satisfying when invasive weeds are kept at bay, trash is picked up, new trees and flowers are flourishing, and the native ones, like Woods Rose, have been liberated of the dead brush holding them down and ready to flourish again in spring.
What’s your favorite thing about your land?
The Texas Slough is the lifeblood of this property and its habitat. The smaller Warm Slough joins the Texas Slough and provides spring-fed warm waters to keep the water open in winter. The water table is only 15 feet deep at most, but sage and rabbitbrush flourish on the higher ground. This place is an oasis in a high mountain desert.
What bird or animal do you get most excited to see on your land?
Each season brings the return of welcome visitors. Now in spring, Tree Swallows are coming back to see if their nest boxes are still here. In summer thousands will be here.
In winter the Trumpeter Swans fill the skies, the fields, and the unfrozen sloughs. They suddenly begin to arrive in small family groups in November, trumpeting their arrival. Like flying angels, they are magnificent and exhilarating. In 2015 thanks to the Fall River Electric power company, Idaho Fish and Game, conservation organizations, and concerned citizens, a mile’s worth of power line along the Texas Slough were buried. The safety of the swans was ensured and the area transformed into more like a refuge.
Why did you choose to be on the Teton Regional Land Trust board of directors?
In 2012, we were in a battle to protect the Texas Slough upstream from us. A young family wanted to put a bridge across the slough so that they could build a house and have their place in the country. The area was prime moose and swan habitat. Unfortunately, we lost that battle, and the bridge and house were built. The experience galvanized my sense of purpose as a habitat-hugger. Tim Hopkins of TRLT asked if I would join the board and I said yes.
What is the most rewarding aspect of serving on the board?
TRLT is a community of people who care. I am inspired by the effort and perseverance. I am thrilled that habitat, migration corridors, and living space is being safeguarded for the future.
Do you like to cook? If so, what’s your favorite meal to cook/eat?
I like to cook, partly out of necessity. I am not a recipe cook, more of an ingredient combiner. Since we have chickens thanks to Wendy, my go-to breakfast is a roasted pine nut upside down omelet with portabella mushrooms, spinach, and gruyere cheese on sourdough toast drizzled with truffle olive oil. Quick and easy to make and delicious.
I recently was given some SCOBY and am regularly making kombucha. We like to eat sauerkraut every night. My first attempt at sauerkraut failed, so I tried again and this time followed a recipe.
What do you do for fun?
I like being with our family, friends, and animals. Cross-species communication and connection really get me excited. When I see a video of a chimp hugging Jane Goodall in gratitude or a white beluga whale bringing a girl’s dropped iPhone back up to the boat, for me, that is just the best.
What’s your favorite plant, animal, bird, river?
Dogs are the best. All life is special.
What do you never have enough time for?
I don’t like to dwell on that. There is so much I am missing.
What inspires you?
Right now, I am just heartbroken about losing John Prine to COVID19. I am a little late to the party, especially with his recent work. As I listen to his music and watch videos of his interviews and shows, especially later in life, I am inspired by his humble humanity and joy of life.