Teton Regional Land Trust (TRLT) and the Gailey family recently completed a 140-acre conservation easement near the “Two Forks” section of the Teton River, downstream of the Teton Creek (Nickerson) river access in Teton County. There is a rich history to this property, as the Gaileys are just the third family to own it since it was homesteaded at the turn of the 20th century. This working farm is bordered by conservation easements to the east, adding to the mosaic of protected lands that lie in proximity to the Teton River, a refuge for wildlife and recreationists alike.
“While we don’t live in the area, our family has been visiting and enjoying the Teton Valley for over 50 years,” said the Gailey family. “We were lucky enough to become landowners in 2000. We’re thrilled to be a small part of the conservation efforts with the Teton Regional Land Trust in protecting the Sandhill Crane habitat and preserving open spaces in the valley. We felt a conservation easement was the best way to be good stewards to our land and to guarantee that its habitat and scenic qualities are enjoyed by future generations. We appreciate the work and efforts of Renee Hiebert and everyone at the Teton Regional Land Trust and their donors in making it happen.”
The Land Trust would like to recognize the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Agricultural Land Easement Program, the Richard G. Grundler Teton Valley Conservation Fund, the estate of Ronald C. Rope, The Cross Charitable Foundation, the East Idaho River Conservation Fund, and support through the Land Trust’s Legacy of Land campaign for contributions toward this project.
“We love working with landowners to meet their voluntary conservation goals,” said Curtis Elke, State Conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Idaho. “When they take advantage of our easement programs, it is an even bigger win for the landowner and the landscape. In working with the Gailey family, together we have ensured that sustainable crop production continues, and wildlife maintains access to the habitat it needs. It’s Idaho at its best.”
The Gailey property possesses several qualities lending it conservation value. Its proximity to other protected lands means that wildlife will remain able to move freely between the fields and the Teton River. That open space also provides scenic value for the public, as it can be viewed from Teton County Road West 1250 South, as well as by recreationists floating the river, a portion of which flows through the northern end of the property. Finally, it holds agricultural value, as 87% of the soils are considered prime soils of statewide significance for agriculture.
This property is also unique in that it holds historical value. Enoch “Cal” Carrington homesteaded this land in 1897 after arriving via the old Mormon Trail from Utah to the Teton Basin, driving a light iron-tired wagon with three head of horses. Land Trust member Earle Layser has written a biography about Carrington titled I Always Did Like Horses and Women: Enoch Cal Carrington’s Life Story. Layser chronicles Carrington’s life working as an outfitter and “bronc buster” as he spent ten years meeting the requirements to establish a claim on this land through the Desert Land Act. To this day, the cabin that Carrington built still stands on the property’s west side. Since Carrington’s death in 1959, the two subsequent owners have chosen to farm around this structure rather than remove it. “Teton Valley history has deep ties to the old cabin and its original owner,” writes Layser.
The conservation of the Gailey property will benefit numerous species, including most notably Sandhill Cranes. The property sits in the heart of the highest concentration of crane roosts in Teton Valley. The land has seen extremely high crane counts in its barley fields over the years and is considered the top land conservation priority by the Greater Yellowstone Sandhill Crane Initiative partners due to its importance for Sandhill Cranes. Trumpeter Swans also rely upon the stretch of river that runs through the northern end of the property for wintering habitat. Both of these species are considered Species of Greatest Conservation Need according to the State Wildlife Action Plan adopted by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game in 2017. Other Species of Greatest Conservation Need that use the property include Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse and Long-billed Curlew. Extensive willow vegetation along the river provides habitat for big game such as moose and white-tailed deer, as well as many raptor species.
“We appreciate the Gailey family’s vision to conserve Teton Valley farm ground as well as Teton riverfront and Valley homesteader history,” said Conservation Project Manager Renee Hiebert.
Conservation of the Gailey property builds on the protection of already conserved habitat and working lands that benefits both people and wildlife. For 33 years, the Land Trust has worked with partner organizations and willing landowners to protect over 40,000 acres in eastern Idaho through conservation easements and other voluntary conservation options.
This conservation work is not possible without community support. The Teton Regional Land Trust leverages each dollar of private contributions three times to secure conservation easement funding like NRCS’s Agricultural Land Easement Program. Right now, thanks to a generous match from the Hamill Family Foundation, donations to the Teton Regional Land Trust will be doubled for conservation. To take advantage of this opportunity to protect eastern Idaho’s wild and working lands, make a tax-deductible gift to the Land Trust at tetonlandtrust.org or send a check to P.O. Box 247, Driggs, ID 83455.