By Joselin Matkins, Executive Director, Teton Regional Land Trust
Growing up in eastern Idaho, Targhee was always a winter destination. I have fond memories of staying at the TeePee and learning how to ski deep powder. When I was 19, I drove through the valley in late May and saw it in a whole new way. I remember looking out over the Teton River in awe. The lush green valley, backed by the snowcapped Tetons, was captivating and left a lasting impact on me. My dream of moving to Teton Valley took over twenty years, but for the last seven years, I have been lucky to call this home.
As Executive Director of the Teton Regional Land Trust, I spend a lot of time thinking about what makes this place so unique and how to protect its irreplaceable natural resources. Nationally, it is estimated that we lose three acres of agricultural land every minute. Globally, we have seen 50% of the species go extinct. As one of the fastest-growing regions of the country, Teton Valley is not immune to agricultural land and habitat loss.
Although this can feel overwhelming, land trusts and their community partners around the country have protected more land than all the National Parks combined through voluntary land conservation. This means that many local communities see the value in keeping their lands intact to benefit both wildlife and their quality of life. This is evident in eastern Idaho, and I take pride in knowing that our residents are working together to create vibrant and growing communities while sustaining the natural resources that draw so many of us here.
Groups like the Friends of the Teton River who are working to sustain and improve our rivers and streams, and farmers and ranchers who are working on innovative ways to sustain the productivity of their working lands while keeping habitat intact, demonstrate the many ways we can work together to sustain what makes Teton Valley, Teton Valley.
For the Land Trust, our work has focused for the last 29 years on agreements with landowners who wish to reduce or eliminate subdivision of their land. By focusing on our mission of voluntary land conservation, we have been able to help conserve some of the valley’s treasured assets forever. Working with over 100 landowners, we have conserved over 11,000 acres of land in Teton Valley. Included in this are 20 miles of protected land along the Teton River and its tributaries.
During this holiday season, we want to express our appreciation for the landowners, supporters, and community partners that have helped us carry out our mission. Working together, we can protect this great place by conserving working farms and ranches, fish and wildlife habitat, and scenic open spaces in eastern Idaho for this and future generations.