Written By: Bek Mitchell-Kidd
Photography Provided By: Jackson Hole Land Trust
Jackson Hole is an extraordinary landscape, from streams and rivers to wide-open grasslands and dense pine forests. The Tetons, which rise more than a mile high into the sky and are held even higher in the hearts and minds of many Americans, are majestic. This iconic mountain range single-handedly defines the “real West.”
The Jackson Hole Land Trust is a private, non-profit organization established in 1980 to preserve this open space and the critical wildlife habitat, scenic vistas and historic ranching heritage of Western Wyoming.
Privately owned land in Teton County supports “room-to-roam” for wildlife species including elk, deer and bison while also supporting a growing human landscape. By working cooperatively with the owners of the area’s privately owned open lands, the Jackson Hole Land Trust is ensuring the permanent protection of more than 55,000 acres.
The Land Trust’s conservation “balancing act” maintains that preservation of scenic, ranching and wildlife elements has equal value. Jenny Wolfrom, Director of Development and Communications, says, “It’s hard to find a property in Jackson or Northwestern Wyoming that doesn’t have at least two of these three conservation elements. Our land and open spaces are connected; therefore each property can have a significant impact on the agricultural, wildlife and scenic values of the surrounding land.”
Formed 35 years ago, the Land Trust has succeeded because of community leadership, involvement and action. Continuing to evolve with the landscape has also helped the Land Trust stay relevant as they plan for the future.
The Land Trust focuses on stewarding the existing 55,000 acres of conservation property in Teton County, as well as the Green River Valley Program in Sublette County and the Wind River Program in Fremont County. The organization works hard to educate and engage the community in their conservation efforts. “Our message is consistent and transparent for visitors and residents alike,” says Jenny. “There is a reason why Jackson Hole looks and feels so special. While we aren’t the whole reason for that, we are definitely a significant part of it. For the community, we support responsible development and encourage community members to establish where they want development to happen in our growing community. We want to be part of a solution that keeps Jackson special and protects our resources—wildlife, culture and heritage, clean water and air, recreation opportunities—but also contributes to quality of life for everyone here.”
The Trust’s education programs, including the Open Space Council (OSC), are vital to its mission. The OSC originally began as a way to educate and engage donors, past board members and community stakeholders on a higher level. As Jackson has grown and changed, so has the OSC, which focuses on connecting with people that are living and working in Jackson.
The popular FoundSpace event also enables the Land Trust to engage the community. FoundSpace is a partnership with Jackson Hole Public Art and View22. The event explores the crossroads of art and land and invites the community to participate in the artmaking process. The large-scale interactive installations created on protected properties link local artists and the community to found objects and conserved public land. Event-goers recover found objects and work together to create temporary interactive installations in a public open space.
View 22 is the ongoing collaborative project developed by the Land Trust that unites artists and conservation to cultivate a deeper sense of place in Jackson Hole while highlighting the role land conservation has played in shaping the valley’s private lands. It also raises awareness of the importance of open space protection for the area’s wildlife, community and artists.
If you’d like to help the Jackson Hole Land Trust safeguard this one-of-a-kind (and last-of-its-kind) environment, consider donating to the annual fund. Jenny concludes, “The annual fund supports all aspects of our work, including stewardship and protection of staff and resources. There is a misconception that if you can’t donate a large gift to the Land Trust, that the gift doesn’t go far in our multimillion dollar protection efforts. However, gifts of any size make a huge impact to our Annual Fund and provide a fundamental baseline of support that makes our work in protection, stewardship and community conservation possible.”