July is one of my favorite months in Teton Valley. The wildflowers are blooming, wildlife are roaming, and the scenery is stunning. Driving to work each morning I reflect on just how lucky I am to live and work here. I marvel at the snowcapped peaks, the fresh plow lines before the hay is put up, and the general hustle and bustle of a growing community.
This year in particular, there is a sense that the valley is moving just a little faster – there are more cars, more trails, more people, and more homes every day. This is exciting, I love living in a vibrant community. At the same time, I feel a sense of urgency to balance growth with the protection of our natural resources. The future of our community, our wildlife, and our working lands depends on us taking action today to help sustain them, so that they will not disappear from our landscape forever.
Just last week, the Land Trust staff took our annual float on the Teton River. It was reinvigorating to remind ourselves why we do the work we do. As we floated the river, we came across a moose drinking from the river’s edge, a family of Sandhill Cranes swimming across the river, a Long-billed Curlew and a Bald Eagle and Osprey tussling over a freshly caught fish shared sky. We also reflected on the work of the Land Trust, thinking about what we didn’t see. We didn’t see subdivisions that were planned, but never built, because landowners owning riverfront property partnered with the Land Trust to protect this critical riparian habitat instead. When willing landowners chose conservation over development, we all have the precious gift of floating from Big Eddy to Packsaddle without seeing a single home, allowing each and everyone of us to marvel at the beauty of unobstructed views of the Tetons, thriving wildlife and stunning natural surroundings.
While there are many tools in the toolbox to sustain habitat and open space, the Teton Regional Land Trust’s tools focus on working in partnership with willing landowners since 1990 to conserve this irreplaceable landscape and its iconic species. To date, with the help of generous donors and conservation-minded landowners, we have worked with over 130 families in eastern Idaho to permanently protect almost 35,000 acres of critical wildlife habitat, including key connections in the paths for big game migration, many miles of river and creek corridors that are important for the health of native fisheries, and thousands of wetland acres considered some of the most productive areas for wildlife in eastern Idaho.
In Teton Valley alone, we have partnered with 85 landowners to protect over 11,000 acres. This covers 25 miles of riverbank along the Teton River sustaining habitat for wildlife and unobstructed scenic views,
hundreds of acres of wetlands contributing to clean water and a vibrant fishery, and many family farms and ranches which not only provide food, but critical open space for the valley’s migrating wildlife.
Despite our success, our region still faces many challenges that threaten the incredible natural resources that we rely upon for ecological, cultural, and economic vitality. The pressures and tension from habitat fragmentation and development will never disappear – but we can and should work to make sure that these impacts are balanced with protection of the very spaces and places that make our region special and keep us all here. I hope you will play a part by becoming a member of Teton Regional Land Trust today.