December 31, 2007
New Easements on Munger Mountain
In December of 2007, the Jackson Hole Land Trust accepted conservation easements from the Hauge, Laughlin, and Resor families, owners of the Snake River Ranch, that protect 360 acres on the north side of Munger Mountain. "These donated easements exemplify the Land Trust mission because wildlife, agricultural, scenic and open space values are all embodied in these noteworthy easements," said Peggy Gilday, president of the Land Trust board.
Munger Mountain Partners and Melbourne Partners, two Snake River Ranch family partnerships, donated three easements protecting 360 acres and adjoining the 80-acre "Don's Draw" easement, which the Resor family donated to the Land Trust in 2002 (See map for more details). These easements create a large, contiguous parcel of protected land---440 acres---that borders the Bridger-Teton National Forest for nearly two miles. "The property's location between the Snake River riparian corridor and National Forest lands provides an important connection for wildlife and is key to the ecological function of the landscape. That elevated function qualifies the area as an ecological-hotspot," said the Land Trust’s biologist, Tom Segerstrom. The property is near three bald eagle nesting territories and likely contains crucial winter and nesting habitat for bald eagles. Hundreds of elk migrate through the property when traveling between the Wyoming Game and Fish South Park feed ground and the Bridger-Teton National Forest to the south of the property.
These newly conserved lands are part of the Lower Snake River Ranch and support summer-long grazing of cattle raised for the natural beef market. This is a significant agricultural value as it supports one of the few remaining cattle ranching operations in the valley. "This is the most remote part of our ranch," said Bill Resor, speaking for his family. "The land is a patchwork of forest, sagebrush and grassland. It’s good grazing for cattle, and the pockets of aspen and serviceberry provide great food and cover for elk. We are all pleased to protect it forever."
The properties lie on the north slopes of Munger Mountain, above the Snake River, making them highly visible to the public and thus providing significant scenic open space. Munger Mountain is visible from many areas of Jackson Hole, but it is particularly prominent from Highways 22 and 189 and from the Snake River when floating below the Wilson Bridge. For residents of South Park and the Fall Creek Road, the protection of Munger Mountain is particularly significant, given the character-defining natural views to the south from these neighborhoods.
In addition, the property provides good browsing habitat for moose and mule deer and is designated as Critical Winter-Yearlong Habitat for moose and elk and Winter-Yearlong Habitat for mule deer.
"The property provides a seasonal transition zone for animals coming off the feed ground. As the south facing slopes thaw, elk move up Munger Mountain and begin their spring foraging during late stages of pregnancy, with over a third of the elk that winter at the feed grounds passing over Munger Mountain to their calving and summering grounds in the Snake River Mountain Range. These now-protected slopes help to relieve the pressure on the feed grounds and serve as an ecological link between the Snake River Corridor and the Snake River Mountain Range. It is estimated that over 150 elk have their calves on Munger Mountain," said Segerstrom, who has guided an assessment of the ecological hotspots in the valley and how best to protect them.
The forested slopes of Munger Mountain are comprised of Aspen Forests with Tall Shrub understories and can support a high density of birds due to the variety of nesting structures as well as insect and berry production. These forests support a flyway for avian species migrating to the southern hemisphere. Aspen Forests and Tall Shrub understory are also highly ranked in the Teton County Comprehensive plan given this vegetative community’s forage productivity for ungulates.
"We are thrilled to assist the Hauge, Laughlin, and Resor families in their efforts to protect this large and publicly significant tract of land," said Laurie Andrews, Executive Director of the Land Trust. Andrews added, "This easement is a notable accomplishment for protection of wildlife habitat, ranching and scenic open space in the south end of the valley. There are more lands in the southern portion of the valley, specifically in the riparian corridor, that deserve protection to maintain wildlife movement through the area. The forested mountain slopes and ranch lands, such as those now protected by the Munger Mountain easements, are an important link to maintaining the ecological integrity of the valley."