Conservation - Development

A small herd of elk grazes in the Hardeman Fields near Wilson. The conservation easement under the Jackson Hole Land Trust protects the area from development and preserves an important wildlife migration corridor.

Teton County is ready to start accepting and holding new conservation easements again, in a reversal from a 2011 policy.

Historically, the Teton County Board of County Commissioners has convened as the Teton County Scenic Preserve Trust to accept and steward conservation areas. For example, when a landowner seeks a density bonus in exchange for conserving other property, long-range planner Kristi Malone said, the county land trust accepts and stewards that property.

Starting in 2006 a staff planner was responsible for monitoring the Scenic Preserve Trust easements, but in 2010 the position was replaced by monitoring contracts with consultants. Due to staffing and funding challenges, in 2011 and 2012 commissioners decided to stop accepting conservation easements, and only one has been accepted since.

The policy dictated that the county’s Scenic Preserve Trust should be the open space easement grantee of second choice if a landowner demonstrated other easement holders weren’t an option, and the county should divest of its existing easements. Of the Scenic Preserve Trust easements collected, 22 have been released to the Jackson Hole Land Trust while the county has retained 53, Malone said.

Commissioner Luther Propst said he had “reservations” about a policy that makes Teton County the “easement holder of second choice.”

“I would rather see the commission or the board of the Teton County Scenic Preserve Trust think about it more in terms of, we want to work with the potential grantor and other possible land trusts to find the best and most appropriate home for the easements,” Propst said.

He added the commission should seek accreditation from the national Land Trust Alliance. The commission also hired Y2 Consultants to perform easement monitoring this year, at a rate of $655 per easement or $955 per easement at Crescent H and Melody Ranch.

Contact Allie Gross at 732-7063 or county@jhnewsandguide.com.

Allie Gross covers Teton County government. Originally from the Chicago area, she joined the News&Guide in 2017 after studying politics and Spanish at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

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