The Jackson Hole Land Trust’s recent purchase of 18 acres on High School Butte will protect wildlife habitat and lead to a new loop trail for hikers, according to the nonprofit.
Over the past several years, heavy foot traffic and the creation of numerous social trails have eroded the privately owned land on the southwest slopes of the butte off of South Park Loop Road. The purchase and ensuing protection removes development rights on the land and provides safe harbor for native plants and animals away from the dense residential area below, the Land Trust said.
“When this property went up for sale,” Liz Long, Land Trust interim co-director, said in a press release, “we recognized it as a unique opportunity to formalize and safeguard public access to a piece of land that the community loves and uses regularly, while also protecting important wildlife acreage immediately adjacent to additional JHLT easement-protected properties.”
As part of a conservation management plan for the lot, the trust will work to eliminate invasive weeds, repair erosion, manage and improve social trails, and create a low-impact loop up the butte.
The rehabilitation plan will protect both wildlife and public access, as the slopes of High School Butte hold “significant community, wildlife, and scenic conservation values,” according to the press release.
“High School Butte provides safe and easy access to the outdoors for families, students, and hikers of all ages,” said Jenny Wolfrom Holladay, also an interim co-director at the Land Trust. “We are committed to inclusivity in conservation and believe that this protected public access property will be a place where everyone can seek out and experience the benefits of open space.”
This winter, the Land Trust plans to solicit public feedback as part of its 2018-23 Strategic Plan, hosting focus groups made up of partners and community members to gather ideas and input on the use and management of the parcel.
The Land Trust expects maintenance and rehabilitation to begin in the summer of 2021, but the area will remain open as it is, though subject to winter wildlife closures.
“We know that access to nature and open space is critical to the mental and physical health of our community,” said Wolfrom Holladay, “especially during these challenging times.”
The Jackson Hole Land Trust funded the purchase through private donations. It did not disclose the purchase price. It also partnered with the Teton County School District, which allows access to the trail through its High School Butte property, and a anonymous local family.
The fenced-off portion at the top of High School Butte is privately owned but protected by a Land Trust conservation easement secured in 1998. That area is not open to public access. — Ed.