A sagebrush-covered 35-acre swath of land now officially in the Jackson Hole Land Trust’s possession marks the end of a yearslong effort to preserve the northeast end of East Gros Ventre Butte.
The deed changed hands Wednesday on a chunk of the butte that begins 500 feet from the highway just south of the National Museum of Wildlife Art, extending uphill and northward to where the hillside tops out. The deal preserves a chunk of Jackson Hole that’s regularly used by sage grouse, migrating elk, moose and mule deer, Land Trust President Laurie Andrews said.
“It’s just this hidden jewel, right in our plain view,” Andrews said. “I think everybody can agree that there are parts of town and Teton County that we don’t want developed, and this would be one of them.”
The 35 acres are connected to four parcels the Land Trust has swept up in the last four years through conservation easements and purchase. All told, 313 acres of the hillside facing the National Elk Refuge are no longer developable in perpetuity.
“What’s dramatic to me,” Andrews said, “is there could have been 12 homes up there.”
A road to reach the properties would have climbed the butte in the shallow canyon directly across North Highway 89 from the Jackson National Fish Hatchery, Andrews said.
Any such development was blocked in 2014, when the Land Trust struck a deal with Sky View Ranch, adding an easement on 181 acres of the butte north and west of the museum. This week’s acquisition was the last of the four parcels that have been added since.
The closing Wednesday also signifies the completion of the Land Trust’s $35 million, three-phase “Forever Our Valley” capital campaign, which kicked off in 2013.
That project included the West Bank’s new Rendezvous Park, designating conservation easements in Spring Gulch, and the East Gros Ventre Butte acquisitions and easements. Andrews wasn’t at liberty to say how much each project cost, but she said the expense of the three projects was “pretty equally divided.”
Support for acquisitions and easements on the butte came from John and Adrienne Mars, the Pike H. Sullivan Jr. Revocable Living Trust, the Meg and Bert Raynes Family Trust, the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust, The Conservation Fund, the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole, anonymous donors and others.
The Land Trust acquired the deed to the land for the last 35-acre parcel and another adjacent 35-acre tract. They’re technically on the market, with the stipulation that there’s no access and the land must forever remain in its open, natural state — a less than ideal real estate investment, if the goal is to make a buck.
But, Andrews said, “a neighbor could come along and have a little bit bigger backyard.”