Maytag-Teton Timbers

A 960-acre parcel in the Big Hole mountains west of Driggs was purchased by The Conservation Fund earlier this year and turned over to U.S. Forest Service management.

A big piece of private land in Idaho bought by a nonprofit conservation group earlier this year is now the property of the people of the United States.

The 960-acre Maytag-Teton Timbers parcel has been accepted by the U.S. Forest Service and will be administered by the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. The transfer ends the possibility of development, though the owner who sold in April had long intended to see it go to the federal government.

The sale and transfer was done by The Conservation Fund, a national organization based in Virginia that has worked on other such projects around Jackson Hole. The fund acquired the land from the Beartooth Group. The Teton Regional Land Trust played a role, as did the group Valley Advocates for Responsible Development.

In a statement, Idaho U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson praised the Forest Service and The Conservation Fund: “I applaud the U.S. Forest Service and all the partners involved for working diligently to accomplish this great project.”

Mentioning the Great American Outdoors Act signed last month, which reauthorized fed funding for such purchases, Simpson said the Maytag deal benefits the public “by opening up public access for Idahoans for centuries to come.”

Mark Elsbree, the western director and senior VP of The Conservation Fund, said that “securing the Maytag property for a community that highly values its public lands for wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities will have a lasting positive impact.”

The land is almost entirely surrounded by Forest Service property and is located 12 miles west of Driggs. The road leading into the parcel has been used by people using public lands in the Big Hole Mountains. Included are stretches of Porcupine, Irene, Brown Bear, Hillman, Pack Saddle and Horseshoe creeks, all of which flow into the Teton River. Besides the scenic and wildlife value of the land, the creeks are “a world-class, blue-ribbon trout fishery,” said Mel Bolling, supervisor of the Caribou-Targhee.

At one time the land included the town of Sam, built during a brief coal-mining rush in the area.

The Beartooth Group works on conservation projects and has “a mission to restore, enhance and protect critical properties throughout the West,” said founder and managing principal Robert Keith. The group worked with the Land Trust and Teton Regional Land Trust before buying the land and demolishing remnants of the coal mining operation.

No price has been put on the land, but before the conservation sale was completed it had been advertised at $4.25 million.

Also working on the deal was Trent Jones, a Ketchum, Idaho, agent for Hall and Hall.

Contact Mark Huffman at 732-5907 or mark@jhnewsandguide.com.

Mark Huffman edits copy and occasionally writes some, too. He's been a journalist since newspapers had typewriters and darkrooms.

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