Atop the Pine Creek Bench near Swan Valley, Idaho lies 240 acres of farm land owned by the Henry Winterfeld Family since 1940. Currently, the privately-owned land is enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program with the National Resources Conservation Service and a portion is a working dry farm for native wildflower and grass seed. This beautiful piece of property will now forever be protected from residential development by a conservation easement that was finalized late last week. The Winterfeld family worked with the Teton Regional Land Trust and Bureau of Land Management to complete the easement. Funds used for purchasing the easement were provided by the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The LWCF was created by Congress in 1964 to provide funds and matching grants to federal, state, and local governments for the acquisition of land and interests in land, for the benefit of all Americans.
The protection of the Winterfeld property is critical as the land provides year-around habitat for Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse, a species of greatest conservation need in Idaho’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. The area also lies within a bald eagle nesting territory and provides habitat for big game such as elk, moose, and mule deer as they migrate to and from their winter range. Landowners like the Henry Winterfeld Family have worked with Bureau of Land Management, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Teton Regional Land Trust, The Conservation Fund, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and JKL Foundation to permanently protect over 4,700 acres or 49 percent of the private ground on the Pine Creek Bench overlooking the South Fork of the Snake River.
“It’s inspiring to see so many landowners, agencies and organizations come together with a common vision to protect a landscape for wildlife and agriculture. The Pine Creek Bench is a true conservation success story”, says Renee Hiebert, Land Protection Specialist with Teton Regional Land Trust. The Winterfeld’s private property remains in their name and the conservation easement is held by the Bureau of Land Management. A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement that allows for farming and ranching but permanently restricts the type and amount of future development that can occur on the property.
For more information about conservation easements visit www.tetonlandtrust.org or call 208-354-8939.
The drive up Ski Hill Road to Grand Targhee Resort is awe-inspiring with breathtaking Teton mountain views. Thanks to the generosity of Frank and Maryann Russo, 70 acres of that magnificent beauty is now protected, forever. In July of 2014, the Russos purchased half of a 140-acre ranch at the base of Teton Canyon in a local auction. The Russo family has since worked with the Teton Regional Land Trust to conserve the property with a conservation easement.
This newly protected property lies adjacent to the Caribou-Targhee National Forest and will stay largely undeveloped while remaining in the private ownership of the Russo family. Approximately one half mile of Mill Creek, a tributary of Teton Creek, flows through the property and nearly three quarters of one mile of the Pratt canal also flows through the property. These water ways support mature riparian vegetation that provides habitat for trout, big game, large carnivores, raptors, and songbirds.
Tamara Sperber, Interim Executive Director for the Land Trust explained, “This conservation easement protects remarkable scenic views for folks traveling along the Ski Hill Road and the Forest Service road to Teton Canyon. The property’s views, agricultural character and wildlife will impress passersby, forever.”
The Russos very generously donated the conservation easement and gave up a portion of their development rights to protect this incredible piece of land. Frank Russo described their reasoning behind wanting to protect the property. “The Teton Valley is one of the most beautiful places on earth. I say this having lived on four continents and travelled to two others. Some places are as special but none more beautiful. Maryann and I have seen how unmanaged development can ruin natural beauty. Our hope is that others with similar experience and opportunity who live in and love Teton Valley will see the intrinsic value in protecting the natural beauty that surrounds those fortunate to come here”.
“The Russos had an extraordinary opportunity to purchase one of the most iconic properties in Teton Valley. By maintaining this property’s scenic views, they have really given a gift to our community,” said Renee Hiebert, Land Protection Specialist.
The Russo’s plans for the property include using the land primarily for agriculture as it is today. “We reserved a small portion of the 70 acres for a barn, yurt and a stone cottage. We specifically limited the size and height of these structures and sited them so that they blend in or are unseen from Ski Hill and Teton Canyon roads”, explained Frank Russo.
The Teton Regional Land Trust has worked with many willing landowners for the last twenty-five years to protect over 31,000 acres of land with conservation easements. A conservation easement is a legal agreement that allows for farming and ranching of properties as well as limited residential construction, but permanently restricts the amount and type of future development.
For more information about this conservation easement or the Teton Regional Land Trust please call 208-354-8939 or visit www.tetonlandtrust.org.