PROTECT THE HOBACK VALLEY

In October 2012, the Trust for Public Land reached an agreement with Houston-based Plains Exploration and Production to protect 58,000 acres of sensitive wilderness in Wyoming’s Hoback Basin by buying out PXP’s rights to drill for oil and gas on the land. Beloved for its rich hunting and fishing grounds and astounding natural beauty, the Hoback Basin includes the headwaters of the Hoback River, a prime wildlife habitat. Under the deal, PXP agreed to sell the Trust all its oil and gas leases in the Hoback Basin for $8.75 million — provided the Trust could come up with the money by the end of 2012. Joe Ricketts kicked off the fundraising effort with a $1-million contribution — and when the Dec. 31 deadline approached with the Trust still well short of its goal, Mr. Ricketts kicked in an additional $750,000 to push the campaign across the finish line. As a result, the land — much of it inside the Bridger-Teton National Forest (about 100 miles south of Grand Teton National Park) — will be forever saved from oil and gas drilling and preserved for hunting, fishing, and recreation. (For more details, see the Associated Press news story here.)

New Wildlife Research at Jackson Fork Ranch

Jackson Fork Ranch, nestled in the Upper Hoback Valley some 35 miles south of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is home to a multitude of wildlife, including migrating deer, elk, and pronghorn as well as no less than 152 different species of raptors and other birds, all of whom peacefully coexist with a resident herd of bison. As part of its ongoing effort to support wildlife research and conservation, the Ricketts Conservation Foundation is underwriting two new projects on the ranch aimed at enhancing habitat for key wildlife species, investigating air contamination issues, and giving visitors a better chance to view the amazing flora and fauna.

In partnership with the Environmental Contaminants Program of the Cheyenne Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, one project will investigate the health effects of volatile organic compounds on how raptors like the American Kestrel and Rough-legged Hawks breed and winter in the area. This is one of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s highest priority environmental issues in Wyoming, with major implications for regional air quality and other serious wildlife conservation issues.

A second project is in collaboration with the Department of Zoology and Physiology at the University of Wyoming and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona. This project will investigate the ecology of songbirds such as the Sage Thrasher that breed in sagebrush habitat and it will include the establishment of a nest-box trail for the Mountain Bluebird and other cavity-nesting songbirds.

Each of the projects has local, regional and even national ramifications. At the very least, the data and experience that comes out of them will constitute an important resource for state, regional, and national policy-makers and landscape managers.

Fostering The Moose Population

One of the great things about life in Wyoming’s Upper Hoback Valley is the amazing variety of wildlife we have as neighbors. Among other things, the Hoback Basin is home to one of the largest herds of Shiras moose in the continental U.S. This majestic animal is actually the smallest of the four kinds of moose found in North America, but it’s no shrimp — a full-grown Shiras bull can weigh up to 1,800 pounds and measure seven feet tall at the shoulder.

For the past three years, with support from The Ricketts Conservation Foundation, a research group from the University of Wyoming has been studying the Shiras moose in the Hoback Basin, with an eye to learning as much as we can about their migration routes, breeding patterns, and nutritional conditions. The idea is to build up a database that can provide an informed perspective about how changing habitats are impacting our wild neighbors. Among the report’s observations — you can read the most recent research reports here (2013) and here (2014) — is that the local herd is not getting enough to eat and, as a result, not as many Shiras calves are being born and adult survival rates are dropping.

One of the things that led RCF founder Joe Ricketts to get involved in last year’s successful campaign to buy up oil and gas leases on some 58,000 acres of land in the Hoback Basin was his concern over the possible impact widespread oil and gas drilling might have on wildlife like the Shiras moose. The ongoing moose study is an important way to ensure we make informed decisions in our role as custodians of these natural treasures.

PROTECT THE HOBACK VALLEY

In October 2012, the Trust for Public Land reached an agreement with Houston-based Plains Exploration and Production to protect 58,000 acres of sensitive wilderness in Wyoming’s Hoback Basin by buying out PXP’s rights to drill for oil and gas on the land. Beloved for its rich hunting and fishing grounds and astounding natural beauty, the Hoback Basin includes the headwaters of the Hoback River, a prime wildlife habitat. Under the deal, PXP agreed to sell the Trust all its oil and gas leases in the Hoback Basin for $8.75 million — provided the Trust could come up with the money by the end of 2012. Joe Ricketts kicked off the fundraising effort with a $1-million contribution — and when the Dec. 31 deadline approached with the Trust still well short of its goal, Mr. Ricketts kicked in an additional $750,000 to push the campaign across the finish line. As a result, the land — much of it inside the Bridger-Teton National Forest (about 100 miles south of Grand Teton National Park) — will be forever saved from oil and gas drilling and preserved for hunting, fishing, and recreation. (For more details, see the Associated Press news story here.)

 

New Wildlife Research at Jackson Fork Ranch

Jackson Fork Ranch, nestled in the Upper Hoback Valley some 35 miles south of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is home to a multitude of wildlife, including migrating deer, elk, and pronghorn as well as no less than 152 different species of raptors and other birds, all of whom peacefully coexist with a resident herd of bison. As part of its ongoing effort to support wildlife research and conservation, the Ricketts Conservation Foundation is underwriting two new projects on the ranch aimed at enhancing habitat for key wildlife species, investigating air contamination issues, and giving visitors a better chance to view the amazing flora and fauna.

bird images

In partnership with the Environmental Contaminants Program of the Cheyenne Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, one project will investigate the health effects of volatile organic compounds on how raptors like the American Kestrel and Rough-legged Hawks breed and winter in the area. This is one of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s highest priority environmental issues in Wyoming, with major implications for regional air quality and other serious wildlife conservation issues.

A second project is in collaboration with the Department of Zoology and Physiology at the University of Wyoming and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona. This project will investigate the ecology of songbirds such as the Sage Thrasher that breed in sagebrush habitat and it will include the establishment of a nest-box trail for the Mountain Bluebird and other cavity-nesting songbirds.

Each of the projects has local, regional and even national ramifications. At the very least, the data and experience that comes out of them will constitute an important resource for state, regional, and national policy-makers and landscape managers.

 

Fostering The Moose Population

One of the great things about life in Wyoming’s Upper Hoback Valley is the amazing variety of wildlife we have as neighbors. Among other things, the Hoback Basin is home to one of the largest herds of Shiras moose in the continental U.S. This majestic animal is actually the smallest of the four kinds of moose found in North America, but it’s no shrimp — a full-grown Shiras bull can weigh up to 1,800 pounds and measure seven feet tall at the shoulder.

For the past three years, with support from The Ricketts Conservation Foundation, a research group from the University of Wyoming has been studying the Shiras moose in the Hoback Basin, with an eye to learning as much as we can about their migration routes, breeding patterns, and nutritional conditions. The idea is to build up a database that can provide an informed perspective about how changing habitats are impacting our wild neighbors. Among the report’s observations — you can read the most recent research reports here (2013) and here (2014) — is that the local herd is not getting enough to eat and, as a result, not as many Shiras calves are being born and adult survival rates are dropping.

One of the things that led RCF founder Joe Ricketts to get involved in last year’s successful campaign to buy up oil and gas leases on some 58,000 acres of land in the Hoback Basin was his concern over the possible impact widespread oil and gas drilling might have on wildlife like the Shiras moose. The ongoing moose study is an important way to ensure we make informed decisions in our role as custodians of these natural treasures.