News Release

Grand Teton National Park restoring native sagebrush habitat

Park staff initiating habitat restoration projects

NPS Photo/C. Adams

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News Release Date: May 24, 2022

Contact: C.J. Adams, 307-739-3431

MOOSE, WY— Grand Teton National Park staff will initiate habitat restoration projects in the southern part of the park this summer as part of a multi-phase restoration effort to replace approximately 4,500 acres of former non-native grass fields with native sagebrush steppe habitat. A healthy sagebrush ecosystem in Grand Teton is vital for the diversity and abundance of native plants and wildlife species like elk, bison, moose, pronghorn, and sage grouse that rely on them.

Grand Teton National Park Foundation has successfully raised funds for this project from dozens of individual donors, and garnered ongoing support from Teton Conservation District, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and Alpyn Beauty. With the fundraising and partnership support of the Foundation, the park has worked to return these pastures to their former, native glory.

Beginning in the late 1800s, Jackson Hole homesteaders converted large swaths of local sagebrush steppe habitat to hayfields for agricultural use. The smooth brome they planted provided their livestock with nutrition year-round as the hay could be stored for winter use. Since this time, the homesteaders have moved away from Antelope Flats and other areas of Grand Teton. However, the converted pastures have persisted, decreasing the value to wildlife in the heart of year-round habitation and migration corridors.

Since 2007, Grand Teton park staff, through the support of the Grand Teton National Park Foundation, have worked to return these pastures to their native sagebrush steppe habitat. This is a long-term project and successful restoration of these areas takes years to complete. To date, 1,400 acres are in various stages of restoration, with areas furthest along containing diverse, well-established native plants that provide a source of food and shelter for a wide range of pollinators and wildlife. Wildflowers, sagebrush, and other native plants can now be seen in these locations.

On Wednesday, May 25, park staff from vegetation ecology and management at Grand Teton will initiate restoration on 200 acres of former hayfields. During this operation, staff will apply herbicide to remove non-native pasture grass at two different locations.

The first of these sites, 90 acres located in the South Slough unit west of Mormon Row, is part of the Antelope Flats sagebrush habitat restoration called for in the 2007 Elk and Bison Management Plan.

The second site where restoration work will take place is 110 acres located in the McBride unit south of the Jackson Hole Airport and east of North Spring Gulch Road. This project specifically aims to restore sage grouse habitat.

During restoration operations, park staff apply herbicide by tractor, UTV, and backpack sprayers. The application results in dead vegetation and bare ground. When non-native grass has been successfully removed, park staff will seed with a mix of native grasses, shrubs (including sagebrush), and forbs (wildflowers), monitor and treat for invasive weed species, and take other corrective actions to successfully re-establish this important plant community for the long-term.

Below you can see before and after photos of restoration work initiated in Grand Teton.

A site before restoration work was initiated
A site before restoration work was initiated
A site 11 years after restoration was initiated
A site 11 years after restoration was initiated
About Grand Teton National Park Foundation
Grand Teton National Park Foundation is a private, nonprofit organization whose mission is to fund projects that protect and enhance Grand Teton National Park’s treasured resources. The Foundation initiates improvements, critical research, and projects that improve visitors’ experiences, creating a solid future for Grand Teton. Since 1997, the organization has raised over $100 million for work-and-learn programs that connect youth to nature, preserve cultural resources, protect wildlife and natural resources, and capital projects such as construction of the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center, a $23 million campaign to preserve the 640-acre Antelope Flats parcel, the Inspiring Journeys campaign for Jenny Lake, and the purchase and protection of the last privately held acre on the Mormon Row Historic District.

Last updated: May 24, 2022

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