Last fall, Greater Yellowstone Coalition worked with our partners at EcoFlight to obtain some incredible aerial footage of the Sand Creek Desert on the fly. EcoFlight believes that sharing unique aerial perspectives of our remaining wild lands and wildlife encourages environmental stewardship, and we couldn’t agree more. You can view the short film we created together by clicking on the image below.
The film opens with incredible views of the St. Anthony sand dune complex. Although some of the area is now a world-class mecca for local and regional off-road vehicle recreationists, many of these fascinating acres are still managed as a wilderness study area by the Bureau of Land Management. After passing over the sand dune complex, Ecoflight’s founder, director, and pilot, Bruce, takes viewers on a scenic tour of the Sand Creek Wildlife Management Area, owned and managed by Idaho Fish and Game.
The Sand Creek WMA serves as an important winter refuge for migratory deer, elk, and moose that travel from their high-elevation summer ranges in and around Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. It’s also a stronghold for sage-grouse. This desert oasis of diverse ecosystems is bounded by 11,000 acres of ancient sand dunes; lodge-pole pine, Douglas-fir, and aspen forests in the north; wetlands along the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River in the east; and semi-arid sagebrush steppe across Sand Creek Desert in the south. Together, these ecosystems provide food and cover for the many migratory deer, elk, and moose that rely on this area to survive the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s harsh winter months.
Nearly 30 years ago conservationists and agricultural interests worked together to protect this area for wintering wildlife. Today, this area is closed to human entry during the winter months for the protection of wintering elk, deer, and moose. The closure begins on January 1 and lasts until sunrise on April 1 south of the Egin-Hamer Road, and until sunrise on May 1 north of it.
GYC continues to be an important member of the collaborative working group that convened to address major threats to the Sand Creek Desert area, including but not limited to wildfire and habitat fragmentation. With our partners, we are working to develop and implement durable solutions to conservation challenges on this landscape. For more information about the Sand Creek Desert and our work, check out our three-part blog series here.
—Allison Michalski, Idaho Conservation Associate