Setting the Pace in the Greater Yellowstone

Out of Yellowstone

This critical winter range is increasingly threatened by energy and residential development


"We’re shepherding over this land and then we’re going to pass it on."

Ken Lichtendahl
Greater Yellowstone Conservation Easement Donor

Ken and Kathy Lichtendahl are trailblazers in every sense of the word. 

Self-proclaimed “transplants” to the rugged eastern edge of Greater Yellowstone, they’re as invested as any local couple in protecting the special area they call home. 

They moved West to spend more time outdoors, and they can almost always be found hiking, fishing or camping in the backcountry of the Absaroka-Beartooth Front. 

As members of the county Search and Rescue team, it’s not unusual for them to take last minute rides— sometimes through the night—across rugged backcountry to help out a trekker who’s gotten into trouble

Leaving a Legacy

“This place is paradise,” says Ken, “but the first thing we have to recognize is that we’re just caretakers here. We’re going to be here one nanosecond in the big scheme of things. We’re shepherding over this land and then we’re going to pass it on.” 

That’s why they decided to donate a 1,200-acre conservation easement on their property—and they’re hoping that others will do the same. 

They’re also members of the Conservancy’s Legacy Club, a group of supporters who make a life-income gift or have named the Conservancy as a beneficiary in their estate plans. 

A Place for Wintering Wildlife

The Absaroka-Beartooth Front is a key area for elk, grizzlies, bighorn sheep and other Yellowstone wildlife that come down from the snow-packed highlands to winter in lower elevations. 

Unfortunately, the area is developing fast. Mineral deposits underground have drawn oil and gas developers, and escalating property values are forcing some large ranches to subdivide—all of which puts wildlife at risk of losing their winter homes. 

“The park had three million visitors this year—it’s biggest year ever,” says Ken. “That means a lot for the economy here. It’s the unique and abundant wildlife that draws people to Yellowstone, and we need to do our part in protecting it.” 

Much of the land in Wyoming is federally owned, but many of the large ranches along the Front have a critical role to play in protecting crucial winter habitat and migratory corridors. 

Ken and Kathy have made a choice to set aside land that will remain winter habitat long after they’re gone. 

They’re blazing the trail for conservation in this area and hoping others will follow. 

You can help the Conservancy work with landowners in the Greater Yellowstone to safeguard critical winter habitat for wildlife.

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