Our Tetons Story

Systemic change is taking root in Teton Valley

Many groups were working on separate issues and projects

Four local organizations are collaborating on a key project

We facilitate the project and support the partners

Successful collaboration leads to new initiatives

A thriving, connected network of collaboration is emerging

With the support of our core funding partner, we launched the work that became LegacyWorks Group and our collaborative impact model in Teton Valley in 2012. Teton Valley is an incredible place, emblematic of the challenges and incredible potential that exist in communities throughout the West. Teton Valley is a community rich in natural beauty with a strong identity and a robust nonprofit sector. It also has its fair share of challenges. Explosive growth in the mid 2000’s led to a catastrophic real estate bust in 2009 that left the community questioning its future and its ability to hold on to the agricultural heritage, scenic values and bountiful wildlife that it holds dear.

Over the past six years LegacyWorks Group has worked with an array of local partners on an increasing number of community-driven, collaborative initiatives that are meeting with great success. This initial success has spawned new collaborative projects throughout the valley, brought millions of dollars of conservation dollars into the community, and fostered a more strategic approach to the community’s most important problems. Together we have empowered community-driven change and huge shifts in how the conservation community (and increasingly the broader community) works to achieve the community’s goals, hopes and dreams.

The story of our work in this region has shaped the five steps our model most often follows, so we lay out the story that way here:

1. Build trust in the community

We were already working in the Teton Valley on land conservation with our previous impact investment firm, Beartooth Capital. We developed relationships among the conservation organizations that allowed us to collectively see the need and possible path to begin this work there.


2. Identify and Assess Impact Opportunities

In 2012 we completed an assessment of the potential for community impact by sitting down with Teton Valley elected officials, nonprofit leaders, community members, and key funders to ask them what they were working towards and what they wished they could do but was out of reach. Collectively these conversations enabled us to understand the community’s sense of identity, its vision for the future, and the opportunities to move towards achieving that vision (along with the challenges thereto). We identified nearly 50 actionable projects and initiatives that could move the community towards its vision and produced action plans for 18 of them. Recognizing these opportunities and needs, we set out to empower the community and shift how they pursued key goals in Teton Valley.

3. Initiate and Resource a Catalytic Collaboration


We started with the Teton Creek Corridor, a project that had long been identified as a priority for the valley. Its goals included protecting key habitat along Teton Creek, reducing the impacts of development on the creek corridor, restoring degraded stream and adjacent habitat, and providing recreational opportunities for local residents to better connect them to the creek. To be clear, this was an ambitious project that required significant funding, collaboration, coordination, and trust among four key Teton Valley nonprofits. It was a project much larger in scope and scale and more complex than anything they had previously undertaken. LegacyWorks served as the core capacity for this collaborative, setting up a governance structure, facilitating meetings, taking care of key tasks between meetings, and driving the project forward as project manager. For more information about this project, see tetoncreekcorridor.org


4. Cultivate Follow-On Collaborations

As a direct result of the outcomes detailed above, the local partners have formed numerous new partnerships with a growing array of partners from across sectors to advance multiple transformative projects in the valley. Here we would like to share a few of those projects where our local partners have asked LegacyWorks to manage and partner on new initiatives:

Groundwater Recharge Market

With the valley’s most important agricultural and conservation interests, we have launched the Teton Water Users Association to address declines in water availability that threaten towns, agriculture, wildlife and the community’s open space and rural identity. Together we just launched a pilot market to incentivize groundwater recharge in the Teton Basin, a first in the West. This innovative approach to this ubiquitous challenge has attracted national interest and funding to change how communities manage water resources as climate change threatens rural economies and ways of life.

Sandhill Crane Recovery

We are working with the Teton Regional Land Trust, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and US Fish and Wildlife Service to enable recovery of sandhill crane populations and protect critical habitat. This fall we are launching the inaugural Greater Yellowstone Crane Festival on September 15th with a wide array of local partners. The festival will raise public awareness about sandhill cranes and will link crane conservation with economic development in Teton Valley.

Teton River Access Park

With key local nonprofits, Teton County, Idaho, the Trust for Public Land, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation we acquired the most important public access point on Teton River and permanently protected that access. We are working with those partners to completely rebuild the boat ramp and access point with improved public safety features.

5. Stewarding the Virtuous Cycle

What can Teton Valley accomplish now that the conditions are in place for systems-scale, cross-sector collaborative effort on the things that matter most? We believe that potential is extraordinarily high and that the community is poised to make remarkable progress towards the future it desires with thriving natural systems, a robust and resilient economy, and a connected culture defined by trust, strong relationships and a shared vision. Like Amy and all of our local partners, we could not have imagined how far Teton Valley would come when we launched into the unknown territory of this collaborative community-driven work together in 2014. Now that we have seen the results of our collective effort, we believe now is the time to scale up our work and our impact. There is so much more potential for transformative impact now than there was four years ago.


With deep thanks to our funders, partners and collaborators. We couldn't do this work without you.

Partners Leading Collaborations

Key Funding Partners

Other Key Collaborators


Our Tetons Team

Max Ludington

Max Ludington

Teton Regional Director

Max has worked on conservation and public lands issues for the past 15 years, including…

Sandy Mason

Sandy Mason

Senior Fellow

Sandy has worked in the land use planning and conservation field for over 25 years….