Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Conservancy Purchases Ranch for Sage Grouse Habitat

Photo courtesy Robert Griffith

The Nature Conservancy has announced the purchase of the Bezold Ranch adjacent to its Crooked Creek Ranch Preserve, located 20 miles northwest of Dubois.

The 1920-acre property, which includes two miles of Crooked Creek, will provide the water necessary for the restoration of sage grouse habitat on the land. The Nature Conservancy plans to identify a conservation buyer—who shares the organization’s conservation goals—to own and manage the property.

The Crooked Creek basin is recognized as one of the most important strongholds for sage grouse in Idaho. Sage grouse use the area throughout the year, including during the spring mating season. The Conservancy has owned and managed the 2600-acre Crooked Creek Ranch Preserve and its nearly 70,000 acres of grazing allotments since 2001.

Working with partners, the Conservancy completed vegetation mapping and ecological survey of the ranch and its allotments. The recently completed survey found a high percentage of the ranch is still in very good ecological condition. A management plan has identified important habitat areas and degraded areas that need to be restored.

The new acquisition will provide an important expansion in this model sage grouse management project.

“This acquisition is the perfect compliment to the existing Crooked Creek Ranch Preserve, says Chet Work, East Idaho land steward for the Conservancy. “The Bezold property connects our existing protected lands to the Caribou-Targhee National Forest and will protect valuable wildlife habitat and corridors which previously were not protected.”

The Conservancy plans to continue to focus its protection efforts in the Crooked Creek drainage and neighboring watersheds to connect the extensive habitat within the Idaho National Laboratory to the national forest and important private lands like the Bezold property.

“The Conservancy believes that the preservation of healthy sagebrush steppe habitat will benefit not only sage grouse but also other sagebrush dependent species including pronghorn, sage sparrows, sage thrashers, and Brewer’s sparrows,” says Work.

No comments: