Thursday, January 13, 2011

Public Lands Foundation Honors Upper Snake River Partnership

The Upper Snake River Land Conservation Partnership received the Public Lands Foundation’s (PLF) Landscape Stewardship Award and Citation during a ceremony at the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Idaho Falls District Office today.

Accepting the award were Mark Elsbree, vice president and northwest director of The Conservation Fund; Chet Work, executive director, and Babette Thorpe, land protection director, for the Teton Regional Land Trust; and Laura Hubbard state director of the The Nature Conservancy in Idaho.

Each was presented with a plaque and citation by Deane Zeller, PLF Idaho state representative.

The foundation grants this recognition to honor private citizens and organizations that work to advance and sustain community-based stewardship on landscapes that include, in whole or in part, public lands administered by the BLM.

In 1998, The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy and the Teton Regional Land Trust formed The Upper Snake River Land Conservation Partnership with BLM in response to imminent threats of subdivision and resort development, the great potential of many conservation projects across a large geographic scope, and the diversity of landowners along the Snake River corridors and Henry’s Lake.

Through the efforts of these organizations, approximately 91 privately owned properties, many of them working farms and ranches, have been protected through purchase of 10,300 acres of fee estate and 14,500 acres of conservation easement.

Thus far, the partnership has leveraged approximately $57 million from diverse funding sources including BLM LWCF appropriations and BLM Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act funds, the Bonneville Power Administration wildlife mitigation fund, the National Resource Conservation Service’s Wetland Reserve and Farm/Ranchland Protection Programs, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s North American Wetland Conservation Act funds, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and landowner donations.

Partial donations by land owners, nonprofit conservation partners, and charitable contributions totaling about $4.5 million have allowed the BLM to stretch LWCF appropriations.

Additionally, the partnership is using a combination of acquisition strategies to assist the BLM. The nonprofit partners also have augmented the BLM’s limited acquisition and legal staff.

And, they provide negotiation experience and skills to facilitate complex and sensitive acquisitions, ensure that the needs of landowners and the BLM are met, provide a qualified legal staff to craft conservation easements and fee-title acquisitions acceptable to landowners and the BLM, and assist the BLM with conservation easement stewardship issues.

The nonprofit organizations collaborate as a team with the BLM to acquire key properties from willing landowners to secure and preserve open space and public recreational access within Areas of Critical Environmental Concern.

They also participate in the long-term stewardship responsibilities of conservation easements, maintain landowner relations, cooperate in annual conservation easement compliance visits, and assist in preparing conservation easement stewardship reports.

According to Zeller, “The purpose of this program is to recognize and call public attention to individual and group efforts, to promote collaboration by a broad range of participants to achieve shared natural resource protection and enhancement goals, and to call attention to the many values and management needs of the Nation’s National System of Public Lands.”

The Public Lands Foundation is a national non-profit organization, which is made up predominately of retired Bureau of Land Management employees, that advocates and works for the retention of the National System of Public Lands in public hands, professionally and sustainably managed for the responsible common use and enjoyment of the American people.

Photo: Laura Hubbard, state director for The Nature Conservancy in Idaho, and Chet Work, executive director of the Teton Regional Land Trust, with their award plaques.

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