Thursday, December 22, 2011

Flat Top Ranch Protected by Blaine County Conservation Levy

The Blaine County Land, Water and Wildlife Program -- created by a special voter conservation levy -- funded its first project today, a 1,114 acre conservation easement on the Flat Top Ranch owned by the Peavey Family.

Blaine County and The Nature Conservancy of Idaho each contributed 50% of the funds for the easement acquisition. The easement will be held by the Conservancy in perpetuity. The Board of Blaine County Commissioners unanimously approved the project for funding last week. The Nature Conservancy and the Peaveys completed the easement purchase/sale transaction today.

This easement is the first conservation project funded by a county conservation legacy anywhere in Idaho.

“Preserving clean water, wildlife habitat and working farms and ranches will be a tremendous gift to our children and grandchildren,” Blaine County Commissioner Larry Schoen said when the levy passed in 2008.

The Flat Top Ranch is located between the Pioneer Mountains and the Craters of the Moon region of south-central Idaho, in the heart of one of the most stunning and ecologically important places in Idaho. The project helps protect one of the longest pronghorn migration routes in the country. It will protect fish habitat and water quality in the Little Wood River, and preserve working agricultural lands and the wide-open vistas of the Pioneer Mountains.

Residents of Blaine County who participated in three public workshops identified this area as a high priority for conservation due to its extraordinary wildlife, agricultural lands, and scenic views. The area has also been identified as a priority for conservation within Idaho by multiple other planning efforts, including by the Pioneers Alliance.

The conservation easement protects two parcels of land located at the confluence of Muldoon Creek and the Little Wood River, east of Bellevue and north of Carey. It ensures that access to High Five Canyon, a popular recreation area, will continue. These parcels are significant landmarks at the entrance to the Little Wood River Valley.

The easement will be added to 8,414 acres of land already protected on the Flat Top Ranch. The Ranch is owned by John and Diane Peavey, and has been in the Peavey family for generations.

John and Diane are well known throughout the west for preserving the history and cultural heritage of ranching through their writing, radio programs and the annual Trailing of the Sheep Festival in the Wood River Valley.

Clare Swanger, LWWP Coordinator, noted, “The completion of this first project under the Land, Water and Wildlife Program is an historic day for Blaine County and for the entire state of Idaho.
We appreciate the Peavey family’s dedication to their ranch and their decision to conserve it.”

“The citizens of Blaine County recognize that abundant wildlife and our agricultural heritage contribute so much to our quality of life,” says Trish Klahr, senior policy associate for the Conservancy. “This easement helps ensure that pronghorns, ranches and wide-open spaces remain a part of our county for generations to come.”

Land, Water and Wildlife Program
The Blaine County Land, Water and Wildlife Program was created after voters approved in 2008 a special two-year levy identified as Proposition 1–the Land, Water and Wildlife Levy. The levy raised over $3.4 million to be used to protect clean water in the Big Wood and Little Wood River watersheds, to preserve fish and wildlife habitat and to protect working farms, ranches and open space.

“Voter approval was an historic achievement for Blaine County, as we became the first county in Idaho to have funding to protect the landscapes that our citizens cherish,” said the Levy Advisory Board’s first Chair and former County Commissioner, Alan Reynolds.

The language of the Land, Water and Wildlife Levy required formation of the Levy Advisory Board (LAB), a citizen’s oversight committee. The committee’s primary responsibility is to recommend to the Blaine County Commissioners the highest and best use of the levy funds to achieve optimal conservation value and public benefit. The LAB is also charged with creating and running a transparent, standardized process for reviewing and ranking potential projects and clearly defining the types of lands and waters to be protected by the levy funds.

In late 2010, the all-volunteer LAB completed the necessary criteria checklists, application materials, and a complete program guide with the help of generous public input. The LAB began accepting applications for conservation projects that could meet the levy’s goals in early 2011.

Short pre-applications may be submitted for consideration at any time. The next deadlines for full applications are March 15 and October 15, 2012.

Information about the program, including conservation and project criteria and all application materials is available online at the program’s website or by contacting Blaine County Land Use & Building Services at 219 1st Ave. South in Hailey, 208-788-5570.

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