Monday, March 19, 2012

Conservation Legacy: The Hixons

The Nature Conservancy recently announced the donation of a 110-acre easement in Washington County, in Hells Canyon, by conservationists Tim and Joe Hixon.

This easement will keep national forest lands connected, ensure the property remains a working ranch and provide habitat for wildlife ranging from elk to white-headed woodpeckers.

It also builds on a substantial western Idaho conservation legacy established by the Hixon family.

The Hixons have also donated nearby conservation easements protecting an additional 1827 acres along the Wildhorse River in Hells Canyon.

They have also played an important role in an amazing conservation success story.

In the 1980s, Tim and Karen Hixon donated funds for the Conservancy to purchase a 4200-acre ranch which contained the last population of Columbia sharp-tailed grouse in western Idaho.

In the 1970s, it was believed that these birds had disappeared from this part of the state. In 1977, a Bureau of Land Management manager accidentally discovered a small spring dancing ground—also known as a lek--on a private ranch near Midvale Hill. Sharp-tailed grouse, like many grouse species, gather each spring on these dancing grounds as a mating display.

The manager alerted then BLM biologist Alan Sands of his discovery. This prompted extensive searching effort throughout Washington and Adams counties, resulting in the discovery of three other dancing grounds, two more of which were on the same ranch.

The Nature Conservancy worked with Tim and Karen Hixon to purchase the ranch. Now known as the Hixon Sharptail Project, the effort to protect and restore these grouse has been a spectacular success, with grouse populations continuing to increase. In many parts of their range, these grouse have continued on a precipitous decline.

The contributions of the Hixons have truly made western Idaho a better place. Their latest easement gift builds on that outstanding legacy. Thank you!

Top image: TNC files, bottom image: Alan Sands/TNC.

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