Monday, June 27, 2011

Big Week

The Nature Conservancy celebrates the 35th anniversary of Silver Creek Preserve this week with a gala on Thursday, June 30 at Heart Rock Ranch. You can still purchase tickets by phone at 208-788-8988.

Silver Creek has been a tremendous success due to the support of landowners, outfitters, guides, anglers, birders, volunteers, community members and people like you. This is your week. We hope you can join us in the celebration.

Spencer Beebe, one the key Conservancy figures in the acquisition of Silver Creek, will be speaking at the gala event. He'll also be speaking on his book, Cache, at 6 pm Wednesday, June 29 at the Community Library in Ketchum.

His book is described as a forty-year adventure inventing new ways of both conserving the environment and creating new businesses, working with remarkable people, and ultimately finding a new model of development to address the social, economic, and ecological issues of our day.

Conservancy lead scientist M. Sanjayan and the Conservancy's Idaho state director, Laura Hubbard, will also be speaking at the event, which features a silent trip auction, music, dancing and more.

Summer is always a busy time for the Conservancy, with many active projects. Look for stories on many of these activities on this blog soon, including a recap of the gala, a report on the showcase barley farm tour, reflections on Ernest Hemingway, journeys to the Owyhees and much more.

And we hope to see you afield this summer; we're saving a place for you!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Flat Ranch Welcomes Summer Volunteers & Intern

Submitted by Sarah Grigg, Flat Ranch Preserve manager

The 1650-acre Flat Ranch requires some serious up-keep to meet its habitat preservation, grazing, and outreach/education goals. The maintenance of the visitor center and the completion of sundry ranch projects depend upon the commitment of a few individuals with a passion for conservation.

For the next three months, Nancy Elkins and Dave Katsuki—full-time RV road warriors who have covered North America from New Mexico to North Carolina—will contribute 32 hours weekly to keep the visitor center fully functioning and ready to welcome Flat Ranch guests. Nancy formerly worked in marketing and public relations, starting off as a clown, making her way to the Arizona State Lottery, and eventually working as a tour guide in Alaska. She no longer does animal balloon tricks, but she is still “the hostess with the most-est” when it comes to greeting visitors and keeping the visitor center in order.

Dave previously worked as the vice president of engineering for several software companies, and we suspect he might have been a plumber-electrician-carpenter on the side, as he’s repaired our hose and heating systems, as well as jack fences. We can’t wait to see what he’ll fix or improve next.

Intern Laura Yungmeyer recently graduated from Washington and Lee University with degrees in Political Science and Art History. She is the recipient of the A. Paul Knight Memorial Scholarship in Conservation, and will spend the next three months assisting with event planning, fence repairs, willow plantings, keeping the cattle out of the river, and whatever else the wind blows this way.

Having spent two summers as a trail camp cook in Wyoming, she’s not afraid of the challenges that come with working in the "Wild West." With a curious mind, lots of initiative, and a willingness to learn to use various drill bits, we know she’ll be a great help to the Flat Ranch.

Stop by the Flat Ranch soon to meet these outstanding individuals!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Brown Drake are Hatching

The brown drake hatch is on at Silver Creek: Catch it if you can.

Brown drakes are large mayflies, and they hatch in astounding numbers downstream of the preserve, in the Point of Rocks area. (The photo above is of a mass of brown drake mayflies floating down the creek).

The drakes all hatch in a period of a few days, mate and then die. The winged adults do not even have mouths, so short is their lifespan.

The hatch brings thousands of feeding trout to the surface, offering what is arguably the best fly fishing of the year on Silver Creek. A variety of birds will also be around feasting on mayflies.

As hatches go, it's one of the best: the sheer number and size of the mayflies makes this one of fishing's best spectacles.

But it's hard to predict: Unlike many hatches, you never know when exactly the drakes might appear. Early June is often a good bet, but as with this year, you never know.

I've spent plenty of time "waiting for brown drake"--an experience that often uncannily resembles the play Waiting for Godot.

Of course, it's nice to think you can always just rush off and catch the hatch when you hear it's happening. It's always a fun idea that, this year, you'll drop everything for a night or two of unbelievable fishing.

In reality, life and its many obligations too often interfere with fishing dreams.

But: the drakes are hatching. The fishing is great. If you can go, now is the time.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Henry's Lake Ranches & Wildlife

Recently, we've covered some upcoming events at Flat Ranch Preserve--and hope you can visit us at this beautiful place near Yellowstone this summer.Flat Ranch is only one small part of our work at Henry's Lake.

We're also working with area ranchers to keep them on the land, and to protect wildlife habitat for the well-known critters that move from Yellowstone through Henry's Lake to other public lands each year, escaping the inhospitable conditions of winter in the national park.

The above video, excerpted from a film called Out of Yellowstone, tells the brief story of one rancher on Henry's Lake. Dennis Moedl's Meadow Vue Ranch is not only important for wildlife, it also hosts kids each summer for a summer camp.

And on some summer evenings, you can visit the ranch for a local rodeo and delicious barbecue.

Your support of The Nature Conservancy keeps ranchers on the land and wildlife on the move. Visit Henry's Lake this summer to see how your investment is paying off.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

2011 Summer Series at Flat Ranch

Free Flat Ranch Summer Series Begins Wednesday!

Wednesday, June 15
Living in Cougar Country, 7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

While bears and wolves often take center stage as charismatic carnivores in the Island Park area, mountain lions also inhabit the landscape. Learn about the life history of these elusive cats, as well as living and recreating in cougar country. Marilyn Cuthill, Leader of the Teton Cougar Project for Craighead Beringia South (Kelly, WY), will present.

Wednesday, June 22
Fly Fishing Off the Grid, 7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

It's hard to imagine that anyone would care to fish beyond the banks of the Henry's Fork, but a world of opportunity awaits the adventurous angler, from hunting for tigerfish in Tanzania to fishing peacock bass in the Amazon to chasing trout on the Pakistani border. Jim Klug, founder and co-owner of Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures, based in Bozeman, Montana, will describe some of his "more interesting" fishing adventures abroad, share stories, and show photographs from his years of traveling the world. He will also discuss the role that fly fishing has played and can play in local economies and conservation efforts in developed and developing countries. Klug's program will visit such unique and unusual fisheries as Tanzania, Cuba, the Seychelles, India, and Brazil.

Saturday, June 25
Recreating in Bear Country, 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Prepare yourself for recreating in Bear Country before you hit the trail. Join IDFG/USFS bear education technician Licia Meates for a review of the basics, including a hands-on bear spray demonstration. Wear appropriate foot attire for walking outside, and bring insect repellent.

Wednesday, June 29
Wildflowers of the Caldera, 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

The Island Park area boasts some of the most spectacular wildflower viewing in the country. Join USFS Forest Botanist Rose Lehman in an outdoor lecture to identify species growing in your own backyard. Wear appropriate foot attire for walking outside, and bring insect repellent.

The Nature Conservancy's Summer Series presentations are free to the public and are held at the Flat Ranch Visitor Center, located on north Highway 20 in Island Park (near Macks Inn), just 15 minutes west of West Yellowstone.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Tour the Showcase Barley Farm

This time of year, the Conservancy's "field season" is in full swing, and our staff are at working hard at various projects around the state. It's also the time of year when you have plenty of opportunities to see what's happening at Conservancy projects.

It's a busy month, and we'll be sharing opportunities here. To get things started, you can now sign up for a tour of the showcase barley farm at Silver Creek, owned by John and Elizabeth Stevenson.

The tour is Thursday, June 23 and also include Ernie's Organics near Shoshone.

The tour is free and includes lunch at Silver Creek Preserve.

The showcase barley farm, funded by Miller-Coors, demonstrates conservation practices including retrofitting irrigation pivots to save water (up to 400,000 gallons per two-day irrigation cycle), establishing stream buffers and improving streamside habitat.

The farm is owned by John and Elizabeth Stevenson, who have been active conservationists in the Silver Creek Valley for decades. Twenty-eight years ago, they donated the first conservation easement in the Silver Creek watershed. Since then, 21 other landowners have donated easements, protecting nearly the entire valley from development. The tour will allow attendees to see the latest conservation methods that enhance wildlife habitat while keeping their barley and alfalfa farm productive.

The tour will also visit Ernie’s Organics, an organic farm owned by Fred and Judy Brossy of Shoshone. The Brossys have also protected their farm with a conservation easement through the Wood River Land Trust. They are well known for their conservation practices and land ethic.

Event details: The tour will last from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, June 23. A bus will leave from Twin Falls at 9 a.m. The tour visits Ernie’s Organics followed by the Stevenson Family Farm.

To register: Email Marsh Holt-Kingsley at or phone Gwendolyn Ellen at (541) 737-6272.

Event sponsors: Oregon State University, National Center for Appropriate Technology, Portland Metro, The Nature Conservancy, the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, USDA NRCS Plant Materials Center, USDA Western Region IPM Center Functional Agro-Biodiversity Work Group, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Flat Ranch: Curlew Paradise!

Submitted by Chris Little, East Idaho land steward

Great news from Flat Ranch Preserve!

Last we conducted a pre-nesting curlew survey on Flat Ranch with biologist Rob Cavallaro of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

The survey involved three transects, each containing 5 to 9 survey points. Teams of two walked each transect, stopping at survey points for 5 minutes to record individual curlews, either by visual or auditory confirmation.

In the end, the survey recorded 95 curlews.

According to Rob, these preliminary findings suggest that Flat Ranch may have the highest density of nesting curlews in the country!

We will be conducting a second survey in several weeks when adults are brooding chicks - I will make sure to report again following this.

Big thanks to Nathan Welch, Chet Work, Sarah Grigg, and Rob Cavallaro for making this happen. Be sure to visit Flat Ranch this summer; the curlews are waiting!

Monday, June 06, 2011

5 Reasons to Visit Flat Ranch This Summer

The Nature Conservancy's Flat Ranch Preserve is located right off Highway 20 near Macks Inn, just 15 minutes west of West Yellowstone. It makes a perfect day trip from eastern Idaho, or a great stop en route to Yellowstone.

Admission is free, and our staff and volunteers love to meet visitors who stop by. Still need convincing? Here are five reasons to stop by Flat Ranch Preserve this summer:
The birds. The meadows of Flat Ranch offer perfect habitat for nesting birds, including sandhill cranes and long-billed curlews (pictured above). The whistling wings of snipe can often be heard in the evening, and ospreys and bald eagles hunt along the streambanks. Bring your binoculars and explore on your own, or join one of our birding groups later in the summer.

The blooms. Flat Ranch is carpeted with spectacular wildflowers in the summer, with mule-s ear, camas, sego lily and many others stretching out across the flat. It's a stunning sight. Bring your camera.

The fish. The Henry's Lake Outlet holds native Yellowstone cutthroat trout, and the Conservancy is working with partners to improve conditions for these fish. Fly fishing is permitted on the preserve. While fishing is highly dependent on water levels, it can be excellent early in the year. You may even catch one like this one that was captured during an electro-shocking survey on the preserve last year.

The kids. Throughout the summer, Flat Ranch hosts educational programs every Wednesday and most Saturdays. (A full schedule will be posted on this blog soon). Most of these programs are perfect for kids, offering the chance to meet hawks and Karelian bear dogs, look through telescopes or identify water bugs. The spotting scope is always set up for close-up views of pronghorns and cranes, and the preserve is a perfect place to wander around and explore.

The conservation. The Conservancy is working at Flat Ranch to demonstrate how a cattle ranch and wildlife habitat can coexist. Our restoration program is improving stream conditions for fish, waterfowl and other wildlife. And around the area, we're working with ranchers to protect their lands, benefiting the rural economy and Yellowstone's migrating wildlife. Stop by and see how your membership in The Nature Conservancy is making a difference in the Henry's Lake area, creating a hopeful future for people and nature.

We hope to see you at Flat Ranch this summer!