Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 Idaho Annual Report

Download our Idaho annual report, featuring the conservation accomplishments your support made possible. Check out stories on wolverines, Lava Lake, Hemingway’s Idaho heritage and more.

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.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Juniper Chomping in Action

Junipers are a native tree, but due to improper grazing and other habitat loss, they are spreading at an alarming rate: more than 100,000 acres per year.

Uncontrolled juniper spread leads to a monoculture in sagebrush habitat. Sage grouse avoid areas with trees, because trees provide a perch for raptors.

The Nature Conservancy and partners are leading an effort to chomp up junipers and turn them into mulch. The area is then replanted with native shrubs and grasses, restoring habitat for sage grouse and other native wildlife.

This video shows the juniper "chomper"--technically known as a masticator--in action.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cougar Bay Trails Enhanced

Hikers should note new trail changes including closures on private property.

Hikers will soon benefit from the proposed enhancements to the trail system at The Nature Conservancy’s Cougar Bay Preserve and the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) John C. Pointner Memorial Wildlife Sanctuary at Cougar Bay.

Through a partnership between The Nature Conservancy and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the adjoining Cougar Bay lands will be co-managed for hiking, recreation and wildlife habitat preservation.

The BLM is currently working with an adjacent landowner on an easement which will allow construction of a new trail system that would extend eastward to the BLM managed parcel at Cougar Bay. When completed, this addition would offer hikers almost an additional mile of trail as well as outstanding views of Lake Coeur d’Alene.

The new trail will also connect to a Nature Conservancy parcel of land which lies further to the east near Donovan’s Point. Trail construction would likely commence in early summer, 2012.
Beginning October 1, the existing Nature Conservancy trail system will be modified.

The original trail system was located partially on private land forestlands to the south through a land-use agreement with the previous owner. Adjacent private lands have been closed due to misuse by some users.

A new loop trail has been established wholly on Nature Conservancy forestland. A map of the new trail system will be posted at the trailhead signboard located just off of Highway 95, south of Coeur d’Alene.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Middle School Students Make a Difference at Silver Creek

Each year, the 6th grade classes at the Wood River Middle School--taught by Claudia Gaeddert and Ginger Rierden--pick a cause to support. This year, they wanted to benefit a special place in their backyard.

Sustainability is a part of the sixth grade curriculum at Wood River Middle School, and the students chose Silver Creek Preserve as their project.

The Nature Conservancy is honored that the 6th graders chose our preserve for this year's cause. Inspired by a visit to the preserve, the students designed and sold the buttons that illustrate this blog post.

This story perhaps begins before the students arrived, during a summer event at the preserve. Oregon State University and other partners hosted a biodiversity and farm tour that included Ernie's Organics owned by Fred and Judy Brossy along the Big Wood River, a stop at the preserve and a tour of the showcase barely farm owned by John and Elizabeth Stevenson.

The tour earned fantastic reviews, but more than that, it is one of those educational events that succeeded in getting people to think about conservation in new ways.

Conservationists at Silver Creek often think about trout, herons and moose. This tour brought alive the amazing world of pollinators and other beneficial insects.

And that's what the sixth graders focused on: They learned about the role insects play at the creek from preserve manager Dayna Gross and farmer Gary Beck. They were inspired to raise money to fund a butterfly garden at the preserve's visitor center.

"The students learned it wasn't just about the preserve," says Ms. Rierden. "They learned that conservation is about how we live here and work here and make money here, while still protecting a very special place."

And so the students got to work. They designed and sold buttons. They also created "The Power of Change," a drive to collect spare change undertaken by all students at Wood River Middle School.

"Eleven- and twelve-year-olds are game for anything," says Ms. Gaeddert. "I wish we could all stay twelve. They look at a challenge and think, 'Wow, we can do this!' There's some real magic that happens."

The result: Nearly $3100 raised for Silver Creek! What an amazing, inspirational effort, and one that will result in more beneficial insects in the Silver Creek Valley. The garden can also inspire the thousands of visitors to our preserve to make their own efforts to benefit pollinators, butterflies and other beneficial insects.

Thank you again to the sixth grade students, the teachers and all who bought buttons or gave spare change. You made a difference for a special place. We look forward to working with you more to protect Silver Creek! -- Matt Miller