Nature Conservancy Uses State, Private Funds
by Rocky Barker
The Nature Conservancy purchased rights to stop development of a critical wetland three miles of prime salmon spawning habitat on the Pahsimeroi River near Challis.
The environmental group bought conservation easements on 1,214 acres on the Big Springs Creek Ranch that not only is important to salmon and steelhead habitat but also used by sage grouse and other wildlife. Funding for the conservation easement purchase was provided by the federally funded State of Idaho Snake River Basin Adjudication Habitat Fund and the Kemmerer Foundation.
The ranch is owned by Beartooth Capital, an investment partnership that specializes in acquiring and restoring ecologically important lands. The property includes wetlands, tributary streams to the Pahsimeroi, pastures and irrigated agricultural lands.
"This is truly a wildlife paradise," Mark Davidson, the Conservancy's Central Idaho conservation manager said. "By working with Beartooth and our agency partners, we're ensuring that this ranch continues to provide the clean water, beautiful springs and elk and salmon that make the Pahsimeroi Valley a special place."
The Pahsimeroi is one of the watersheds identified by federal agencies, the state and Indian tribes as critical to preventing the extinction of endangered salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake river basins. Federal attorneys held it up as an example of how they can assure they are taking all the measures necessary in a Portland federal courtroom earlier this month in a lawsuit filed by salmon advocates.
Three hundred acres of wetlands will be permanently off limits to any extensive use, so that they can continue to provide clean water and wildlife habitat. Three miles of streamside habitat will be permanently protected and where necessary restored along Big Springs Creek, one of the most important tributaries to the Pahsimeroi River for fish habitat.
"Big Springs Creek Ranch is one of the most valuable properties for salmon and wildlife that we've had the pleasure to own," says Beartooth co-founder Carl Palmer. "We are thrilled to be working with The Nature Conservancy, Idaho Fish and Game and many others to improve habitat for salmon, steelhead and other wildlife while improving agricultural productivity and ensuring that the ranch will always be protected."
Ranching and farming will continue on the upland areas of the property. Recently, The Nature Conservancy and partners worked together to remove a major irrigation diversion on the Pahsimeroi River, providing for improved fish migration up and down the river.
"This is an exciting time for salmon conservation in the Pahsimeroi," Davidson said. "By working with landowners like Beartooth and our agency partners, we're returning miles of river habitat to salmon while still meeting the needs of local ranchers."
learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs