Deal Struck to Protect 10,400 Acres
Today the Wood River Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy submitted a proposal to Blaine County for funding to help acquire and protect Rock Creek Ranch, a large undeveloped working ranch with tremendous value to wildlife, clean water and recreation.
Deal Struck to protect 10,000 acres in Blaine County
The meadow at Rock Creek Ranch, the largest undeveloped private property in Blaine County.
HAILEY, Idaho – Today the Wood River Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy submitted a proposal to Blaine County for funding to help acquire and protect Rock Creek Ranch, a large undeveloped working ranch with tremendous value to wildlife, clean water and recreation.
The 10,400-acre working ranch is one of the largest private properties in Blaine County. It encompasses the entire Rock Creek drainage southwest of Hailey and consists of high-quality sagebrush-steppe habitat, aspen forest, and river miles along Rock Creek.
In an effort to permanently protect the area, the property’s landowners, the Rinker Family, generously offered to sell the property substantially below fair market value to the Land Trust and the Conservancy.
“The Rinker Family had an opportunity to give back to the community and at the same time honor our father Harry Rinker who had the vision to acquire this asset some 20 years ago,” said Bart Rinker. “We are extremely grateful to The Land Trust and the Nature Conservancy for helping us make this a reality.”
If successful, the project will provide for ranching and grazing to continue, while preventing future development. The project proposes to leverage federal, state and private funds with Blaine County Land, Water, and Wildlife Program resources.
"This is another great example of why my state collaborative approach to sage-grouse management is the right model for Idaho," Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter said. “Voluntary local projects like this are critical to responsibly preserving our natural heritage.”
The Rock Creek area is identified by federal and state agencies as important for sage grouse, a species at risk of being listed under the Endangered Species Act.
“This could be an extraordinary accomplishment for conservation made possible by the generosity and forethought of the Rinker family,” said Scott Boettger, Executive Director of Wood River Land Trust. “By saving this special place, we are preserving vital wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities that support public health and enjoyment. The benefits to our community are lasting, leaving a legacy of connected, protected lands for those of us here now and future generations."
Rock Creek Ranch is a high priority for the Land Trust, the Conservancy, and Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) because of its intact fish and wildlife habitat, size, location, and threat of conversion. The property contains summer and winter habitat for elk and mule deer along with mule deer migration corridors. Intact big game habitat in Blaine County is of particular importance, due to recent fire activity and resulting loss of winter forage and forests
“This is truly a rare opportunity to conserve one of the largest undeveloped areas in Blaine County for the benefit of people and nature,” said Toni Hardesty, state director for The Nature Conservancy in Idaho. “Through collaboration we are positioned to conserve this critical wildlife habitat. We are grateful to the Rinker family and our partners at the Land Trust, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Idaho Fish and Game for making this project possible.”
The ultimate goal for the project, should complete funding be secured, is to transfer ownership of the property to Idaho Department of Fish and Game. The department would then manage the area for wildlife, continued ranching uses and to provide public access for recreation.
“This could not happen without the generosity of the Rinker family and conservation partners like The Nature Conservancy, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Wood River Land Trust and Blaine County,” said Virgil Moore, director of IDFG. “It is a privilege for Idaho Fish and Game to have a role in helping make this happen for the benefit of all Idaho’s citizens and their wildlife.”
Wood River Land Trust protects and restores land, water and wildlife habitat in the Wood River Valley and its surrounding areas. We work cooperatively with private landowners and local communities to ensure these areas are protected now and for future generations.
The mission of The Nature Conservancy is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. In Idaho the Conservancy has conserved and protected nearly 400,000 acres. To learn more: nature.org/Idaho.
The mission of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is to preserve, protect and perpetuate and manage Idaho’s fish and wildlife for enjoyment and use by all its citizens.
The mission of the Natural Resources Conservation Service is to provide high quality technical assistance and leadership necessary to set goals, shape mandates, and administer programs that will promote conserving, improving, and sustaining our resources and environment.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.