The Lemhi Regional Land Trust has announced the purchase of a 520-acre ranch along Kenney Creek, a tributary of the Lemhi River important for salmon, steelhead and other native fish.
The acquisition is part of a complex conservation project that will ensure that sufficient water remains in the creek to meet the needs of both fish and agriculture.
The property will be protected with a conservation easement and transferred to a local rancher, in exchange for another conservation easement that will protect additional salmon habitat. The stream will be reconnected with the Lemhi River through water agreements which specify minimum stream flows for different water conditions.
The stream is used by young salmon, steelhead and bull trout as rearing habitat. In the heat of the summer, it can be as much as ten degrees cooler than the Lemhi River, providing a critical fish refuge.
The Nature Conservancy began working with the landowner at Kenney Creek three years ago to protect the property with a conservation easement and water agreements.
The landowner eventually decided to pursue sale of the property, which appeared to end chances of an easement.
The 520-acre ranch came up for sale last year. The Lemhi Regional Land Trust purchased the property with a plan to transfer it to a local rancher. The Nature Conservancy assisted in the transaction.
“Conservation requires flexibility,” says Mark Davidson, the Conservancy’s Central Idaho conservation manager. “At first, the challenges of this project seemed overwhelming. Fortunately, working with the local land trust, we were able to create an even better outcome, for both conservation and for agriculture.”
Kristin Troy, executive director of the Lemhi Regional Land Trust, said this property has exciting conservation potential. Kenney Creek is surrounded by public lands, and the ranch includes two miles of the stream. It also includes one mile along the Lemhi River, offering the opportunity for more habitat restoration.
“This project is the culmination of years of work by the Conservancy, partners, funders and landowners willing to explore new and creative ways to keep water in the stream for fish and working ranches,” says Troy. “It’s a win for the fish to be able to reach their habitat in Kenney Creek and a win for our community to keep our local ranchers where they want to be—working and stewarding their land. This is an exciting time for meaningful conservation in Lemhi County.”
Funding for the acquisition came from the Snake River Basin Adjudication Habitat Fund and Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Funds.
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.