Water flows down a river in a mountain valley
Central Idaho Fresh water flows through a mountain valley © Robert Sheley

Stories in Idaho

Protecting Land and Water in Idaho

Conserving our natural places and fresh water has never been more important.

People come to Idaho, and often stay, because of its wildness – its open space, free-flowing rivers and incredible wildlife. In fact, the Gem State is the fastest growing state in the nation.

Areas bordering national forests and other public lands have experienced a significant increase in development, which often impacts wildlife habitat. And, as the magnitude of wildfires increase, so does the risk to communities.

Conserving our natural places, and thoughtful development, has never been more important. We believe Idaho can grow without sacrificing the places that we love.

The need for conservation is growing, and we’re evolving to meet those needs. We’re conserving land and water on a big scale, using science to identify areas of need, leveraging creative financing and collaborating with others. Give to protect our Idaho.

For more than 50 years, The Nature Conservancy in Idaho has been a leader in land protection and stewardship. We’ve had a hand in protecting places that include the South Fork of the Snake River, Silver Creek, Hells Canyon, the Owyhee Canyonlands, the Pioneers Mountains to Craters of the Moon, and more.

View of Henrys Lake from Sawtelle Peak
Ensuring a path Connecting public and private land is critical for wildlife to survive and thrive. © TNC

Benefits of Protecting Land and Water

  • Conservation makes it possible for us to hunt, fish and enjoy the great outdoors. It protects critical wildlife and fish habitat, and often preserves public access. 
  • Healthier lands are more resilient to drought and wildfire. Conservation often involves restoration that improves the health of Idaho’s land and waters.
  • Nature sustains Idaho’s economy: outdoor recreation contributes $7.8 billion in consumer spending and creates 78,000 jobs in Idaho.


Surviving the Changing Climate

Migration patterns are shifting across the West as the changing climate forces wildlife into new areas, in search of survival. Their best chances may be found in places that offer the strongest foundation for life to thrive. Places like these are mostly undeveloped and have wide-ranging soil types, elevations and slopes. The idea is that by mapping and evaluating key features that buffer against climate change, we can identify and conserve the places that are likely to weather the changing climate. Nature Conservancy scientists refer to them as “climate resilient” and have identified areas that meet this criteria in the Pacific Northwest.  

From the Mountains to the Moon

A 2.6 million-acre area of diverse terrain of lava beds, high desert, rivers and alpine forests, the Pioneers to Craters area was identified by TNC scientists as a natural place that will be resilient to climate change. Several years ago, the Pioneers Alliance, of which TNC is a member, set a goal of conserving 110,000 acres of private lands in this area that provide critical connections to public lands. The core of this area is mostly large working ranches. Key strategies include protecting private lands that enhance wildlife migration, improving the health of existing habitat through restoration and using science and policy to ensure sound management of the public lands. 

Two pronghorn passing through the Stanley Basin
Pronghorn Migrating wildlife, like pronghorn, need room to roam © Steve Dondero

Where the Wild Things Roam

Northern Idaho, bordering Washington, Montana and Canada, hosts some of the most remote and intact public lands in the lower 48 states. Large areas of protected forest lands are separated by valley bottoms largely in private ownership. A multitude of wildlife, including grizzly bears, Canada lynx, caribou, wolves, wolverines and more require large home ranges and the ability to move freely in search of food and mates. Ensuring that wildlife have the space to survive and thrive is critical. We’ve focused on conserving four identified wildlife corridors by protecting 10,000 to 15,000 acres by limiting activities that would prevent wildlife from crossing. A secondary goal is to maintain and improve forest management on the public and private lands to maintain overall forest health.

Water for Fish and People

Native salmon and steelhead are at the heart of Idaho’s wild places. They are food for wildlife, and the foundation for recreational fishing businesses in small communities around the state. Sadly, both salmon and steelhead populations have plummeted. Driving this precipitous decline is habitat loss and degradation, and barriers to migration to and from the ocean. Our work aims to reverse this decline by restoring spawning habitat, transforming policies and practices, and securing adequate water flows for rivers. Our efforts are focused on the recovery of native and wild fisheries in the Upper Salmon, Wood River including Silver Creek, and Upper Snake Rivers.

Life-Giving Waters of the Greater Yellowstone

Bordering the western edge of Yellowstone National Park, the Upper Henry's Fork region is both a critical linkage between the National Park and the High Divide region of Montana and Idaho and is the headwaters for the Snake River, one of the great river systems in the Northwest. As in many western landscapes, higher elevation areas are public lands, while most valleys are privately owned. Here we protect key private lands that provide wildlife access to public forest lands and work to remove barriers and restore life-stage critical flows to the headwater streams. 

What is a wildlife linkage or wildlife corridor?

Wildlife linkages are landscape connections that allow wildlife to move freely, as they need. They may also be called (or include) wildlife corridors, biological corridors, wildways, wildlife pathways, safe passages, connected habitats (connectivity), permeable landscapes (permeability), greenbelts, urban greenways, wildlands network, riparian corridors, and open space corridors. These linkages connect important habitat areas for wildlife, such as wilderness and National Forests, Parks, and Monuments, or undeveloped mountain ranges. They allow animals to move to new areas in search of mates, food, water, and new territory; for seasonal migration; or in response to fire and drought. Wildlife linkages are critical to the health of wildlife populations. A functioning wildlife linkage not only gives wildlife freedom to roam, but prevents inbreeding and species loss, and safeguards abundant biodiversity.*

*Source: Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection