In 2016, Rock Creek Ranch became a center for science and education through a unique collaboration between the University of Idaho, The Nature Conservancy and the Wood River Land Trust.
The three groups signed an agreement to provide opportunities for effective research, learning and outreach at Rock Creek — all aimed at engaging the next generation and fostering a more sustainable Idaho.
The ranch, located near Hailey, was purchased in 2014 by the Conservancy and Wood River Land Trust from private landowner, Harry Rinker and his family. The 10,400-acre ranch 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. The protection of the area aligns with state and federal efforts to conserve sage grouse. Through a land-use agreement with The Natural Resource Conservation Service, the property is managed to conserve the area’s grasslands and to prevent future development.
Restoration and research projects have already begun on the property. The Rock Creek Restoration and Reconnection Project is intended to improve water quality, stream function and provide fish passage between Rock Creek and the lower Big Wood River. A second phase of the project, addressing the needs of the northern part of the ranch, is slated to start in 2017. As restoration and research projects evolve in the coming years, it will be the site of tours, outreach and education for landowners, ranchers, students, legislators and more.
The ranch property contains several tributaries to the Big Wood River: Rock Creek, Little Rock Creek, Big Poison Creek and Little Poison Creek, along with several unnamed streams. Future ranch management plans include restoring streams and restricting grazing in riparian areas. Improvements like willow planting along stream banks and reconstructing stream channels will benefit water quality and wildlife habitat.
Rock Creek Ranch has habitat that is valuable to sustaining sage grouse populations. Sage grouse occupy two leks on the property, and five more leks are located within one mile of the ranch. A number of leks with historic or undetermined status can be found on or near the property. Short-eared owls, eagles, many species of songbirds and waterfowl, and the yellow-billed cuckoo, a species currently listed as a “candidate,” also occur within the vicinity of the property.
To download a copy of the Rock Creek Ranch brochure click here.