Located in the Wood River Valley of central Idaho, the 10,400-acre Rinker Rock Creek Ranch provides a unique “living laboratory” through which land managers, students and researchers are learning how to best manage rangeland for the benefit of people and nature.
In 2019, the University of Idaho acquired the ranch from The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Wood River Land Trust (WRLT), which first purchased the ranch in 2014 from private landowner Harry Rinker and his family.
Because of its diverse range and water sources, the ranch supports a myriad of wildlife that include beavers, moose, short-eared owls, eagles, many species of songbirds and waterfowl, and the yellow-billed cuckoo, a species whose populations are in steep decline.
Habitat found at the ranch is critical to stabilizing and increasing Greater sage-grouse, which is considered threatened in most of its range. Sage-grouse occupy two leks on the property, and five more leks within one mile of the ranch. Conservation activities on the ranch align with state and federal efforts to improve sage grouse populations. 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.
The 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. Several tributaries to the Big Wood River run through the ranch: Rock Creek, Little Rock Creek, Big Poison Creek and Little Poison Creek, along with several unnamed streams.
Several restoration and research projects are now taking place at Rinker Rock Creek. One such project is examining how to improve water quality, stream function and provide fish passage between Rock Creek and the lower Big Wood River. In addition to research, the ranch hosts outreach programs and tours.
The ranch is jointly managed by the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and College of Natural Resources. An advisory board with representation from TNC, WRLT, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Idaho Cattle Association and others is in place to guide decisions on the property.