Idaho ranch
Split River Ranch This ranch includes 1.5 mile long high-priority stretch of the Lemhi River. © Lech Naumovich/TNC


Nature Briefs

This page was updated on July 19, 2022.


In summer 2021, The Nature Conservancy secured a conservation easement that will protect Split River Ranch, a 257-acre property containing a high-priority, 1.5-mile-long stretch of the Lemhi River in central Idaho. Because the river is one of the state’s top salmon spawning tributaries, TNC and partners have worked for decades to keep its upper reaches healthy. Farther downstream, the focus is on restoring habitat for juvenile salmon, which need specific conditions to grow strong for their 850-mile-long journey to the Pacific Ocean. The restoration work on the ranch will create those necessary conditions by slowing stream flows, enhancing habitat diversity and improving water quality. Protecting and restoring these strategically important waters will help salmon populations thrive.

A river flowing through central Idaho
Split River Ranch The Lemhi River is one of the Idaho’s top salmon spawning tributaries. © Lech Naumovich/TNC


Biocrust is the desert’s skin—a complex community of lichens, mosses and cyanobacteria that lives on the surface of dryland soils. It plays an important role in sustaining desert ecosystems: Healthy biocrusts retain moisture and stabilize the soil, reduce erosion, prevent dust storms, and boost soil fertility by collecting carbon and nitrogen. But these beneficial communities are also sensitive to disturbance and highly vulnerable to a warming climate.

In an initiative led by Dr. Sasha Reed of the U.S. Geological Survey, The Nature Conservancy and its partners have successfully farmed biocrust—a first step in efforts to increase the pace and scale of restoration activities. Beginning in 2017, biocrust harvested from areas slated for development was transplanted and propagated at a first-of-its-kind farm near Moab. The crusts were then collected in packages—like sod—and rolled out over restoration sites at the Canyonlands Research Center at TNC’s Dugout Ranch and other sites in the southeastern corner of the state. While it may take several years for the biocrust to grow, the potential of this project is promising. “If we succeed, it would be a significant advance in our ability to help resource managers bring back biocrust communities,” Sasha notes. “People would be able to grow biocrust without disturbing much land ... and open a really exciting pathway for restoring much larger areas.”

Volunteers roll out biocrust during an installation.
Planting Biocrust Volunteers roll out biocrust during an installation. © Stuart Ruckman