Nature Conservancy uses state, private funds to protect Idaho salmon habitat

The Nature Conservancy purchased rights to stop development of a critical wetland three miles of prime salmon spawning habitat on the Pahsimeroi River near Challis.

The environmental group bought conservation easements on 1,214 acres on the Big Springs Creek Ranch that not only is important to salmon and steelhead habitat but also used by sage grouse and other wildlife. Funding for the conservation easement purchase was provided by the federally funded State of Idaho Snake River Basin Adjudication Habitat Fund and the Kemmerer Foundation.

The ranch is owned by Beartooth Capital, an investment partnership that specializes in acquiring and restoring ecologically important lands. The property includes wetlands, tributary streams to the Pahsimeroi, pastures and irrigated agricultural lands.

"This is truly a wildlife paradise," Mark Davidson, the Conservancy's Central Idaho conservation manager said. "By working with Beartooth and our agency partners, we're ensuring that this ranch continues to provide the clean water, beautiful springs and elk and salmon that make the Pahsimeroi Valley a special place."

The Pahsimeroi is one of the watersheds identified by federal agencies, the state and Indian tribes as critical to preventing the extinction of endangered salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake river basins. Federal attorneys held it up as an example of how they can assure they are taking all the measures necessary in a Portland federal courtroom earlier this month in a lawsuit filed by salmon advocates.

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