| Land Trust News
Wood River Land Trust Completes Three-way Land Exchange with BLM
Wood River Land Trust (WRLT) has just completed a three-way land exchange with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and a private landowner that has been ongoing since 2004. Land exchanges can often accomplish multiple conservation and land management goals, and take great effort from all parties involved. The project accomplishes BLM’s trespass and land-tenure adjustment objectives, consolidates land ownership, and enables the land trust to continue to further its mission and land-protection efforts.
The project was initiated by Blue Canyon Corporation, a private party owning lands north of Ketchum. Blue Canyon Corp. purchased property that was previously developed in a way that trespassed on adjacent BLM lands. In order to resolve the trespass issues, the BLM suggested a land exchange involving WRLT. The land trust has been involved in land transfers and exchanges in the past when the project fulfills the land trust’s mission and offers conservation benefits.
The land trust currently owns thirteen separate properties in three different counties. Two properties in particular are surrounded by BLM lands in Blaine County and contain important fish and wildlife habitat. The 320-acre Square Lake Preserve was protected because of its historic sage grouse lek, ephemeral water resources, and pygmy rabbit habitat. The307-acre sheep Bridge Canyon Preserve was protected because of its sage grouse habitat, mule deer and pronghorn migration corridor, and Big Wood River riparian area. Development on either of these properties could have affected significant wildlife habitat and open space. When the land trust acquired both of these properties, we intended to remove development potential and seek leverage opportunities to accomplish greater land conservation goals. Because both properties are in holdings within BLM lands and contain natural resources important to the public, BLM ownership and management is ideal.
In this transaction, twenty acres of BLM land was conveyed to Blue Canyon Corp.; Square Lake and Sheep Bridge Canyon Preserves were conveyed to the BLM; and the land trust’s financial compensation will be used to further its mission to protect and restore other important landscapes. To accomplish the land exchange, the BLM required an environmental analysis that reviewed impacts of the potential exchange to natural and cultural resources under the national Environmental Policy Act. After the environmental analysis was completed and public comments were submitted, the BLM issued a decision to approve the land exchange in October 2012. Over the last several months, WRLT and BLM staff has been working to complete due diligence and final exchange documents.
This land exchange accomplishes several of WRLT’s goals and finalizes eight years of cooperative work with the BLM and a private landowner. The land trust is assured that development will not occur on Square Lake and Sheep Bridge Canyon Preserves and that both properties will continue to be managed for wildlife habitat. Creative conservation work, such as this, will allow WRLT to continue protecting land beyond traditional conservation easements and preserve management.
Timbered Dome Land Transaction: Largest in WRLT’s History
December, 2012: The last few months have been busy at WRLT. A recent transaction leveraged the Land Trust’s Timbered Dome Preserve to accomplish over 3,300 acres of protected wildlife habitat and agricultural land. The Land Trust’s 1,610 acre Timbered Dome Preserve, located east of Craters of the Moon National Monument, was the largest acquisition in our organization’s history. Working with a neighboring landowner and partner, the recent transaction resulted in federal Grassland Reserve Program conservation easements on 3,150 acres of important sagebrush-steppe habitat, including Timbered Dome, and a Land Trust conservation easement on 200 acres of prime farmland.
Our greatest accomplishment with this ground-breaking transaction is that WRLT's initial acquisition resulted in over twice the number of acres conserved. These conservation easements protect important winter and summer range for elk and mule deer, a migration corridor for pronghorn, breeding habitat for sage-grouse,and year-round habitat for raptors, migratory song birds and pygmy rabbit. Now,important sagebrush-steppe habitat where sage grouse leks exist and pygmy rabbits thrive is protected from development and land conversion. The tiny,one-pound pygmy rabbit is the only non-domesticated, North American species that digs a burrow for winter-thermal-protection and relies on sagebrush for 99percent of its winter diet. The protected lands also offer core breeding and nesting habitat for sage grouse and presently have active leks on and around the properties. Fortunately, sage grouse habitat and populations are being reviewed annually by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for possibly placing them on the endangered species list.
Friends of the Hailey Greenway and the Sage School Help with Croy Creek Restoration Efforts
On Wed., November 7th, Students from the Sage School high school and Friends of the Hailey Greenway helped Wood River Land Trust and the Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game plant wetland sod at Croy Creek. To help prevent the invasive reed canary grass from spreading, wetland sod was harvested from another Land Trust preserve and transported to Croy Creek. There, students and volunteers planted the sod along the edge of a reed canary grass monoculture. This wetland sod is comprised of native rushes and will help establish diverse, native vegetation at Croy Creek.
WRLT Partners with Trout Unlimited's "Adopt-a-Trout" Program
On Tues., October 30, 2012, elementary school students from the Ketchum Pioneer Montessori School participated with Trout Unlimited and WRLT staff, and the Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game biologists collecting 25-30 adult rainbow trout via electro-fishing.
The fish were surgically implanted with radio telemetry tags, held for approximately 24 hours in a “livebox” to assess fish condition, and then released back into the Big Wood River. Over the course of the 2012-2013 school year, fish will be tracked with by radio telemetry (approximately once per week), and their movements recorded.
Trout Unlimited's (TU) mission is to conserve, protect and restore North America’s cold-water fisheries and their watersheds. Part of TU’s vision is to ensure that native and wild cold-water fish thrive within their native range, for the enjoyment of future generations.
Project WOW and THE LORAX PROJECT
The Community School's Kindergarten Class - We speak for the Trees!
The Wood River Land Trust submitted three different conservation-oriented projects to Project WOW, a local non-profit with the mission to teach the Valley’s students about generosity. Each student in the Blaine County School System will receive $25 from Project WOW. Each classroom was asked to select a project by 25, local non-profits.
The Community School’s kindergarten class selected the WRLT’s "The Lorax Project". These pint-sized students have been asked to speak for the trees by making short videos of their friends and fellow students expressing why WRLT and land-conservation is important to them. Click this link to see a video of the Community School kindergarten announcing its special class project>>>Click this link to see a video of the Community School kindergarten class at the Hailey Greenway "speaking for the trees".>>>
YAK Teams Help at the Land Trust's Howard Preserve
On Tues., June 19th, teenagers from the Youth Adult Konnections (YAK) program spent two hours pulling knapweed at the Land Trust's Howard Preserve in Bellevue. They pulled an entire truckload of weeds! Thanks Brandeis and David for organizing this event, and for everyone's help stewarding this important preserve!
Carey Students Compete in National Competition
On May 4 - 5, 2012, two Carey high school teams competed in the Envirothon, a state-wide competition engaging high school students in environmental education beyond the classroom. Wood River Land Trust, Idaho Conservation League, the Blaine Soil Conservation District, and the Lava Lake Institute for Science and Conservation collaborated through the Pioneers Alliance to raise funds for the 2012 competition. Thanks to collaborative, fund-raising efforts, this year the entire sophomore class was able to attend.
Envirothon provides high school students an opportunity to learn from state and federal agencies and to present science projects in a competition setting. To help students with research prior to the competition, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the Land Trust hosted field trips for the class to view a Sage-Grouse lek (mating ground) and complete a riparian vegetation-monitoring project. Carey High School science teacher Lane Durtschi also worked with his students during school and assisted them with their presentations.
Farmers Implementing Smart Irrigation Systems
Read this article>>> "Dribbles and bits" from The Economist Technology Quarterly regarding smart irrigation systems farmers are implementing to reduce fertilizer run-off, save water and cut costs.
Students Present Biology Research Projects
Wood River High School Biology teacher Larry Barnes' class presented their wildlife research projects at the Wood River Land Trust on Tues., May 21st. The research was conducted on the Land Trust's Draper Preserve, Big Wood River Greenway and Croy Creek Wetlands near Lions Park. We were especially impressed with the knowledge and professionalism of these budding, young scientists, as well as their hypotheses and overall conclusions. Job well done!
Mother's Day Bird-watching Outing
For Mother's Day the Land Trust and Idaho Conservation League together hosted a bird-watching outing on the Land Trust's Kelly Reservoir conservation easement near Fairfield, Idaho. Over 30 species of birds were observed during the morning outing.
Wood River Land Trust Completes Construction of New Wildlife Viewing Boardwalk
In September, 2011, the construction of a 550-foot boardwalk along the riparian area adjacent to Lions Park was completed by the Wood River Land Trust. Visitors can now enjoy an up-close wildlife experience with minimal impact to the wetland habitat.
In 2008, the Land Trust, working with the City of Hailey and the Draper Wood River Preserve adjacent to Lions Park. Twelve-hundred tons of debris was removed from the site - an area used as a city dump for many years. In 2009, volunteers and Wood River Land Trust staff planted native trees, shrubs, and grasses to improve the health of the wetlands and restore fish and wildlife habitat. The new vegetation filters sediments and absorbs excess nutrients, improving the quality of water in the area as it drains into the Big Wood River.
As part of its long-term strategy, the Land Trust seeks to balance the public benefits of experiencing nature with the benefits of healthy riparian and wildlife habitat. The wetlands area has already become an outdoor classroom for Wood River Valley high school students.
In the early morning and evenings, visitors might see the resident moose, a plethora of ducks including the brilliantly colored Wood Ducks, herons wading in the water, red-winged blackbirds on their grass perches, and throughout the spring and summer visitors can hear an orchestra of bird calls in the willows and trees.
The Wood River Land Trust is investing in our Valley, not only as part of its mission to protect and restore land, water,
and wildlife habitat in the Wood River Valley and its surrounding areas, but also to economically aid the local economy in the Valley.
In 2006 a research study conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Commerce found that bird watchers, "birders", spent $36 billion dollars to watch these feathered creatures. The study found that the higher the income and education level the more likely a person is to be a birder and more birders are women comprising 54% of those who participated in the activity. Birders spent an estimated $12 billion on trip expenditures and $24 billion on equipment expenditures in 2006. For trip expenditures, 57% was allocated for food and lodging, 35% was spent on transportation, and 7% was spent on other costs, such as guide fees, user fees, and equipment rental. Equipment expenditures were relatively evenly distributed among wildlife watching equipment (29%), special equipment (35%), and other items (33%). Auxiliary equipment accounted for only 3% of all equipment expenditures.
The best thing about this economic "bird in the hand" is that it is provided by nature with minimal expense and huge potential in return for all in the Valley. Expenditures associated with wildlife watching can ripple through the local economy by impacting tourism, retail sales, tax revenue, employment, and household income. It can help real estate sales as just over 10% of real estate sold nationwide is due to the property's wildlife watching opportunities and also greatly influences retail sales as 21% of national retail sales are correlated with wildlife watching.
Directions to the Boardwalk: Locate on the west side of the Big Wood River at Lions Park in Hailey. From downtown Hailey, turn west onto Bullion St.; continue over Bullion Bridge, turn south to enter Lions Park, and continue beyond the softball field to the parking area next to the pavilion.
Big Wood River Greenway Boardwalk Open
This article appeared in the Mt. Express News on Friday, May 11, 2012, click link to read:
Read this article>>
By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer
| The long-awaited Big Wood River Greenway Boardwalk, above, opened to the public on Saturday, May 12, 2012. Photo by Trey Spaulding |
Wildlife lovers will have a one-month window to explore nature in the middle of Hailey when the Draper Preserve opens its boardwalk this Saturday, May 12. It will close June 15 for construction of a new entryway bridge