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Field Day June 28 Highlights Unique Collaboration on Idaho Ranch

June 20, 2016

University of Idaho President Chuck Staben will join leadership from The Nature Conservancy and the Wood River Land Trust on Tuesday, June 28, at Rock Creek Ranch to formalize and celebrate a new and unique collaboration among the three entities. Together they will provide good science, effective outreach, sound conservation practices and responsible grazing on nearly 10,400 acres of rangeland in south central Idaho.

The celebration will begin at 9:30 a.m. at the ranch, with an overview of the collaboration, followed by the formal signing of the memorandum of understanding. Nature walks and activities will round out the morning. In the afternoon, UI researchers and other stakeholders will tour the property to discuss potential research possibilities.

“Leading research and outreach in Idaho is the fundamental land-grant mission of the University of Idaho,” Staben said. “Together with The Nature Conservancy and the Wood River Land Trust, we will continue to do what UI has done for 125 years — provide sound data from which our state’s industries can improve, expand and thrive.”

Rock Creek Ranch, near Hailey, Idaho, was purchased in 2014 by The Nature Conservancy and the Wood River Land Trust from private landowner Harry Rinker and his family. Through a conservation easement with The Natural Resources Conservation Service, the property is managed to protect the area’s grasslands and to prevent future development. The University of Idaho recently joined the two landowners as the research and outreach arm of the three-pronged collaboration.

“Rock Creek Ranch is in the heart of an area that provides critical water and habitat for wildlife in southern Idaho. We are proud and excited to not only conserve this remarkably intact place, but leverage what we learn here to benefit similar areas in Idaho,” said Toni Hardesty, state director for the Conservancy in Idaho.

Some restoration projects have already begun on the property.

The Conservancy and the Land Trust have applied for grant funding from Blaine County to further help with the restoration efforts along the creek.

The Rock Creek Restoration and Reconnection Project is a $1.1 million project intended to improve water quality, stream function and provide fish passage between Rock Creek and the lower Big Wood River. It would also address recreational elements and public access.

“This property provides a place where we can conserve our natural resources, sustain healthy wildlife habitat and provide places where people can enjoy the outdoors,” said Scott Boettger, executive director of the Wood River Land Trust.

UI research will encompass the many aspects of the watershed — including wildlife habitat, water quality, grazing and more. The ranch has sage grouse, pygmy rabbits, elk and other wildlife species.

A grazing management study is underway with 150 cows grazing the land and being monitored. Grazing and the issues around it are key components of the future of the property — as the UI Rangeland Center strives to provide science-based answers to Idaho’s large ranching industry.

About Wood River Land Trust
The Wood River Land Trust is a local non-profit organization that protects and restores water, wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities in the Wood River Valley and surrounding areas. To learn more about the Land Trust and the more than 25,000 acres it protects throughout Idaho, please visit woodriverlandtrust.org.

About The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. Visit The Nature Conservancy in Idaho on the web at www.nature.org/idaho. To learn about the Conservancy’s global initiatives, visit www.nature.org/global. To keep up with current Conservancy news, follow @nature_press on Twitter.

Contacts:
Mike McKenna
Wood River Land Trust
mmckenna@woodriverlandtrust.org
208-788-3947

Lisa Eller
The Nature Conservancy
leller@tnc.org
208-350 2206

Jodi Walker
University of Idaho
jwalker@uidaho.edu
208-885-4295

About the University of Idaho

The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 12,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky Conference. Learn more at uidaho.edu