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Major Conservation Success along the South Fork of the Snake River in Eastern Idaho

September 2009 | Idaho

For immediate release:


Contact:
Mark W. Elsbree, 208-726-4419
Babette Thorpe, 208-354-8939         

 

Major Conservation Success along the
South Fork of the Snake River in Eastern Idaho

Idaho Falls, ID - Two of the last unprotected parcels of private land along the canyon stretch of the South Fork Snake River in Bonneville County are now conserved permanently, thanks to willing landowners and a strong conservation partnership.

More than 300,000 people visit the South Fork each year to enjoy world-class fishing and floating, abundant wildlife and one of the most scenic rivers in the West. Thanks to conservation projects like this, the South Fork’s going to stay that way.

The two projects recently completed include:

  • A Bureau of Land Management (BLM) purchase of 440 acres from a willing landowner along the South Fork, with assistance from The Conservation Fund and funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) and the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA).
  • A permanent conservation easement protecting 713 acres, protecting private lands adjoining the purchased property. The BLM will hold the easement on the property of dry farmers Cletus and Sharon Hamilton. The Teton Regional Land Trust, DDCF and FLTFA assisted with the project.  

 

“Idaho is a place of magnificent wild spaces, and these make our state a wonderful place to live, work and play,” stated Congressman Mike Simpson.  “I had the opportunity to spend time on the beautiful South Fork of the Snake River last month, and I am pleased at the collaboration between conservation groups and landowners who are working to ensure that this pristine area can be enjoyed for generations to come.”

These lands are well known by anglers and outfitters familiar with the canyon. About one-quarter mile after the Pine Creek confluence, the cliffs give way to a large cottonwood bottom on river right.  If you look up as you float past the cottonwoods, you may glimpse golden fields of barley on the high bluffs overlooking the river and then a steep canyon clad with Doug firs, aspen and service berry.

Conserving these two properties—one now in public ownership and the other remaining in private hands—benefits citizens of Idaho who enjoy hunting, fishing, beautiful scenery, watching wildlife and a strong rural economy.  These lands will provide migration routes for big game like elk and mule deer, as well as habitat for imperiled species like the Columbian sharp-tailed grouse.

The South Fork supports the largest native Yellowstone cutthroat trout fishery outside of Yellowstone National Park and produces half the bald eagles in Idaho.  Every year, visitors from all over the world travel to this river to enjoy the spectacular scenery, fishery and wildlife along this river. 

Eastern Idaho also benefits from the economic impact of the fishing and boating industry along these two waterways.  According to estimates by Dr. John Loomis, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Colorado State University, the use of the South Fork and Henry’s Fork of the Snake River by anglers and other visitors generates 1,214 jobs and over $41 million in income.

Some of the most productive dry farm lands in eastern Idaho lies along the high bluffs lining the South Fork, helping Bonneville County maintain its lead statewide in barley production.  Keeping this productive land in farming, wheat and barley primarily was one of the main reasons Cletus Hamilton decided to protect his land.  “We thought this was good to do for ourselves and our family, for society and for the land,” Hamilton said.

Since BLM purchased 440 acres outright, the public now has access to another beautiful cottonwood bottom along the South Fork.  Even the land remaining in private hands provides access to

the public—the South Fork Rim Trail. 

In 2000, Congress enacted the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA) to generate federal funds to protect important lands throughout the western United States.  Through the sale of non-essential BLM lands, FLTFA provides funding to purchase critical in holdings such as these parcels along the South Fork Snake River.  Because FLTFA is scheduled to expire in 2010,   The Conservation Fund, Teton Regional Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy and a bipartisan coalition are working on reauthorizing this important funding source for land acquisition in the West.

“The Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act is an effective tool for advancing land conservation,” said Mark W. Elsbree, vice president for The Conservation Fund.  “It balances conservation and economics and generates funds to protect high quality land, like these two properties along the South Fork Snake River.” 

For over 18 years, the BLM, The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy, the Teton Regional Land Trust and willing landowners have worked together to conserve permanently over 18,000 acres along the South Fork and the lower Henry’s Fork, including other lands conserved with FLTFA funds.  The level of cooperation between federal agency and national and regional conservation organizations—and the number of landowners willing to conserve their lands permanently—combine to make this effort one of the most successful conservation collaborations in the country.

“The practice of willing buyer—willing seller is upheld in the use of these Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act funds, which have benefitted many areas of Idaho,” Idaho Senator Mike Crapo said.  “I commend The Conservation Fund and its partners for their work on this project.  It offers permanent protection for the habitat that benefits sportsmen, elk, grouse, bald eagles, mule deer, and of course our unique Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout.”

“The South Fork of the Snake River agreement is another excellent example of private landowners, conservation groups, and public agencies working together to secure public access and protection for a beautiful part of Idaho,” said Senator Jim Risch.  “This effort shows that private working lands can still remain productive while providing assurance that future generation of Idahoans will have the same opportunity to enjoy these lands.”

For more information about these properties and to view a map of the properties acquired along the South Fork of the Snake River, please visit http://www.blm.gov/style/medialib/blm/id/rivers/snake_river-_south.Par.37212.File.dat/SouthFork_vicinity_web2.pdf.

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