Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Property buy protects Silver Creek

TNC to resell property with conservation easement

Express Staff Writer

In its second such announcement this winter, The Nature Conservancy-Idaho purchased 650 acres adjacent to its Silver Creek Preserve.

The conservation organization plans to place a conservation easement on the property and resell it to a "conservation buyer."

The property, bought from the DiCarpegna family, is immediately south of the preserve, across from the Silver Creek office and manager's cabin. The property has been primarily used for farming.

A cabin there had been rented to The Nature Conservancy for interns to use during summer months.

The property includes three springs that are a part of the Stalker Creek watershed, a main tributary of Silver Creek. In addition to providing habitat for a number of wildlife species, the property provides a link between the publicly owned land in the Picabo Hills and the Silver Creek Preserve. The connection will be valuable for sage grouse, elk, mule deer, mountain lions and an occasional moose, according to TNC.

While the conservancy has held a conservation easement on 248 acres of the property since 1984, the remaining 400 acres were unprotected from development. Such development would have had a negative effect on the watershed and wildlife using the area, TNC said.

The conservancy's goal is to maintain the habitat and scenic values of the DiCarpegna property by restricting development, requiring the best management practices for agricultural activities and encouraging restoration of native habitats.

"This transaction will allow us to protect both habitat for wildlife and open space in the valley," said Lou Lunte, the conservancy's director of conservation programs. "Many people in Idaho and beyond love Silver Creek, and they love the rural character and peacefulness of the valley. This purchase helps to preserve that."

The Nature Conservancy's Silver Creek Preserve attracts thousands of visitors each year for its world-class trout fishing, bird watching and canoeing. The watershed has become a model for community-based conservation. Landowners along Silver Creek have protected their lands through conservation easements, voluntary legal agreements that allow traditional land uses like farming and ranching to continue while protecting the land from development in perpetuity. In the area, 22 landowners have protected nearly 10,000 acres through easements.

The DiCarpegna purchase marks the second land purchase by the conservancy this month. On Dec. 3, the organization announced the purchase of the Moen Ranch in the Pahsimeroi Valley northeast of Challis. The purchase will help protect important spawning habitat for salmon, steelhead and bull trout. A river access to the property will be transferred to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and the remainder of the property will be sold with conservation easements attached.

"We are very excited about these two important conservation projects," Lunte said. "They will not only protect wildlife habitat, fisheries and open space, but will also continue private ownership of these lands. Both demonstrate the Conservancy's approach of working with communities, ranchers, partners and individuals to conserve Idaho's special places."

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