Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Forest Service buys 2,100 acres of conservation easements in SNRA

The snowmobile trail connecting Stanley to Redfish Lake, and beyond, within the Sawtooth National Recreation Area north of Ketchum, is now open as a result of the U.S. Forest Service's recent purchase of the trail easement and conservation easements from the Piva family.

Normally, the conservation easements do not provide for public access. However, Forest Service spokesman Ed Waldapfel said, this conservation easement acquired a trail route over the Piva Ranch adjoining the city of Stanley south of the Stanley Airport. The conservation easement also purchased the development rights on the bench that the trail crosses. This will reduce future use conflicts and protect the cherished scenic, historic and pastoral qualities of the Stanley Basin, Waldapfel said.

Sara Baldwin, Sawtooth National Recreation Area ranger, expressed her pleasure at securing the access and conservation easements.

"We have made this purchase on behalf of all those who enjoy the variety of opportunities to recreate on the SNRA and who love the unique characteristics of the open, working landscapes," she said. "These easements are part of our continuing successes in implementing the 1972 congressional direction in the SNRA legislation. We are grateful to the Pivas for their cooperation in working with us."

The Piva family, second- and third-generation Stanley Basin ranching families, sold to the Forest Service the majority of their development rights on 2,100 acres over three properties in the Stanley vicinity. The Forest Service also purchased a permanent right for public access to portions of the Challis National Forest over the Basin Butte Road.

"We appreciate the efforts of the Idaho congressional delegation in obtaining the appropriations for this purchase," Baldwin added. "We are also thankful for the assistance of the Sawtooth Society and others in working to generate support and funding for the conservation easements."

Money for the SNRA protection program comes from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a non-income tax fund generated from offshore oil and gas royalties.

The purchase of the Piva easements brings to 91 the total number of conservation easements the Forest Service has acquired over the past 30 years. Permanent protection now exists over 17,000 acres of the approximately 20,000 acres of private land within the SNRA boundaries.

More than $65 million dollars has been invested to preserve the natural, scenic, historic, pastoral, and fish and wildlife values of the SNRA while retaining lands in private ownership and on the county tax roles, Waldapfel said.

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