Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Land trust buys property in the Pioneers

Purchase of 100-acre parcel will ensure public access to popular recreation spot

Express Staff Writer

Local recreationists will continue to have access to a popular destination in the southern Pioneer Mountains because of a recent purchase by the Wood River Land Trust.

Under the deal announced within the past few weeks, the land trust has taken ownership of 100 acres strategically located near the headwaters of the Little Wood River along a stretch of Porcupine Creek. Porcupine Creek is accessed by driving 12 miles northeast from Hailey.

The most direct route to the parcel begins in lower Quigley Canyon before crossing a high pass and dropping into the Little Wood drainage.

The land trust's newly acquired property is adjacent to public lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management as well as the Sawtooth National Forest, where Porcupine Creek begins its downstream journey through the Pioneers' foothills. Because the parcel is the last piece of private ground one hits before crossing into public land, continued access is assured, the Hailey-based organization stated in a news release.

According to the land trust, neighboring BLM lands have been designated as an area of critical environmental concern due to sensitive wildlife values. Those values include an important migration corridor for elk and mule deer and winter habitat for elk.

The property is in an area popular with elk hunters.

"We purchased the Porcupine Creek property to conserve wildlife habitat and maintain public access to surrounding public lands," said Nathan Welch, planning coordinator with the land trust. "For generations this has been an important area for recreational access, especially for hiking and hunting, and access for trailing livestock."

The land trust bought the property from Little Wood Headwaters Ranch in a bargain sale in which the landowner turned over the property at less than full-market value and made a charitable donation of the remaining value, the news release states. The purchase was made possible by donations from individuals and foundations to the organization's open space fund.

The Little Wood Headwaters Ranch is owned by Beartooth Capital, an investment group that specializes in acquiring, restoring, protecting and eventually reselling ecologically important lands.

"It has been a pleasure to work with the land trust to ensure the public will forever have access to the Porcupine Creek trailhead and the National Forest lands beyond," said Carl Palmer of Beartooth Capital. "That part of the Pioneers is remarkably wild and beautiful."

The land trust's Porcupine Creek property, which is just a small portion of the larger Little Wood Headwaters Ranch, is near the bottom end of the isolated drainage. Porcupine Creek merges with Baugh Creek just southwest of the property.

Habitat types on the property include rolling grasslands, some timber and riparian areas.

Jason Kauffman:

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