Friday, June 27, 2014

Hearing set on Rock Creek request

Nonprofits seek $1.1 million from Land, Water and Wildlife fund

Express Staff Writer

    The Blaine County commissioners will hold a public hearing Tuesday, July 1, on an application to obtain $1.1 million from the county’s Land, Water and Wildlife Levy to fund the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s purchase of Rock Creek Ranch.
    The meeting will begin at 2 p.m. at the Community Campus Minnie Moore Room, at 1050 Fox Acres Road in Hailey.
    The application has been filed by the Wood River Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy, each of which spent $1.1 million to buy the 10,400-acre property from the Rinker family. The property begins about six miles southwest of Hailey and runs south to U.S. Highway 20.
    The last stage in the project will be permanent management of the property as one of the Department of Fish and Game’s 32 wildlife management areas.
    If approved, the $1.1 million from the Land, Water and Wildlife program will be added to an equal amount from Fish and Game to reimburse the two nonprofit organizations for their purchase expenditures.
    Land Trust Executive Director Scott Boettger said his organization spent “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in additional costs for surveys and other activities associated with the purchase.
    “You don’t realize how big this thing is until you start to walk it and survey it,” he said.
    The Department of Fish and Game has stated that the primary wildlife goal is to preserve sage-grouse habitat, though the ranch is also an important migration corridor for deer, elk and pronghorn. Combined with about 10,000 acres of surrounding BLM and state land, it will create 32 square miles of open space available for public use.

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