Land and conservation easement sales announced this week protect critical salmon habitat and secure 217,000 acres of wilderness.
The Page family, owners of 2,200 acres in the Pahsimeroi Valley agreed to permanently protect important salmon habitat on their working ranch. The Nature Conservancy acquired two conservation easements on Big Creek Ranch owned by the Page family with a grant from the Idaho Office of Species Conservation and help from the Lemhi Regional Land Trust.
The easement is a voluntary legal agreement that commits landowners to conserve natural values on the property and limit certain types of development.
Meanwhile in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, the Wilderness Land Trust sold the 13-acre Bald Eagle Lode, a 1905 patented mining claim in the heart of the Hells Canyon Wilderness. The trust had bought the land from the family of the original owner who still held it until last year.
The two Pahsimeroi easements protect portions of the Pahsimeroi River, Big Creek and Mill Creek. They allow the cattle ranch to continue providing cold water and stream habitat for Chinook salmon, steelhead and bull trout, and habitat for sage grouse, elk, pronghorn, raptors and songbirds. The easements allow restoration efforts to move forward.
“This ranch had all the parts needed for great conservation - it had good restoration opportunities, strong water rights, strong operational values and the potential to be a viable conservation ranching operation," said Tom Page, who co-owns Big Creek Ranch with his brother, Michael. "We hope that through our efforts, and through the work of our partners, the native fish return to the Upper Pahsimeroi Basin."