The New Year has started off on a high note for fans of the Salmon River as the Wood River Land Trust is delighted to announce that 487 acres along the river has officially been protected.

The Ellis Ranch in Custer County, located between the communities of Challis and Salmon, officially became a conservation easement just hours before the end of 2015. Thanks to the generosity of the donors (who asked to remain anonymous), the property will now be preserved for farming, ranching, scenic landscapes, and fish and wildlife habitat.

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Ellis Ranch, Ellis, Idaho.

“It is important to protect lands along the Salmon River so that agriculture can remain viable and fish and wildlife habitat can be preserved” said Keri York, the director of conservation for the Wood River Land Trust. “Working with the landowners, we were able to protect the property’s important conservation values forever.”

The Ellis Ranch was originally homesteaded by the Ellis family, for whom the ranch and small local community are named. It was eventually purchased by the Dowton family, who will continue to manage the working cattle ranch. The ranch covers nearly two miles of river frontage, which provides valuable habitat for big game animals like deer, elk and antelope, and is also home to upland game birds and waterfowl. The easement will also help protect floodplain and streambank habitat, which is good news for the Salmon River’s famous fish species.

“Hopefully, everyone has places like these that can be protected and enjoyed for generations,” -Scott Boettger

“This easement will help protect sensitive habitat that it is important for salmon and steelhead, while maintaining the ranch’s historic agriculture assets and its scenic values. These are all things that are important to the people of Central Idaho,” York said.

“What a great achievement. This is a terrific property located in the heart of an important, longstanding conservation area,” said Trent Jones, of Hall and Hall Ranch Brokers.

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The Ellis Ranch will remain a working cattle ranch.

The area around the ranch offers several public access points for fishing and hunting that are managed by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. So the easement is great news for those who love to fish, hunt and enjoy the stunning landscape vistas of this truly special area.

“This really is what makes the state so wonderful, that we can save land like this for its wildlife and scenic values, while still maintaining its historic agricultural uses,” said Scott Boettger, the executive director for the Wood River Land Trust.

Scott has great memories of salmon fishing along its banks and hunting for chukar and Hungarian partridge in the public lands around the ranch with his father. Scott plans to share the same experiences there with his own children someday.

“Hopefully, everyone has places like these that can be protected and enjoyed for generations,” he said.

BY Mike McKenna

For more information about conservation easements or the Wood River Land Trust, or to volunteer or donate, please check out woodriverlandtrust.org, or call 208.788.3947.

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Eliis Ranch along the Salmon River.