10,400-acre property to be managed for wildlife, ranching and recreation
HAILEY,ID — One of the largest undeveloped properties in the Wood River Valley, Rock Creek Ranch, is now conserved for wildlife, clean water and public access thanks to the efforts of local landowners, public agencies and community groups.
The ranch, owned by the Rinker Family, was recently sold to Wood River Land Trust(WRLT) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) at a fraction of its fair market value in an effort to conserve it for future generations. Ranch brokerage Hall and Hall facilitated the sale.
The Rinkers’ work to preserve the ranch started with a conservation easement purchased by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to protect sage-grouse habitat and grazing land. Funding for the Grassland Reserve Program easement came from the agency’s Sage Grouse Initiative.
“Protecting this ranch is a landmark achievement. We are deeply grateful to the Rinker family for making such a wonderful and lasting gift to our community and wildlife possible,” said Scott Boettger, Executive Director of Wood River Land Trust. “Without their generosity, patience and determination we would not have achieved such a wonderful result, benefiting Wood River Valley visitors and residents alike,for generations to come. I can’t think of a more honorable legacy.”
The10,400-acre ranch encompasses the entire Rock Creek drainage southwest ofHailey and consists of high-quality sagebrush-steppe habitat, aspen forest, and river miles along Rock Creek. The protection of the area aligns with state and federal efforts to conserve sage grouse through landscape-scale habitat improvements. The project expands the bird’s protected habitat in the central Idaho area to more than 70,000 acres in the Pioneer Mountain area.
WRLT and TNC leveraged private funding together with $3.7 million in public funds from NRCS to purchase, conserve and manage Rock Creek.
“The ranch provides critical habitat for sage grouse, specifically breeding and brood- rearing habitat,” said Jeff Burwell NRCS State Conservationist. “The addition of the ranch to Idaho’s conservation easement portfolio is a step toward keeping the sage-grouse off the endangered species list and keeps working lands working.”
Long valued for its benefits to people and nature, Rock Creek Ranch will continue to be conserved for sage grouse and managed for ranching and public use. The grazing leases on the ranch will continue through the ownership changes.
“Our family is pleased to know that this land will be managed in perpetuity as a working landscape with its conservation values conserved and appropriate access maintained,” said Bart Rinker. “We are honored to leave this gift to a community we value and love.”
The project illustrates the power of partnerships and leveraging public and private funding to achieve conservation at a larger scale.
“We believe in the power of collaboration as an important tool for achieving lasting and meaningful conservation for Idaho,” said Toni Hardesty, Conservancy state director. “Rock Creek Ranch is an example of how individuals and groups with diverse interests can come together to protect our state’s very special places, so they can be enjoyed by people and wildlife.”
Along-term goal for the project is for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to own and manage the property. WRLT and TNC submitted a proposal to obtain funding from the Blaine County Land, Water and Wildlife Program to help Idaho Fish and Game purchase the property.