Thursday, July 9, 2020
Climate Change-Resilient Landscape Protected for Future Generations
The Triple M Ranch. PHOTO: Wood River Land Trust
Saturday, June 1, 2019


More than 2,000 acres of important wildlife habitat and rangelands at the foot of the Pioneer Mountains have been conserved, thanks to a collaboration between local ranchers, The Nature Conservancy, the Wood River Land Trust and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Both the Triple M Ranch and Brown Ranch have gained conservation protections that allow ranching while restricting development, mining and activities that would degrade the natural habitat.

The ranches lie in an area known as the Pioneers to Craters, which encompasses 2.6-million acres of sage-covered slopes, forests, river valleys and high mountains. Scientists say this area has a high potential to be resilient to climate change, thanks to its wide-ranging elevations, soil and habitat types.

The Triple M Ranch consists of 520 acres of land in Butte County just north of the Craters of the Moon National Monument. It is surrounded almost entirely by Bureau and Land Management lands and is used for dry land grazing for cattle.

The property has a year-round stream, which makes it attractive to such wildlife as moose, pronghorn and Greater sage-grouse, the largest grouse in North America also known as the sagehen. There are six sage-grouse leks, or mating areas, with a 10-mile radius of the property, according to Chad Stoesz, land protection specialist for the WRLT.

Owner Monte MacConnell said he’d been working for the past 20 years to piece together a ranch large enough to be self-supporting. Putting the land into conservation easements allowed him to generate enough financing to do that.

“I started this process more than 10 years ago with the Wood River Land Trust. I learned a lot about conservation from them, and I want to thank them for this partnership,” he said.

Wildlife can’t tell the difference between public and private lands, noted WRLT Executive Director Scott Boettger.

“That’s why working with private landowners like Monte to protect in-holdings and wildlife corridors is so critical,” he said. “This conservation easement is part of the bigger picture of more than 90,000 acres of land protected in the Pioneers-Crater landscape over the years, ensuring that future generations will continue to experience the wonder of this landscape.”

Dan Brown worked with The Nature Conservancy and the Natural Resources Conservation Service to place 2,000 acres of his ranch into conservation.

The property, which lies nine miles east of Hailey, will provide a safe home for sagebrush, which is considered the anchor of the landscape. Even though much of the ranch burned in the 2018 Sharps wildfire, the sage, bunchgrasses and wildflowers are already in the process of recovering, said Tess O’Sullivan, TNC conservation manager.

Brown said part of the property was homesteaded by his great grandmother—it’s been in his family for four generations. He wanted to protect it to preserve its resources and beauty far into the future.

“Growing up, I spent a lot of time there and have a strong attachment to the land. It is a distinct area with Sheep Creek and Hailey Creek running through it, and the Little Wood River just to the east. The land is very valuable for recreation, ranching and wildlife,” he added.

 “It’s easy to think of places where wildlife migration corridors have been cut off and where houses and roads dominate the landscape,” said O’Sullivan. “Working alongside our partners, we are protecting an entire landscape where we can tell a different story—a story about how people came together, saw the value of maintaining the land in its wild and natural state and made a difference to protect it.”


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