Land Trust to use donated sites for Blackfoot River conservation

By David Ashby | Posted: Friday, January 2, 2015 1:00 pm


A grove of aspen trees on Caribou County land donated by Ronn and Roberta Rich through a conservation easement.

The Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust received an early Christmas gift last month in the form of two parcels of land along the Blackfoot River watershed in Caribou County.

The properties were donated to the Southeastern Idaho land conservation group as a conservation easement from landowners Ronn and Roberta Rich.

The first parcel consists of 250 acres of riparian wetlands at the headwaters of the Little Blackfoot River. The second parcel, which is 400 acres in size, is located west of the Blackfoot Reservoir.

Jerry DeBacker, the executive director of SSLT, describes the properties as “a little piece of paradise.”

“They are both very distinct properties,” DeBacker said. “The Little Blackfoot property has a 60-acre pond, wetlands, and groves of aspen and conifer trees. The other property is great winter ground for deer and elk.”

The lands will be used for wildlife conservation, particularly in the restoration and protection of the rivershed’s Yellowstone and westslope cutthroat trout populations and breeding grounds.

“First and foremost, we want to protect the water quality of the Blackfoot Rivershed,” DeBacker said.

According to DeBacker, the Rich family first settled in the Caribou County region in the 1880s and started accumulating land for its sheep herding business.

The long history of sheep herding is clearly apparent at the Little Blackfoot River site, where decades-old carvings from Basque sheepherders employed by the family still remain on some of the aspen trees.

Ronn and Roberta Rich wanted to donate the 650 acres to ensure the land’s natural resources are protected for future generations.

“Conservation easements are just one tool in the large toolbox of land protection,” DeBacker said. “So if they sell the property in the future, the conservation easement stays in place and runs in perpetuity.”

With the Rich’s easement, SSLT now manages 19 parcels of land around Southeast Idaho, working to protect and restore natural habitat and agricultural ground.