BLM, Nature Conservancy protect Henry’s Lake corridor
Posted: February 10, 2015 5:17 p.m.
By AUBREY WIEBER
After nine years of effort, the Bureau of Land Management has secured a prized conservation easement on Henry’s Lake.
The easement will permanently protect the 565-acre Empey-Johnson Ranch.
In 2001, landowner Debbie Empey approached The Nature Conservancy about permanently protecting the land her father purchased in 1947. In 2006, Empey, The Nature Conservancy and BLM, began working to purchase the conservation easement with the agreement it later would transfer to BLM, once funding was available.
The easement was obtained by the Conservancy in 2012.
“This is a very common way the Conservancy works with BLM in eastern Idaho,” said Susanna Danner, director of protection for the Conservancy’s Idaho chapter. “Sometimes the Conservancy can work faster if we have the funds available.”
The easement was purchased by the BLM on Thursday for $525,000 using Land and Water Conservation Fund money. According to the BLM’s website, the funding comes from money allocated by Congress with the intent of protecting “areas of critical environmental concern and special recreation management areas.”
BLM spokeswoman Sarah Wheeler said the area long has been targeted by BLM. The most recent easement is one of several along the lake, comprising 5,400 acres of protected land.
“This area is really important due to location,” Wheeler said. “It offers this unique corridor for wildlife from Yellowstone National Park, where they have a lot of protection, to the Centennial area and the Continental Divide.”
The protected area is a working cattle ranch and provides habitat and resources for numerous species, including grizzlies, pronghorn, Yellowstone cutthroat trout, sandhill cranes and long-billed curlew.
The effort to protect as much land in the critical corridor as possible, Wheeler said, is an attempt to provided the same future opportunities for people and animals that exist today.
Empey was worried about the property one day being subdivided, Danner said. With the easement, Empey and future owners will be able to ensure the ranch remains the way it is today.
“The goal was to keep it open for wildlife as there are curlew and pronghorn moving through the property pretty much unhindered,” Danner said. “The quality of this project, this particular landowner’s vision, sets it apart.”