Henry's Lake easement aims to protect wildlife habitat

HENRY'S LAKE, Idaho - Island Park rancher Deborah Empey and the Nature Conservancy have completed a 560 acre conservation easement in the Henry's Lake region.  The ranch, which borders the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, is one of the largest intact private parcels of open space in the area.

The easement will ensure long-term conservation of the land, but will allow it to continue as a working livestock ranch. A conservation easement is a voluntary, legally binding agreement that compensates landowners for limiting certain types of uses or restricts development on a property.

The Nature Conservancy said the area houses critical wildlife habitat including mule and white-tailed deer, long-billed curlews, Yellowstone cutthroat trout, brown and black bears, moose, bald eagles, and sandhill cranes. 

The Conservancy said it intends to transfer the conservation easement to the Bureau of Land Management in coming years.  BLM District Manager Joe Kraayenbrink said the total assemblage of conserved properties in the Henry's Lake area now totals approximately 4,700 acres.

Over the past decade, Empey partnered with Idaho Department of Fish and Game to improve habitat for Yellowstone cutthroat trout on the property. They installed fencing to protect Spring Creek and Duck Creek, tributaries of Henry's Lake, and installed fish-friendly culverts and drop pools. "Within the space of five years, the fish have returned, the streams are healing and it's just phenomenal," Empey said.

"Many of Idaho's important animal migrations cross over private land," said Nature Conservancy Director of Protection Partnerships. "Private landowners like Debbie are key to protecting open spaces on a scale that matters for wildlife. Her vision of an intact Henry's Lake, complete with working ranches and alive with plants and animals, is a vision of hope in this holiday season."

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