IDAHO FALLS - A new conservation easement has been conveyed on 711 acres within an area designated as critical wildlife habitat and migration corridor in the Henry's Lake area.
The owners of the 2 Lazy 2 Ranch conveyed the easement to the Bureau of Land Management to protect the area along the Idaho-Montana border. The Nature Conservancy and Teton Regional Land Trust helped facilitate the transaction, according to the BLM.
Funding came from a Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act disbursement and a Land and Water Conservation Fund appropriation.
The two programs work with willing sellers to acquire lands for conservation purposes within or adjacent to federally designated areas that have exceptional resource values.
In the case of the 2 Lazy 2 Ranch, the owners (whose names were not released) intend that the easement be managed to conserve open space and wildlife habitat and to continue traditional ranching activity, the BLM says.
The agency will manage the property as part of the Henry's Lake Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), which was established in 1997 to protect wildlife habitat, riparian-wetland areas, water quality and recreational activity, primarily fishing.
The ranch lies north of Henry's Lake at the crossroads of two major wildlife migration corridors on Raynolds Pass in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem - a pronghorn route and a corridor used by grizzly and black bears, mountain lions, wolves and wolverines. According to the BLM, an estimated 300 pronghorn from the Madison Valley herd in Montana migrate over the pass every spring to summer on ranches around Henry's Lake, returning via the same route to Ennis, Mont. The travel itinerary of the pronghorns is believed to be the third-longest terrestrial migration of any animal in the lower 48 states.
"The migration route passes directly through the 2 Lazy 2 and along the adjacent mountain slopes," said BLM Idaho Falls District Manager Joe Kraayenbrink in a news release.
"If this property were ever developed, it would likely lose its value as a migration corridor and perhaps eliminate the migration altogether."
The Wildlife Conservation Society has determined that the ranch and Raynolds Pass in
general are a critical corridor for movement by bears, mountain lions, wolves and wolverines moving between the Greater Yellowstone and the Centennial Mountains, the BLM says.
The location of the ranch has historical significance, too. The stagecoach and freight wagon route between Henry's Lake and the Montana old mining towns of Virginia City and Alder Gulch also runs through the ranch.
The property provides summer habitat for sandhill cranes, long-billed curlew and red-tailed hawks. Moose winter on the ranch, and the waterways are spawning habitat for Yellowstone cutthroat trout.
As the Continent Divide National Scenic Trail runs along the ridge paralleling the west of the property, the easement will support BLM efforts conserving important visual
resources along the trail.
The agency says in combination with additional federal appropriations, a total of 4,907 acres within the Henry's Lake ACEC are now conserved through BLM acquisitions. About 2,800 additional acres in the Henry's Lake area are protected through arrangements between property owners and partners such as The Nature Conservancy and the Teton Land Trust.
The area was designated an ACEC by the BLM in 1997. It contains a 350-acre wilderness study area of the same name.