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Rare Habitats: Palouse Prairie
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County: Latah

Year Acquired: 2010

Acreage: 160

Public Access: No

Project Partners: 
  • USFWS Landowner Incentive Program
  • Idaho Dept of Fish and Game
  • Latah Soil and Water Conservation District
  • Palouse Land Trust
Project Summary: 
The property contains one of the largest remaining remnants of native Palouse Prairie known to exist.  Numerous species of rare plants have been identified on the property such as Palouse Thistle and Palouse Goldenweed that are endemic to the Palouse region.  The high elevation of the property relative to the surrounding landscape assures that it offers scenic views from Moscow as well as from the important transportation corridor (US 95) between Moscow and Lewiston, Idaho.  The property is a natural habitat for a variety of native animal life including mammals, birds and reptiles.  It also provides an important travel corridor for larger mammals and birds to other habitats along Paradise Ridge south of Moscow.

Project Goals: 
  • Conserve the diversity of native plants that are unique to this site and reflective of the Palouse Prairie ecosystem prior to the arrival of Euro-Americans.
  • Protect open space and scenic views.
News for this Easement: Section of Palouse prairie preserved under easement

Land will remain a permanent research opportunity on the diverse ecosystem

By Christina Lords, Daily News staff writer

A 160-acre parcel of property on Gormsen Butte in southwestern Latah County recently has been set aside as a part of a conservation easement to protect a local native and endangered ecosystem - a remnant of the Palouse prairie.

The easement is the culmination of several years of work and is a collaborative effort between the property owners, Frank and Rebecca Hill of Moscow, the Palouse Land Trust, the Latah Soil and Water Conservation District, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

"(The lands) are important because of a great diversity of native plant species," said PLT board member Gerry Wright. ''It's so rare, it's (considered) as one of the most endangered ecosystems. It's all been turned to wheat or other crops."

The property consists of 42 acres of Palouse prairie remnants and adjoining 55.6 acres of native grass seeding, a 32.4acre area of native seeding enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, and 30 acres to be managed as a buffer for the remnants and native seeding.

The Landowner Incentive Program, a competitive grant program funded by the U.s. Fish and Wildlife Service and administered through Idaho Fish' and Game, was used to secure the funds for the easement. The funds were matched by landowner commitment.

A conservation easement is a legally enforceable land preservation agreement that binds the land to its designated use in- perpetuity. The easement disallows certain uses - in many cases, development - to preserve identified values to the property, in this case, endangered habitat.

''The remnants that do remain have never been farmed for one reason or another, usually because they're inaccessible," Wright said. "This high butte offers tremendous views, and it would be a highly desirable building site."

Under the easement, the land remains under the ownership of the Hills, but the terms of the easement can be tailored to reflect the landowner's wishes for the property.

Such an easement permanently protects the property from residential development, conversion to farmland or to other uses.

PLT provides assistance to private landowners and is a nonprofit organization directly involved in perpetually protecting land for its conservation values, said Charles Burke, president of the PLT board of directors.

While not open to the public, the easement will provide an opportunity for researchers from the University of Idaho and other institutions to study the rare ecosystem, he said.

"These are really rare, beautiful pieces of property," Burke said. "To understand how we can go about restoring more of this kind of land, this will be used as future resource."

The PLT monitors 11 conservation - easements in the area, as well as owning Idler's Rest Nature Preserve near Moscow.