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Fish & Wildlife Habitat: Big horn sheep
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County: Nez Perce

Year Acquired: 2007

Acreage: 2800

Public Access: with approval from owners

Project Partners: 
  • Idaho Department of Fish and Game
  • Landowners
  • Palouse Land Trust
Project Summary: 
The Ten Mile Creek Ranch project is a 10-year conservation management plan to protect wildlife on a property along the Snake River in Lewiston.  The owners make the property available for conservation education classes such as those provided by the IDFG "Project Wild" program and classes from the University of Idaho Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

Project Goals: 
  • Protect and improve Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep habitat on the property to allow for stable or increasing populations;
  • Improve habitat conditions sufficiently to allow the re-introduction of mountain quail to the property;
  • Protect and improve aquatic habitats for anadromous fish and bull trout on the property to allow for stable or increasing populations.  
News for this Easement: University of Idaho Conservation Science Students Help Local Landowners Conserve Species

Written by Sue McMurray

MOSCOW, Idaho — American Idol’s harshest judge, tired of human caterwauling, perhaps would find welcome relief in the blend of harmonies produced by the American kestrel, western meadowlark and 26 other bird species that frequent Ten Mile Creek Ranch.

Located on the Snake River south of Lewiston, the ranch provides a study site where University of Idaho students are conducting a service-learning conservation project.

If Simon Cowell visited the study site, he would have learned from these investigative natural resource scientists that the hooded merganser is no "gangsta” rap artist, just a small, fish eating duck that is mostly silent except in courtship when the male gives a deep rolling frog-like sound.

The students worked with the Palouse Land Trust, Idaho Fish and Game, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a conservation easement to protect wintering birds like the merganser and other vulnerable plant and animal species on the 2,800-acre ranch owned by Rick Rupp and Bill Mathews.

A conservation easement is a legally enforceable agreement between a landowner and a government agency (municipality, county, state, federal) or a qualified land protection organization, often called a "land trust," for the purposes of conservation and land preservation. It restricts real estate development, commercial and industrial uses, and certain other activities on a property to a mutually agreed upon level. The property remains the private property of the landowner.

"Working with local land owners on this project gives students real-world opportunities to collaborate with state agencies and federal agencies, practice presentation skills and conduct research that that could be used to improve management,” said Lisette Waits, associate professor and instructor.

Rupp and Mathews changed the land from being actively devoted to livestock grazing to land used to protect wildlife and wildlife habitat. They depended on students to conduct bird counts, evaluate bighorn sheep habitat use and assess the abundance of spawning salmon. They also developed long-term monitoring protocols for birds, natural springs and vegetation on the property. Additionally, three College of Natural Resources students in Lee Vierling's remote sensing class developed a vegetation map for the property as a class project.

"Ten Mile Creek Ranch was extremely pleased to have University of Idaho students use our property to advance the study of natural resources. Our working relationship has been easy and rewarding — a true winning relationship,” said Rupp. "We will use what we learn from their projects to make the property, which has home owners living on it, a better natural habitat. We hope more property owners might consider doing a similar experience.”

Funds from a University of Idaho Service Learning Grant supported the class field trip and additional visits to the study site. Students presented their projects to the class, Palouse Land Trust, and Idaho Fish and Game in December. Final reports were given to Rupp and Mathews to help guide future management and habitat monitoring for the area. Additionally, three students will continue to develop their projects into senior theses over the next couple of years.