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Monday, July 25, 2011

Celebrating the Conservation Easement on the 2Lazy2 Ranch

View of Henry's Lake across 2Lazy2 Ranch in July

For over a decade, we have walked in summer and snowshoed or skied in winter along part of the western perimeter of the 2Lazy2 Ranch (love that name!) north of Henry’s Lake in Island Park, Idaho. From our cabin bordering the 2Lazy2, we have watched bald eagles soar, and red tailed hawks and marsh hawks hunt over the sagebrush grassland of the valley. My favorite wild sound on the 2Lazy2 in summer is the wild and primitive call of the sandhill cranes that nest here; after the grazing cattle arrive each summer, their lowing is the dominant sound on the ranch. 

Black Mountain & 2Lazy2 in winter

Nestled between Black Mountain, Henry’s Lake, and the Continental Divide, with views of Mt. Sawtelle, the Centennial Range, and Two Top Mountain, the 2Lazy2 is a working ranch in a spectacular mountain setting. Its 700 acres spread over much of the area between the north shore of Henry’s Lake and Raynolds Pass at the Montana border. Fox and coyotes pursue their prey; wolves occasionally prowl and run; sandhill cranes mate; trumpeter swans and Canada geese fly overhead, and white pelicans soar over this beautiful land, all of them seemingly paying no attention to the cattle that graze here in summer. Trout from Henry’s Lake come up the stream that flows through the ranch to spawn. 

Cattle grazing on 2Lazy2 ~ Centennial Range in distance

View of Two Top Mountain across 2Lazy2
The ranch is used by elk, moose, pronghorn, deer, and other wildlife. It has a key position on two major wildlife migration routes. The 2Lazy2 is located on the north-south migration route for about 300 pronghorn of the Madison Valley herd who migrate annually over Raynolds Pass. It is also on the east-west migration corridor for grizzly and black bears, mountain lions, wolves and wolverines who move between the Greater Yellowstone and the Centennial Mountains. 
2Lazy2 and Black Mountain in spring

In spring, wildflowers spread exuberant colors between the ranch land and the fir forest and aspen groves that lie near the ranch on the west and the sage-covered slopes on the east. Following summer afternoon thunder showers, beautiful rainbows often appear over the 2Lazy2. In late summer the lush green of the valley turns to gold as the grasses dry. In fall, the aspen along the slopes of the ridges overlooking the 2Lazy2 turn glorious shades of orange and yellow. In winter, the land is covered with the pristine serenity of snow, and without the cattle it is very quiet.

White Wyethia (Mules-Ears) on 2Lazy2 in early July


White Wyethia

Wildflowers on 2Lazy2 Ranch

Until last fall, we had only hoped and dreamed that this magnificent valley would ultimately be preserved from development. Randy and I had known for several years that The Nature Conservancy in Idaho had a long-term plan, the Henry’s Fork Legacy Project, in collaboration with other organizations and agencies, to acquire conservation easements to protect wildlife throughout the Upper Henry’s Fork. But it seemed too much to hope that this would include the 2Lazy2 Ranch.
Fence crew on 2Lazy2 before cattle arrive in summer

Fence crew ~ Mt Sawtelle & Centennial Range in distance

The cutest ranch worker

What a joy it was when we learned in September 2010 that the Bureau of Land Management, together with The Nature Conservancy in Idaho and the Teton Regional Land Trust, had arranged to purchase a conservation easement on the 2Lazy2 property from the Steinke family that has owned the ranch for several generations over four decades. The Teton Regional Land Trust did extensive work to document the conservation values of the 2Lazy2 property. What a wonderful decision by the land owners to agree to this arrangement! This means the preservation of ranching activity as well as permanent protection for wildlife habitat.

Trout come up Timber Creek (downstream from this site) 
from Henry's Lake to spawn
Black Mountain is in distance

According to The Nature Conservancy, “Conservation easements are permanent legal agreements that protect important habitat from development, while ensuring that traditional ownership and land uses like ranching continue.”  So the Steinkes will be able to continue to use the land as a working ranch, while it will always be preserved from housing and commercial development. TNC announced that “the conservation easement acquisition was funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act, allocated by the Bureau of Land Management.”
Cattle grazing in summer on 2Lazy2

The conservation easement on the 2Lazy2 Ranch is an excellent example of preservation of valuable ranch land and wildlife habitat through the collaboration of private organizations and willing land owners, funded by wise programs of federal support in the public interest. 
View of Mt. Sawtelle & Henrys Lake across 2Lazy2 Ranch

The conservation easement will preserve both wildlife and conservation values that most Americans cherish. The wildlife habitat on the 2Lazy2 is part of one of the most beautiful landscapes in North America and an important component of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. The migration routes of numerous animals, and the trout spawning stream that flows into Henry’s Lake, a premier fishing destination, will be preserved forever from human interference. At the same time, historic ranching activities will continue on this beautiful land.

White Wyethia on 2Lazy2 Ranch ~ Black Mountain in distance