The Pine Creek Bench in Swan Valley sits just above the South Fork of the Snake River. Because of its impressive wildlife values and scenic vistas, the Pine Creek Bench has been a conservation focus for several federal, state and non-profit organizations.
In late December, two properties totaling just over 900 acres were conserved. With help from the Teton Regional Land Trust and The Conservation Fund, the Idaho Falls District of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) purchased two properties along the South Fork of the Snake River in Bonneville County, Idaho using federal Land and Water Conservation Funds (LWCF). Support from the Idaho congressional delegation helped to secure the federal LWCF funding to acquire the properties.
The Teton Regional Land Trust worked closely with both landowners to find permanent conservation options for the properties. Ultimately, The Conservation Fund purchased an 862 acre Pine Creek Bench property and on December 22nd transferred 304 acres of the lands to the BLM for long-term protection and management. The Conservation Fund intends to convey the 558-acre balance of the property to BLM in the future as federal funding becomes available. The property is located between the Pine Creek Canyon and the South Fork Snake River’s Conant Valley.
Additionally, the BLM purchased a second property with the assistance of the Teton Regional Land Trust. This property on the Pine Creek Bench protects and provides scenic views of the South Fork and Swan Valley. The landowners of both properties offered their properties to BLM because they wanted the land to be kept in its current natural state for the benefit of wildlife and the enjoyment of the public who visit the South Fork of the Snake River. Chet Work, Executive Director of the Teton Regional Land Trust said “The conservation partnership that is working to protect the unique resources of the South Fork has been fortunate this year, we have had the opportunity to work with some very generous families who want to see the South Fork remain excellent habitat for fish and wildlife.”
The Pine Creek Bench connects summer range in the high mountains with lower elevation winter range along the South Fork Snake River for elk, moose and mule deer. Along the Bench lie privately held parcels of land, many of which are protected under permanent conservation easements held by the BLM, the Teton Regional Land Trust and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Landowners, agencies and land trusts have worked together to protect over 3,900 acres on the Pine Creek Bench and more than 21,000 acres along the South Fork. Protecting this landscape ensures connectivity for elk moving to and from the mountains and the river and helps implement long-range plans by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to encourage elk to winter downstream from Swan Valley away from more developed areas. Conserving this landscape also protects important breeding, nesting and brood-rearing habitat for Columbian sharp-tailed grouse, identified as a sensitive species by federal agencies and a species of greatest conservation need in Idaho’s Comprehensive Wildlife Management Strategy.
The recently protected properties are now public lands managed by the BLM.