The Quiet Path To Conservation

Mark Elsbree first learned of The Nature Conservancy while he was guiding fly-fishers out of Sun Valley.

Shorelines of Silver Creek and the Henry’s Fork of the Snake that are owned by The Nature Conservancy are bound to catch the eye of any fly-fisher.

TNC has purchased property along the fabled streams to preserve their natural qualities. However, as is TNC’s philosophy in most cases, the area within their ownership remains open for public fishing.

“I was impressed with the organization and signed on to work with them for four months during the guiding off-season,” Elsbree said. “But that four months turned into four years.”

Idaho’s state headquarters for The Nature Conservancy has been in Sun Valley since 1986. In November, Elsbree was sent to open a North Idaho office in Hayden, demonstrating the national conservation group’s commitment to nature preservation in the Panhandle.

“I think we can make a heck of a difference by working with private groups as well as businesses and bringing them together,” Elsbree said, explaining in a nutshell the conservancy’s secret to success.

TNC stays largely out of politics. Rather, it promotes conservation by recruiting private and commercial backing to preserve important natural areas by purchasing them at fair market value.

In many cases, the land is later turned over or resold to public or private groups once conservation easements have been secured.

TNC has purchased 100 acres for preservation in Lake Coeur d’Alene’s Cougar Bay and played a major role in preserving Gamlin Lake south of Sandpoint. Both involve wetland areas vital to waterfowl, fish and other wildlife, as well as recreation.

“There’s a wealth of opportunities in North Idaho,” Elsbree said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

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