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Wetlands near Challis will be preserved

BOISE – More than 1,200 acres of wetlands and other habitat near Challis will be protected under a new conservation easement.

The Nature Conservancy bought the easement rights to try to stop development on the land, which they say includes prime salmon spawning habitat on the Pahsimeroi River and land used by sage grouse, songbirds and big game animals. The money for the purchase comes from the federally funded Idaho Snake River Basin Adjudication Habitat Fund and the Kemmerer Foundation.

The land is owned by Beartooth Capital, an investment partnership that specializes in acquiring and restoring ecologically important lands, Nature Conservancy officials said in a press release. Besides the wetlands, the easement property includes tributary streams to the Pahsimeroi, pastures and irrigated agricultural lands.

“This is truly a wildlife paradise,” Mark Davidson, a conservation manager with The Nature Conservancy, said in a prepared statement. “By working with Beartooth and our agency partners, we’re ensuring that this ranch continues to provide the clean water, beautiful springs and elk and salmon that make the Pahsimeroi Valley a special place.”

The easement makes 300 acres of wetlands permanently off limits to any extensive use. Three miles of streamside habitat will be protected and restored along Big Springs Creek, one of the tributaries to the Pahsimeroi River.

Farming and ranching will continue on some parts of the property.

The Pahsimeroi is one of the watersheds identified by federal agencies, the state and Indian tribes as critical to preventing the extinction of endangered salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake river basins, the Idaho Statesman reported.

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