Habitat Improvement: Doing What we can to Give
The Next Generation a Better Property Than the One we Started With
by Joseph N. Peterson

With six miles of Lawyer Creek running through our 5000 acres, the Flying B Ranch bears quite a responsibility for the stewardship of this unique resource. The Creek is home to a wild run of native steelhead as well as resident wild trout. The Creek has challenges from surrounding agricultural fields with the associated run off and chemicals, past stream bed alterations and invasive plant species topping the list.

How does a land owner tackle these issues with a limited budget?

We started by hiring a stream restoration company to look at the present condition of the stream and give us habitat improvement options. Because this company specialized in complete restorations and have a wildly successful track record of doing that, their recommendations ended up being cost prohibitive for our budgets.

When we started looking for public funding to help, we were competing directly with Idaho Department of Fish and Game, United States Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and the NezPerce Tribe for funds. It didn’t take long to figure out we needed to partner with these agencies rather than compete with them for this limited funding.

Enter the divide and conquer mentality that is at times needed in hunting conservation.

  • We approached our local Soil and Water Conservation District to help with advice on this new approach and a direction for the long term project. Since that time we are in the middle of a three year vegetation restoration project on about a half mile of stream bank and uplands.
  • We have started on a multi year habitat improvement project with the Nez Perce Tribe on a high water overflow project to allow the creek full use of the riparian areas it has traditionally used.
  • With the Idaho Department of Lands we did a road relocation and reconstruction project to get the road out of the riparian strip and onto the upland.
  • We work with the county weed district to fight several species of new exotic invasive pests.

These are not as flashy as a total stream restoration, but the end result will be more compatible with our finances and will bring the stream into a more natural state in the long run.

The thing to remember is this; Do what you can with a very long term goal of giving the next generation a better property than you started with.

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