University of Idaho Conservation Science Students Help Local Landowners Conserve Species

Wednesday, February 18 2009

Feb. 18, 2009 Photo available at Written by Sue McMurray MOSCOW, Idaho – American Idol’s harshest judge, tired of human caterwauling, perhaps would find welcome relief in the blend of harmonies produced by the American kestrel, western meadowlark and 26 other bird species that frequent Ten Mile Creek Ranch. Located on the Snake River south of Lewiston, the ranch provides a study site where University of Idaho students are conducting a service-learning conservation project. If Simon Cowell visited the study site, he would have learned from these investigative natural resource scientists that the hooded merganser is no “gangsta” rap artist, just a small, fish eating duck that is mostly silent except in courtship when the male gives a deep rolling frog-like sound. The students worked with the Palouse Land Trust, Idaho Fish and Game, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a conservation easement to protect wintering birds like the merganser and other vulnerable plant and animal species on the 2,800-acre ranch owned by Rick Rupp and Bill Mathews. A conservation easement is a legally enforceable agreement between a landowner and a government agency (municipality, county, state, federal) or a qualified land protection organization, often called a "land trust," for the purposes of conservation and land preservation. It restricts real estate development, commercial and industrial uses, and certain other activities on a property to a mutually agreed upon level. The property remains the private property of the landowner. “Working with local land owners on this project gives students real-world opportunities to collaborate with state agencies and federal agencies, practice presentation skills and conduct research that that could be used to improve management,” said Lisette Waits, associate professor and instructor. Rupp and Mathews changed the land from being actively devoted to livestock grazing to land used to protect wildlife and wildlife habitat. They depended on students to conduct bird counts, evaluate bighorn sheep habitat use and assess the abundance of spawning salmon. They also developed long-term monitoring protocols for birds, natural springs and vegetation on the property. Additionally, three College of Natural Resources students in Lee Vierling's remote sensing class developed a vegetation map for the property as a class project. “Ten Mile Creek Ranch was extremely pleased to have University of Idaho students use our property to advance the study of natural resources. Our working relationship has been easy and rewarding – a true winning relationship,” said Rupp. “We will use what we learn from their projects to make the property, which has home owners living on it, a better natural habitat. We hope more property owners might consider doing a similar experience.” Funds from a University of Idaho Service Learning Grant supported the class field trip and additional visits to the study site. Students presented their projects to the class, Palouse Land Trust, and Idaho Fish and Game in December. Final reports were given to Rupp and Mathews to help guide future management and habitat monitoring for the area. Additionally, three students will continue to develop their projects into senior theses over the next couple of years. # # # About the University of Idaho Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 150 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. For information, visit Media Contact: Lisette Waits, Fish and Wildlife Resources, College of Natural Resources, (208) 884-6434,; or Sue McMurray, College of Natural Resources Communications, (208) 885-6673,

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit