Rock Creek Ranch Supports Idaho’s Rangelands through Collaboration
Partnership connects U of I researchers with the needs of industry and conservation groups.
An old barn rests in a field surrounded only by rangeland and blue sky outside Hailey, Idaho. This is the front door of Rock Creek Ranch, a 10,400-acre property owned by The Nature Conservancy and the Wood River Land Trust. It is the scene of a unique collaboration between the landowners and the University of Idaho.
In 2014, The Nature Conservancy and Wood River Land Trust purchased the property from the Rinker family, who owned the ranch there for almost three decades. In 2016, the new owners invited U of I to collaborate with them as the research arm in a demonstration of the group’s shared vision of conservation, sustainable ranching and development of a healthy ecosystem.
Since then, a lot has happened at Rock Creek. Habitat restoration projects have been completed. U of I’s Rangeland Center hosted the popular “Sagebrush Saturdays” series of events last summer, inviting the public to come out to the ranch and learn about rangeland ecosystems, including raptors, wildflowers and pollinators, and beavers and streams. Faculty in the College of Natural Resources (CNR) and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences have initiated a number of interdisciplinary research projects, including:
- Determining interactions between livestock grazing and sage grouse brood-rearing habitat in meadows
- Determining optimal efficiency of cattle production on Western rangelands
- Testing virtual fencing for controlling cattle on the range
- Modeling early detection of invasive plant species
- Vegetation mapping using satellite imagery
- Comparison of traditional extensive beef systems to intensive irrigated systems
The property is a continual opportunity for U of I to deliver on its land-grant mission to provide science and solutions to the citizens of the state of Idaho, and faculty and students have been eager to participate. And thanks to a recent gift from the Rinker family, U of I is one step closer to purchasing Rock Creek Ranch, as per the Rinkers’ wishes and in agreement with The Nature Conservancy and Wood River Land Trust.
“Rock Creek is exciting because the work happening there has the potential to affect dramatic change in how rangelands are managed across the West,” said Tracey Johnson, CNR assistant professor and research co-lead. “We can create new and better outcomes based upon the research we are doing here.”
Article by Kim Jackson, College of Natural Resources
Published in the spring 2018 issue of Here We Have Idaho.