In 2008, ICL—along with several other conservation organizations and the voters of Blaine County—actively supported the Land, Water and Wildlife Levy in order to secure more than $3.4 million to protect natural resources and the quality of life valued by area residents. Fast forward seven years and this program is now being recognized as a innovative tool for accomplishing positive conservation change on the ground.
The Idaho Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA) announced that Blaine County’s Land, Water and Wildlife Program (LWWP) has won the 2015 Planning Tool/Implementation Award.
The award emphasizes innovation, transferability and results that can be measured over the long-term. It honors programs that have accomplished positive changes.
Transferability means that the program could be adapted as is—or adjusted for local circumstances—by other communities interested in establishing a conservation program. The program policies, conservation objectives, application forms, and project evaluation criteria and processes are well documented and thus easily used by others.
Upon learning about that aspect of the award, County Commission Chair Jacob Greenberg said, “Unlike many conservation programs in the West that have a single focus such as conservation easements or public access, the LWWP incorporates flexibility for a wide range of projects including restoration.”
Commissioner Angenie McCleary added, “We appreciate the APA’s recognition. I am proud of Blaine County’s Land, Water and Wildlife Program. I believe it provides lasting and meaningful protection that represents the values of the Blaine County community.”
Commissioner Larry Schoen, who was involved with the development of the Land, Water and Wildlife Program, commented, “The particulars of this award mean that Blaine County has created and maintained a program that can be adapted and used by others. It is exciting to know that Idaho APA has recognized this intrinsic value and that we are contributing to conservation anywhere.”
To date, the county has provided partial funding for eight projects: six perpetual conservation easements that conserve important ranch lands, water resources and wildlife habitat; a fish ladder and bypass channel that allows young trout to reach cooler upstream waters; and native wildlife seed that the U.S. Forest Service added to its aerial seed mix following the Beaver Creek Fire.
Twelve different partners have been involved with supporting, implementing and/or providing funding for the eight projects. These groups include Idaho Conservation League, Natural Resource Conservation Service, The Nature Conservancy, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Trout Unlimited, U.S. Forest Service, Wood River Land Trust, private landowners and private donors. For every $1.00 of taxpayer investment, conservation partners have provided $1.18. Financial leverage is an important part of the Land, Water and Wildlife Program.
Of the initial $3.4 million levy proceeds, $1.5 million remains.
The Land, Water and Wildlife Program is made possible by the citizens of Blaine County who approved a two-year levy in 2008. The levy raised $3.4 million. The program works to achieve optimal conservation value and the protection of land, water and wildlife for future generations.
The language of the levy requires a volunteer citizens’ advisory board. The levy advisory board’s primary responsibility is to recommend the highest and best use of levy funds to achieve optimal conservation and public benefit.
The program provides partial funding to nonprofit and government entity partners for conservation projects that meet the program’s criteria. The county may also initiate projects.