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Wildlife Area Dedicated

By Phil Cooper, Panhandle Region Conservation Educator Idahoans who love wildlife have a reason to celebrate. Thanks to some long term thinking, cooperation among various government agencies and private corporations, and landowners with a desire to give back to the land: 1 ,405 acres of prime wildlife habitat are being restored and opened to the public. The new Boundary Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA) was officially dedicated on Saturday, September 21. The whole concept started in January of 1999 when landowners Deon and Louise Hubbard sold a perpetual conservation easement to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The effort culminated with the official posting of the Boundary Creek WMA sign at the formal dedication. Located on the west side of the Kootenai River Valley in Boundary County at the foot of the Selkirk Mountains, the property will be managed by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) to develop wildlife and fish habitat and to provide public access for hunting, fishing and other recreational pursuits. To accomplish this, development activities will focus on restoring historic wetlands, establishing native vegetative communities, and promoting compatible public recreation. Bringing the property into public ownership assures perpetual public access that was previously unavailable under private ownership. The acquisition of the property and the preparation of a wetland restoration and long term management plan could not have been accomplished by IDFG alone. Financial and technical assistance offered by other public agencies and private organizations allowed this project to become reality. The major initiator and driving force in the project was the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). NRCS is responsible for providing technical advice and voluntary conservation programs to the nation's farmers and ranchers to conserve and protect natural resources. NRCS administers the WetlandsReserve Program to assist landowners in restoring and protecting wetlands through cost-share agreements or the purchase of conservation easements. For the Boundary Creek WMA project, the NRCS purchased a conservation easement on the property from the former owners for $1,176,900. NRCS also committed $657,500 towards restoring the site's historic wetlands. The U.S. Department of Energy, Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) is the federal agency that markets and transmits electricity produced by federal hydroelectric facilities within the Columbia River Basin. The BPA has the authority and obligation to fund fish and wildlife mitigation projects to mitigate for lost fish and wildlife habitat due to the impacts of hydroelectric projects, in this case the Albeni Falls Dam. BPA contributed $672,885 toward acquisition of the property, with IDFG contributing another $400,000 for the purchase. BPA will fund $69,822 per year for IDFG operation and management activities associated with the project. Ducks Unlimited, a private nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving wetland habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife through private fund raising contributed $77,000 for engineering and site design. The U.S. Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service provided technical expertise and $20,000 for tree and shrub planting, and assisted with site preparation. Crown Pacific donated a vital easement for the water intake structure in Boundary Creek, the water source for the restoration work. As owners of the adjacent property, Crown Pacific also agreed to purchase and install a new bridge to facilitate construction of the water diversion, donated equipment time and donated rock. Their total commitment to the project is $50,000. Intermountain Joint Venture, Inc., a private nonprofit organization that pools financial resources among private and public sectors to compete for matching funds authorized by the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, contributed $73,000 to the project. Pheasants Forever, a nonprofit private organization, purchased an irrigation system for wildlife food plots on the property. IDFG formed a citizen task force to provide community input on issues and concerns to be addressed in the area management plan. Twenty-one local residents representing many different interests participated and presented a report to IDFG. The result of all of the partnerships is the purchase and restoration of more than 1,400 acres for wildlife. More than $1,000,000 have been raised and expended in Boundary County over and above the purchase price to make the restoration effort a success. The result is a wetland restoration project that stands apart on a national scale. The project benefits local fish and wildlife resources and helps to preserve the hunting and fishing heritage that is synonymous with Idaho. Boundary Creek WMA is an area where the public is welcomed and accommodated, and will benefit generations of Idahoans to come. Editors: photos are available at emitchell@idfg.state.id.us.