History of Blackfoot River WMA

History

Blackfoot River WMA includes the ranch that was homesteaded by the Rasmussen family in the 1880s. The Rasmussen home was a two-room log cabin with a separate one-room school located just north of the residence. A teacher came in, stayed with the family, and taught the children. Other buildings on the property included a cheese house and a blacksmith shop. 

John Jay Stocking purchased the 160-acre ranch in 1907 and purchased additional land over the next 25 years. The ranch then totaled 1,720 acres. John raised hay, which was shipped by rail to sheep men in Cokeville, Wyoming. The Stockings built a large barn on the ranch. It was a landmark in the area until it was destroyed in the late 1970s. The last member of the Stocking family to operate the ranch was Reverent (Revie). Through all of the years that the Stocking family operated the ranch, it was a sheep operation. For the last 10 years that Revie Stocking owned the property, the ranch was leased out and used to graze cattle. 

Idaho Fish and Game first became interested in purchasing the Stocking Ranch in 1970. The importance of the Blackfoot River fishery to Idaho sportsmen and the need for public access were the primary considerations. In 1994, The Conservation Fund purchased the Stocking Ranch and subsequently sold the land to the department. 

The original log cabin and remnants of four log structures still exist on the WMA. Department personnel, with the help of reservists and volunteers, refurbished the cabin for use as a field station. This work included construction of a new porch, reconstruction of one wall of the cabin, and the removal of a dump site and discarded materials. A new bunkhouse was constructed in 2012-2013 to increase and improve accommodations for overnight stays by personnel working in the area. The original cabin will be maintained as possible to preserve historical value. 

The Blackfoot River WMA is managed along with three other WMAs by the Regional Wildlife Biologist assigned to the East Habitat District of the Southeast Region under the supervision of the Regional Habitat Manager. The habitat management program on BRWMA is focused primarily on protecting and enhancing habitat for Yellowstone cutthroat trout, waterfowl, and other wildlife while providing opportunities for wildlife and fisheries-related recreation. 

Motorized vehicles are restricted to established roads. Four parking areas with maps and information signs are provided for access to the Blackfoot River and surrounding upland areas. 

Maintaining good working relationships with neighboring landowners is an important objective. Boundaries are marked and all fences have been maintained and/or replaced. Most original fencing has been converted to high tensile electric, buck and rail, or let-down barbed wire. Noxious weeds are controlled by a variety of methods. Over 600 acres are treated annually with chemical pesticides and biological controls. 

Bottom lands along the Blackfoot River and tributaries exhibit a high forage-vegetative productivity potential. Consequently, a majority of the drainage is privately owned and used for cattle grazing. Caribou-Targhee National Forest land in the area is managed for multiple use including timber production, phosphate mining (see below), cattle and sheep grazing, and recreation. Several stream rehabilitation projects have been undertaken since acquisition of the property. In the late 1990s, a section of Angus Creek which had been artificially diverted was returned to the original channel. Several bank stabilization projects have also been attempted including the installation of revetments and plantings of willow and red osier dogwood cuttings. Removal of livestock from the stream banks has also benefitted renewed vegetation and stabilization. 

Extensive phosphate reserves lie in southeastern Idaho in the vicinity of the WMA. Operating mines exist along the Blackfoot River drainage on private and public lands. Open-pit mining techniques employed result in surface disturbances including infrastructure installation, drill pads, access roads, trenches, and mine spoil dumps. Nu-West Industries, Inc. is actively pursuing plans to extract phosphate from both the Rasmussen Valley and North Dry Ridge mining leases. Both operations will impact onto the Blackfoot River WMA property from the north and south respectively. Most recent exploratory drilling and installation of monitoring wells pertaining to the Rasmussen Valley operation has been ongoing since 2002. To date this has included the installation of roads and drill pads to numerous sites along the northeast boundary of the WMA. Active mining of the lease is expected to commence in the next three to four years. Ultimately up to 400 acres of the Blackfoot River WMA would be directly impacted by the Rasmussen Valley operation, and up to 80 acres by the North Dry Ridge operation. Both would permanently alter habitat currently in sagebrush steppe, mountain brush, and woodland. Direct impacts to big game security and sagebrush steppe habitat will be significant. 

In 2006, the department was approached by Bonneville Power Administration regarding the possible construction of a new power transmission line across the southern portion of the WMA. The project has since considered a number of routing options which would have avoided the WMA, but the most recent option being considered will again cross onto the WMA. The project would involve a 120’ wide cleared right of way for the transmission line itself, with approximately 8,000 feet of line falling within the Blackfoot River WMA boundary. The accompanying construction and maintenance road would cover considerably greater distance to accommodate topography. Some portions would fall outside of the transmission line right of way requiring additional disturbance approximately 30’ in width. Sagebrush steppe, mountain brush, and woodland habitat would be permanently altered and impacts to big game security habitat on the WMA will be significant.