A 275-acre working ranch along the banks of the North Fork of the Teton River has been permanently protected with a conservation easement. The Harris Family, second and third generation ranchers, worked with the Teton Regional Land Trust and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to conserve their land and its associated wildlife habitat for future generations. The purchase of the conservation easement was funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The land itself remains in the ownership of the Harris family.
“We wanted to keep our land in one big piece and to keep it just the way it is but we needed funds to allow us to do so,” Don Harris said “The Land Trust and the BLM made this possible for us.”
By protecting their property from development, the Harris Family has ensured their cattle ranch will remain the same for the third generation of their family and beyond. A conservation easement is a permanent legal agreement that protects important habitat from development, while ensuring that traditional ownership and land uses like ranching continue. The family views a conservation easement as an ideal way to protect the wildlife and scenic views of the property that they value.
“The Harris Family is very committed to conserving their land.” Teton Regional Land Trust Land Protection Specialist Renee Hiebert said. “It’s very impressive to see a family of 8 children that all share this vision with their parents to conserve their property for future generations.”
One mile of the North Fork of the Teton River runs through the Harris property which lies northwest of Rexburg, near the confluence with the Henry’s Fork. The property includes significant amounts of habitat important to local and migratory wildlife. Sloughs and wetlands on the property teem with ducks, geese and swans, while the uplands support white tailed deer, moose and numerous other animals. Because of this important habitat and scenic and agricultural values, the Harris property is considered a priority for conservation by the BLM and Teton Regional Land Trust.
“The Harris Property fits very well with the intent of the LWCF program which is to work with willing landowners to preserve unique farms, ranches and wildlife habitat,” Said Joe Kraayenbrink Bureau of Land Management's Idaho Falls District Manager.
For nearly 20 years, the BLM, partners like Teton Regional Land Trust, and willing landowners have worked together to permanently protect nearly 21,000 acres along the South Fork and the lower Henry's Fork with conservation easements.