Conservation Corner: Keeping Reeds Ridge United

More than 600 acres protected and opened to public access, enhancing access to 3,600 more.

Conservation Corner: Keeping Reeds Ridge United

Through the efforts of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation hunter access to public land in Idaho has been increased. 

Before they unite at Lake Coeur d’Alene, the trout-churned waters of the St. Joe and Coeur d’Alene rivers run parallel for 50 miles across the base of Idaho’s Panhandle. Between them juts the St. Joe Divide, leaping 4,000 vertical feet from dense forests of cedar and pine into alpine peaks. 

Latour Peak stands tallest at 6,408 feet, but it’s really the northern crest of a long ridge that forms the spine of this range. For 5 lofty miles, Reeds Ridge provides jaw-dropping views as it runs due south to Reeds Baldy and Crystal Lake, so named for its glass-clear waters that reflect the sublime views. 

Crystal Lake is also a fitting mirror to contemplate the future of the surrounding Crystal Lake Wilderness Study Area (WSA). At 9,000 acres it’s the roadless heart of this wildlife-rich range. And until recently, this WSA overseen by the Bureau of Land Management had an apple-bite out of its side, a square-mile section owned by Hancock Natural Resource Group (HNRG). 

RMEF recently purchased that inholding using proceeds from its Torstenson Family Endowment to create a solid block of wild public land. The BLM used federal Land and Water Conservation Funds to buy it from RMEF and leave it wild and primitive to preserve the character of this high-mountain hideaway. 

“It stands out when you look at a map,” said Kurt Pavlat, former BLM field manager. “This purchase fills a void and provides additional public land that will be held in perpetuity and that will not be developed. We’re a multiple-use agency, but this is one of those pieces of property where its purpose is best suited as wildlife habitat and a place for hiking, hunting and possibly mountain biking.”

Laura Wolf, regional wildlife biologist for Idaho Department of Fish and Game, says it’s not only great country for elk, but also mule deer, big bull moose, grouse and even pikas. “Hunters love this area, as do hikers and huckleberry pickers,” she said. Pavlat says creating more public land here was an easy sell. “Benewah County commissioners were very supportive. They wanted RMEF to acquire this and be a partner in the ultimate transfer to the BLM for the public benefit,” Pavlat said. “It enjoyed grassroots support from the local community and would not have been possible without that support.” 

Through its Sensitive Lands Program, HNRG has protected over 470,000 acres to date, and the company says this parcel is another example of the importance of good stewardship that will positively impact all species, people and wildlife alike, for generations to come.

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