BLAINE COUNTY, Idaho — Researchers in the Wood River Valley are working to find a balance between rangeland management and conservation--and they're doing it at a facility that's truly one of a kind.
"I don't think there's another university in the country that has access to facilities like this. Which is really on a scale of reality. It's 10,400 acres. That is our plot," said Michael Perrella, Dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Idaho.
The Rinker Rock Creek Ranch is what Perrella describes as a "living laboratory" where science-based practices for land managers are developed. The ranch offers a hands-on approach to rangeland management and conservation research.
"One of our goals is to try to find ways where conservation and agriculture can be combined to meet both of their needs," explained Keri York, the Lands Program Manager for the Wood River Land Trust.
"We don't have all the answers yet, but we're working with folks across the cattle industry across conservation, to find answers to the questions that face rangelands," added Cameron Packer, the ranch's operations manager.
Some of the research is focusing on ways cattle can coexist on Idaho's rangelands, and even help endangered species there.
"Is there a way to manipulate the way animals forage to enhance sage grouse populations rather than thinking about the two being incompatible," Perrella asked.
Packer says the research they're doing on the ranch extends much further than Blaine County.
"We're looking at the same issues that face a lot of Idaho ranchers and also there's a lot of recreation and a lot of wildlife habitat on these rangelands," Packer said. "Throughout Idaho, we're looking at the issues that affect a lot of Idahoans."
If you'd like to learn more about the project, click here.