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"A lot of it is public relations and building trust with neighbors and working with people," says Bonnivier. "We learned that lesson at Silver Creek… this is one of the first projects where TNC started reaching out and working beyond its fence lines.

And when they begin to see the Nature Conservancy as less of a threat to their existence and in fact an asset, things start to happen."



"Our biologists have a very sophisticated classification system, a global ranking of plants and animal species and biological systems – G1, G2, G3, and G4. G1 means globally as rare as it gets.

"In the last few years we’ve carried it into an eco-regional scale. Our organization is breaking down state boundaries, looking at landscapes like the Columbia Plateau, which takes in most of southern Idaho, extends into central Oregon and up into Central Washington.

"And some of our best biologists have spent the last 1 1/2 years studying that area, drawing circles on maps, deciding where it was we needed to spent our limited conservation dollars.

"One of those places they’ve recommended is the Owyhee Canyonlands, one of the great sagebrush steppe plateau ecosystems left. A functioning eco-system on a grand scale is what it is."



"A lot of people think that all we use is private dollars, and that’s not true at all. Perhaps in Idaho we use more private dollars than in other states. That’s a result of how we had to learn to work in this state. People are generally conservative; the majority of our land is owned by the federal government. People don’t support more federal land off the tax rolls.

"So, we learned the best way to build a program in Idaho was the private side. But the federal connection is just as important. For example, on the 45 Ranch we own 240 acres. There’s 67,000 acres in federal and state grazing permits. So, we’re working with the BLM there.

"There are a lot of people who think we’re too big and too powerful and that we work with the same kind of people they’re fighting with. I really don’t know how to answer that, except to say, for me, this is the niche I perform best in. The Nature Conservancy is not the answer to everything. We occupy a very special niche that includes giving people an opportunity to work cooperatively on conservation projects."



"On the Flat Ranch we knew from the beginning we had to start working with irrigators, who owned the dam on Henry’s Lake. For years, the dam was closed, they saved the water, and just the name itself, they called it the Henry’s Fork outlet… it was treated as a canal. And the Nature Conservancy worked with those people and gave them an opportunity to work with us and to look better by just tweaking things, changing the way water is managed."

"I have to tell you, it’s one of the most rewarding and enjoyable projects working with those irrigators. There’s 2000 acre feet thanks to them and the Bureau of Reclamation, stored and preserved in Henry’s Lake for times of low flow, and that relationship is doing wonders for that river."

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