- Associated Press - Thursday, June 30, 2016

HAILEY, Idaho (AP) - Researchers, environmental groups and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are partnering to perform range and grazing-related research in Idaho.

The USDA and the University of Idaho signed an agreement with The Nature Conservancy and Wood River Land Trust, which own the 10,400-acre Rock Creek Ranch in southcentral Idaho, the Capital Press reported (http://bit.ly/29udu1o ).

The agreement will allow the university to operate the working conservation ranch for five years and establish a rangeland research and educational facility. Researchers plan to study how responsible grazing and sound conservation practices can work together, according to a university news release.

“Grazing and the issues around it are key components of the future of the property, as the UI Rangeland Center strives to provide science-based answers to Idaho’s large ranching industry,” the release said.

The easement will protect wildlife habitat as well as require that grazing continue on the property, said John Foltz, special assistant to the University of Idaho president for agricultural initiatives.

The land includes sage grouse habitat and provides water and habitat for other animals, including pygmy rabbits, beavers and elk.

“Together with The Nature Conservancy and the Wood River Land Trust, we will continue to do what UI has done for 125 years - provide sound data from which our state’s industries can improve, expand and thrive,” University of Idaho President Chuck Staben said in a news release.

The university has hired former Idaho Cattle Association Executive Vice President Wyatt Prescott to manage the 150-cow ranching operation.

The state’s cattle industry was pleased with the agreement and that Prescott will manage the ranch.

“We’re really happy that Wyatt has been tasked to manage that,” said Britany Hurst, the feedlot coordinator and communications director for the Idaho Cattle Association. “It’s hugely exciting for us.”

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Information from: The Capital Press (Ore.), http://www.capitalpress.com/washington

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