Idaho ranch chooses conservation over regulation
Updated: Thursday, December 06, 2012 10:30 AM
By SEAN ELLIS
COEUR d'ALENE, Idaho -- A proactive, voluntary approach to conservation by a north Idaho ranch has helped clean up an impaired waterway and helped prevent the need for regulatory action.
After Mica Creek was placed on Idaho's list of impaired waterways in 2000, Larry and Sherry Mundt, the owners of the Rocking R8 ranch, decided to take matters into their own hands.
Twelve years and several conservation projects later, conservation agencies are holding the 680-acre ranch up as a model for how landowners can voluntarily work with them to address environmental issues.
"The Mundts are exemplary ranchers and stewards of their land. They've been proactively and systematically reducing stream bank erosion on Mica Creek for years," said Teri Murrison, administrator of the Idaho Soil and Water Conservation Commission.
The Rocking R8 is the largest ranch on Mica Creek, which is eight miles south of Coeur d'Alene and is a main tributary to Lake Coeur d'Alene. The family-owned ranch runs cattle and horses, produces forest products from its timber and harvests 500 tons of hay.
Working with the ISWCC, Natural Resources Conservation Service and local conservation districts, the ranch put in 3.4 miles of riparian exclusion fencing, developed eight off-creek watering facilities, reconfigured livestock stream crossings and created a ranch-wide grazing plan.
The ranch has also constructed cofferdams, which create a dry environment for projects while protecting flowing water from construction sediment.
"Each work site is unique and we have used several techniques to meet the requirement, from plastic and sandbags to plastic culverts," Larry Mundt said. "This allowed the fish to pass through active work sites without interference."
Using grants to help finance the projects, the Mundts decided to implement these conservation practices on their own, said Mark Hogen, the ISWCC water quality resource conservationist who helped the ranch develop its conservation plan.
"It's all been voluntary," Hogen said. "They wanted to do something proactively versus having a regulatory agency come after them."
The efforts have resulted in a significantly cleaner creek and serve as inspiration to other ranchers who "like to hear there is some hope out there for them if things aren't going so good," he adds.
Larry Mundt said the ranch's owners committed a long time ago to manage it in an environmentally responsible manner and the cooperation and technical expertise provided by the various conservation agencies, as well as cost-share assistance from a downstream homeowner's group, has helped them achieve that goal.
"We address these environmental issues in a budgeted, planned program," he said. "We are making investments on stewardship just like purchasing equipment or supplies and it takes all the players working together to make it successful."