MISSOULA, Mont.—Residential development and land prices are inching upward in scenic Wallowa Valley between Joseph and Enterprise, Oregon. But a conservation easement donated to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is ensuring that 678 acres will remain open, native habitat for elk and other wildlife.
Richard and Debbie Surface of Gresham, Ore., gave the easement to permanently protect their land at the base of the Eagle Cap Wilderness in Wallowa County, 3.5 miles from the northern border of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.
“The easement will stay with the property in perpetuity, conserving its wildlife values even after Richard and Debbie are gone. It’s a special kind of person who cherishes land for something other than its investment potential, and we’re grateful for the pure conservation spirit of the Surface family,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO.
The habitat helps support a regional herd of approximately 1,200 elk, which migrate between the nearby Imnaha management unit and the Snake River unit to the east.
Trout-filled Little Sheep Creek runs near the property’s west boundary. Two small ponds and several springs provide additional water. The land is a mixture of rolling grasslands and ponderosa pine stringers along the drainages. Along with elk, it is home to mule and whitetail deer, badger, coyote, mountain lion, black bear, blue and ruffed grouse, chukar, turkey and many other species of birds.
Conservation easements typically limit development while retaining sustainable use of natural resources. Landowners control access. The Elk Foundation will provide annual monitoring of easement provisions, which were filed during the summer.
About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
Snowy peaks, dark timber basins and grassy meadows. RMEF is leading an elk country initiative that has already conserved or enhanced habitat on over 5.4 million acres—a land area equivalent to a swath three miles wide and stretching along the entire Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico. Most work occurs on public lands. More than 561,000 acres have been opened or secured for public access including hunting, fishing and other recreation. Get involved at www.rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.