MISSOULA, Mont. – A rancher in eastern Oregon has placed over 10,000 acres of wildlife habitat under permanent protection via conservation easement with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF).
The easement ensures the future of vital winter range for a regional herd of 600-800 elk.
John and Patricia Habberstad of China Peak Ranch, near Monument, Ore., have placed 10,334 acres under easement with RMEF in three stages dating back to 2002. The most recent action, completed in January, added 5,101 acres to the total.
Bill Richardson, RMEF lands program manager for Oregon and Washington, said, “The Habberstads are doing a wonderful job of managing their land for the benefit of wildlife. They have worked to rejuvenate decadent fields, control invasive weeds and juniper, establish water sources and develop springs. The native bunchgrasses on the ranch are flourishing and the habitat quality is on an upward trajectory.”
“We appreciate the Habberstad family for the conservation ethic and generosity that led to this donated conservation easement and a guarantee of outstanding wildlife habitat forever.” added Richardson.
The China Peak Ranch is a private working ranch, with cattle and timber operations, south of the North Fork John Day River and north of an area known as Rudio Mountain.
Elk can be found on the property year round, but hundreds more depend on China Peak Ranch for winter range. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says most of the elk that winter here inhabit public lands in the area during hunting seasons.
The ranch also is home to mule deer, pronghorn, black bears, mountain lions, eagles, hawks, neo-tropical migratory birds and a host of other species. Cottonwood Creek, an important tributary to the North Fork John Day River, provides coldwater inputs and spawning and rearing habitat for spring Chinook and summer steelhead, as well as bull trout.
A conservation easement ensures the property will remain much like it is today. The legal agreement to protect and manage wildlife habitat alongside working-ranch operations will stay with the land – even beyond the lifetimes of the Habberstads and all future owners.
RMEF holds several other conservation easements, and has completed a number of habitat enhancement projects, in the China Peak Ranch area.