Land trust

Matt Lucia, executive director of the Pocatello-based Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust, says his organization is interested in protecting “high-visibility” land in the Pocatello area. The land trust is seeking to add 80 new members before the year’s end.

The Pocatello-based Sagebrush Steppe Regional Land Trust has set a goal of recruiting 80 new members and raising at least $16,000 in funds from individual donors by the year’s end.

Executive Director Matt Lucia said his board hopes to net $7,000 from an online auction spanning from Nov. 30 through Dec. 14. The organization, which acquires and protects environmentally significant properties and conservation easements in perpetuity, aims to raise another $9,000 from new membership fees and increased contributions from existing members.

The land trust currently has 200 members and has set a long-term goal of growing to 500 members within the next three years.

The land trust holds 26 conservation easements — all of which contain some agricultural property — and owns five properties outright. Lucia said the land trust would also like to add agricultural producers to its membership base.

“We have more demand from landowners to do conservation easements than at any other time in the history of our organization,” Lucia said, adding there are several easements being evaluated in Bannock County.

The need for the land trust to expand its organizational support was identified as a priority in a marketing plan that a group of Idaho State University business students completed for the nonprofit organization.

“We have a very limited pool of supporters in our service area. We really need to focus on increasing our membership,” Lucia said. “We have not done a good job of marketing ourselves.”

The land trust’s mission involves protecting the region’s wildlife habitat, its working farms and its ranches. Its conversation easements allow landowners to continue their sustainable farming and ranching practices. Lucia said landowners are encouraged to practice management strategies that ensure conservation goals are met. For example, the land trust has helped some ranchers obtain funding to install protective fencing to limit grazing within sensitive riparian areas.

Lucia said the land trust is particularly excited about a partnership with the City of Pocatello that should raise the organization’s profile within its largest urban center and home base. The city has awarded the land trust $50,000 to help with implementing the goals of the Portneuf River Vision, which is a long-term plan to improve and restore the Portneuf River channel through Pocatello.

Lucia said the funds will help the land trust identify key properties along the river corridor that could connect with existing trails and community resources. He said the land trust aims to “develop a long-term funding strategy to accomplish some of these major restoration and community building opportunities.”

A priority project with the Portneuf River Vision will be to restore the river channel near Centennial Park and to construct a floodplain nearby. The project also involves building an outdoor amphitheater, an interpretive pathway and a kiosk explaining river ecosystems.

The land trust will also use funds to improve its Century Heights property in the foothills near Century High School. Improvements will make the property more resilient to wildfire, fund trail signs and cover improvements for bikers, hikers, horseback riders and mule deer.

Memberships start at $35 and include the land trust newsletter and invitations to land trust barbecues and other events. The organization is also offering prizes for different donor levels. The end-of-year auction typically involves a dinner celebration but has been moved online due to the coronavirus pandemic. Prizes such as paintings of land trust properties, guided hunting and fishing trips and crafts will available during the auction.

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