Flat Top Ranch conservation easement . . . mostly success !

After receiving a groundswell of public comments prompted by Western Watersheds Project and local wolf advocates’ tireless effort the Blaine County Commission voted to require the Flat Top Ranch and The Nature Conservancy to provide a predator management plan emphasizing non-lethal protection of livestock prior to the Commission’s final approval of the ranch’s conservation easement application.
Land-holders who kill predators should not be rewarded with Blaine County tax-dollars levied for land, wildlife and water conservation.

Story update:

The Peaveys got their conservation easement, the first stage anyway; but “The commissioners stipulated that a firm plan of future predator control be developed — and be nonlethal — before final approval and disbursement of any funds.” Below is the entire story in the Idaho Mountain Express.

County OKs levy funds for Flat Top. Decision comes after shooting of 3 wolves on Carey-area ranch. By Mark A. York. Express Staff Writer

– – – – – –

Original Story-

In November 2008, the voters of Blaine County, Idaho, approved Proposition 1, the Land, Water and Wildlife Levy, establishing a two-year levy raising $3.4 million to protect natural resources and the quality of life valued by area residents.  Just last month the Land Advisory Board charged with administering the levy dollars approved a pre-application for John and Diane Josephy Peavey’s Flat Top Ranch, the same ranch that more recently had Wildlife Services kill 3 wolves for an alleged calf predation as well as several coyotes.  Flat Top Ranch is requesting $300,000 from the Blaine County Land Water and Wildlife Program to match The Nature Conservancy’s pledge of $300,000 to purchase a $600,000 conservation easement that completely ignores the value of native predators to the landscape.

View Peavey Proposed Conservation Easement.kmz in a larger map

John and Diane Josephy Peavey’s Flat Top Ranch has been relying on tax-payers in a lot of ways for a long time.  Recently, Ken Cole noted:

John Peavey, a former Idaho politician, and Diane Josephy Peavey, a former commentator on Boise State Public Radio, who’s Flat Top Ranch near Carey, Idaho has reportedly received payments totaling $970,139 from 1995 through 2010 according to the Environmental Working Group’s Farm Subsidy Database, has received another subsidy in the form of 3 dead wolves.

In fact, John and Diane Josephy Peavey have been relying on Wildlife Services to exterminate local predators and wildlife on the Flat Top Ranch for years.

On Wednesday, September 14th at 2 p.m. the Blaine County Commission will consider approval of John and Diane Jospehy Peavey’s Flat Top Ranch request seeking $300,000 in tax-dollars from the Blaine County Land Water and Wildlife Program.

E-mail the Blaine county commissioners:

  • Express your concern that the Flat Top Ranch is not allowing wolves, coyotes, and other wildlife to co-exist on private and public lands within the county.
  • Tell them that land-holders who kill predators should not be rewarded with Blaine County tax-dollars raised to benefit wildlife.
  • Express your concern that the proposed easement does nothing to protect or conserve native predators including wolves and coyotes, instead conserving private livestock grazing, a chief source of conflict with predators, on the lands at issue.
  • Ask the commissioners to DENY Flat Top Ranch’s application for dollars procured by the Blaine County Land Water and Wildlife Program unless and until:
  1. The public, Land Advisory Board (LAB), and County Commission are provided an extension of time to consider the pre-application in lieu of recent events of interest to the preservation of wildlife and the Levy’s chief mandate (i.e. the recent killing of 3 wolves and several coyotes by Wildlife Services on behalf of Flat Top Ranch).
  2. A more thorough and transparent statement accounting for Flat Top Ranch’s historic predator extermination/management is provided by the ranch and formal documents are obtained from all relevant agencies, including Wildlife Services, and published for consideration and comment by the public, LAB and the County Commission.
  3. Greater recognition and enforceable protections for native predators are provided in the easement.

Commissioner Angenie McCleary – amccleary@co.blaine.id.us

Commissioner Tom Bowman – tbowman@co.blaine.id.us

Commissioner Lawrence Schoen – lschoen@co.blaine.id.us


Blaine County Land, Wildlife & Water Program





  1. Wolfy Avatar

    Yet another example of Western culture and heritage… Rich people getting richer on the taxpayer dime. And then they whine that wolves are destroying their way of life. (I call BS!)

  2. Catbestland Avatar

    When are we going to get smart and start hitting these ranchers where it hurts…their pocketbooks. I don’t know if the Peavys hold grazing leases but the lease laws nationwede need to be challenged to raise the cost of public lands grazing. The Centers for Biological Diversity is all over this issue. It is nonsense that the AUM is as low as $1.30 per cow/calf pair per month. It should be $130. per month at least. Lets make it non-profitable for ranchers to destroy our land.

    Also, we need the beef stamp. Make it attractive for consumers to purchase non-public lands beef over public lands grazed beef. These ideas could be much more effective than banging our heads against the wall trying to appeal to the common sense of ranchers and politicians. (many of them don’t have any) But, everyone understands that States need the added revenue of increased grazing fees. Small time Mom and Pop ranchers who don’t have the luxury of grazing on public lands will love it because their beef will be more marketable than public lands grazed beef. So write your senators and congressmen and demand the beef stamp and higher grazing fees.

  3. Howl Basin Avatar
    Howl Basin

    The Nature Conservancy is matching the $300,000 = $600,000 to be given to the Flat Top Ranch.

  4. Mike Avatar

    Are you kidding me? These people seem to be well off and they just keep sucking away at welfare money?

    This has to be a cruel joke.

  5. Elk275 Avatar


    ++Are you kidding me? These people seem to be well off and they just keep sucking away at welfare money?

    This has to be a cruel joke.++

    It is not a cruel joke, it is not sucking away at welfare money; it is a conservation easement. A conservation easement is the purchase of a piece of the fee simple or the restriction of property useage according to the agreed terms of the easement. In order to have a valid conservation easement there has to be consideration which is legal tender.

    What if these people did not put their property into a conservation easement. They or the next owner could subdivided the ranch into the smallest parcel allowed without a county subdivision review. In Montana it is 160 acres; I do not know what it is in Idaho or they could plat the property, have the subdivision approved according to the laws of Idaho and start selling parcels. The are selling certain rights to their property.

    If I am going to vote for tax payers money to be used for conservation easements, I want a reasonable right to access the property. Example, in the case of this property I would want to be able to access the Big Wood River for fishing, each easement is different.

    I have worked a little with conservation easements. They can provide good protection to property for less than it would cost to purchase the lands, allowing for the purchase of more conservation easements.

    1. Mike Avatar

      I know what conservaton easements are. What I find perplexing is that there’s not much “conservation” going on if a certain species or two is being vilified and slaughtered.

  6. Brian Ertz Avatar


    perhaps of interest to you:

    a draft copy of the easement can be found here.

    As I understand it, Peavey maintains a hunting club – gotta be a due-payin’ member of the club to access big-game behind the private property sign …

    Does the easement ensure public access to public land behind the private ? … or are Blaine County tax-payers going to fork out $300,000 without the ability to cross the private property and access public land for big-game … or other enjoyment ?

    notice provisions related to public access:

    7. RESTRICTED PUBLIC RECREATIONAL USE. In the past, FTSC has chosen to provide the public with restricted access to portions of the Property. Consistent with this history, FTSC and the Conservancy recognize that providing for restricted public recreational use of the Little Wood River corridor and the High Five Canyon portion of the Property and access through these portions of the Property to adjoining public lands is important. At the same time, FTSC and the Conservancy recognize the need to manage and restrict public access and recreational use on portions of the Property in order to protect the Conservation Values and maintain a viable and sustainable agricultural and ranching operation. Therefore, limited, restricted public recreational use will be provided on that portion of the Property shown on the Property Map as the “Restricted Public Recreational Use Zone” in accordance with either an “Access Yes” program agreement between FTSC and Idaho Department of Fish and Game or a restricted public recreational use plan developed and mutually agreed to by FTSC and the Conservancy. Such access plan shall provide for non-motorized access unless FTSC and the Conservancy agree that limited motorized access is appropriate and can be managed effectively. FTSC and the Conservancy reserve the right to close or restrict public access to accommodate ranching activities, for wildlife calving periods, or to preserve and protect the Conservation Values of the Property. Nothing in this Conservation Easement provides for public access on Property outside the Restricted Public Recreational Use Zone.

    8. HUNTING, TRAPPING AND FISHING. As landowner, FTSC reserves the right to hunt, fish, and trap on the Property in compliance with state law, provided that trapping is consistent with the Conservation Values and preservation of habitat conditions.

    2. COMPATIBLE COMMERCIAL USES. In addition to the Ranching and Agricultural Operations, only those commercial activities that do not materially impair, harm or degrade the Conservation Values of the Property may be conducted on the Property (“Compatible Commercial Activities”). Compatible Commercial Activities that may be conducted anywhere on the Property include, but are not limited to, winter or summer nature tours, heritage tours, guided hunting and fishing, or other similar commercial activities. Compatible Commercial Activities shall not require any additional non-residential structures other than those allowed under Paragraph 3 of this Exhibit C, and shall be consistent with the purposes of and shall comply with all other limitations set forth in this Grant.

    hmmmm ….

    There are good easements and bad ones …

    1. Elk275 Avatar

      Thanks Brian. I will read this later. Full disclosure and understanding of any transaction is paramount to the success of the grantor, grantee and general public.

  7. Ken Cole Avatar

    Doesn’t sound like much conservation going on other than to conserve a bank account.

    Elk275, the Flat Top Ranch is not in the Wood River Valley, it is somewhere near Carey, Idaho to the east of the Wood River Valley. I haven’t been there but I have been to Carey and it is nothing like Ketchum.

  8. Jerry Black Avatar
    Jerry Black

    Some of the worst cases of land abuse I’ve seen have been here in Montana on “conservation easements” Overgrazing, pesticide spraying adjacent to streams, riparian area grazing etc………especially those adjacent to rivers and streams. The ngo’s holding the easements do little or nothing in the way of monitoring.

    1. Mike Avatar

      People spraying pesticides near streams should be thrown in jail.

  9. Harley Avatar

    It’s truly a shame that there are people out there like this that lead many to believe that this is how ALL ranchers are. I did a little bit of research on this one because I have to admit, not being out west, I had NO idea what the heck you all were talking about! From what I’ve found, this Peavey is a real character and I don’t mean that in any flattering way.

  10. Howl Basin Avatar
    Howl Basin

    Flat Top Ranch apparently could sell 40 acre parcels if anyone wanted to buy them as this is what the Blaine County land use plan allows. The Little Wood River area where the Flat Top property is located is sparse, desolate, and nearly treeless except for along the river bottom. Very little of the proposed conservation easement is actually along the river. There is some cultivated ground with alfalfa & grain. There are beautiful wide open views toward the Pioneer Mountains far to the North. The roads are rough washboard gravel and dirt. There is no winter access (Nov-March) except by snowmobile. The Bureau of Reclamation owns some of the land along the river (otherwise, we American taxpayers “own it”) as well as the Little Wood Reservoir area downstream a few miles.

  11. Howl Basin Avatar
    Howl Basin

    Do the wealthy people who give millions to The Nature Conservancy realize they are paying for easements that allow trapping and hunting, aerial gunning of coyotes and wolves? Of course not. Wouldn’t want to upset the big bucks-a-roos with the seamy side of cow and sheep ranching.

  12. Jerry Black Avatar
    Jerry Black

    There was a scandal over the Nature Conservancy taking millions from BP oil. This came out during the Gulf oil spill and they lost lots of members.

  13. Liisa Nisula Avatar
    Liisa Nisula

    I’m just a little bit curious – Mr. and Mrs. Peavey do not appear to be cut out for the ranching life. Truth be told, judging from all the “help” they have had to ask for and received, they’re pretty incompetent at it. It seems they have made a fair go at it, with lots of assistance, but isn’t it time they cut their (and the taxpayers’)losses. Time to cash in their 401Ks, sell off the property (keeping a couple of acres for a hobby farm with a couple of hacking horses and a dairy cow – and a small barn, that can double as a guest house). Forgive my sarcasm, for an outsider looking in, they are an abomination and an humiliation to the people of the State of Idaho.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      Liisa (Lisa?),

      A couple things about the Peaveys. They have been raising sheep for a long time, and are regarded by many as examples of good ranching. John Peavey is a Democrat. He ran unsucessfully for governor. They are important people in Idaho.

      As one time (the early 1980s) he played an important an role in preventing the diversion of Snake River water that was currently producing hydropower electricity into a vast irrigation scheme which, amazingly, used electricity to lift the water several hundred feet out of the Snake River Canyon to the dry plateau above. . . talk about burning your energy candle at both ends!!

      This earned him the reputation as an environmentalist, and he did perform a very beneficial thing in my estimation playing a lead role stopping this economically and environmentally stupid depletion of the Snake River’s waters. You read about this matter if you search for the “Swan Falls agreement Idaho.”

      However, when it comes to ranching, things are different. I believe they have a sense of entitlement, and as I said “they are important people.” That might explain a bit more about this and the role of the Nature Conservancy in the matter.

    2. Howl Basin Avatar
      Howl Basin

      What’s the expression about having the wool pulled over your eyes? That’s what John Peavey has been doing for a long, long time to people in the Wood River Valley.

  14. Ken Cole Avatar

    If you look at the Farm Subsidy Database http://farm.ewg.org/ you will notice that they are not that unusual. Many of the biggest public lands livestock producers have received plenty of subsidies for their operations. Lots of double dipping by ranchers who receive practically free grazing on public lands then hold out their hands for wool and sheep meat subsidies and subsidies for the grain etc that they end up feeding to their livestock. Gotta love that “free market” 😉

    I was chastising my dad last night for not doing all he could to defend our family’s heritage and demanding that the government give us a million dollars too.

  15. Mark A. York Avatar

    The meeting turned out well for all concerned, but questions remain. http://www.mtexpress.com/index2.php?ID=2005138572

    There will be a follow up story on Wildlife Services policy in the next few weeks.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan


      Thank you for this important information. I put up a link on the main page to your article too.

      1. Mark A. York Avatar

        Sure thing, Ralph. Thanks for doing that. I will have a follow up on policy with a detailed response from Fish and Game in a couple of weeks.

  16. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    There are lots of isolated ranches, like the Flat Top, that are surrounded by wildlife supporting public lands. Most of these ranchers do just what the Peavey’s did when predators show up: They call Wildlife Services and kill the wolves etc.
    Their livestock act as a magnet to predators and somehow these cowboys (or sheepmen) always want a handout from the rest of us to control them. It would be far better,than to give them millions in handouts in the form of predator control, grazing, meat and wool subsidies, if we could just buy them out and revert the land back to the BLM or Forest Service.
    It is obvious that these ranches are not self supporting and should be weaned from the public trough. Too many of them ranch or farm the “program” and operate their business to extract the most government money from the rest of us that they can. Most of the woolgrowers would quit running sheep on public lands if they didn’t get meat and wool and subsidies, public funded predator control, and get to graze 15 sheep on public lands for $1.35/momth.(Less than $.10 per animal)
    We provide these folks with county agents, 4H programs for their kids, subsidized irrigation and if they can fudge their declared income enough, we feed their kids two free meals a day at school.

    1. Larry Thorngren Avatar

      I forgot to add: Free fencing to keep elk deer, and pronghorns out of their fields. These are supplied here in Idaho by the IDFG. When I drive north from my place, I see fields surrounded with elk-proof fences funded by my Idaho hunting license fees.

      1. Mark Gamblin (IDFG) Avatar
        Mark Gamblin (IDFG)

        It would be very unusual for the IDFG depredation program to fund fencing for crop lands. We investigate claims of wildlife depredation damage to crop lands or other agricultural property, such as hay stacks and other stored crops. If a claim meets statutory criteria, a farmer/rancher may receive partial financial compensation for his/her losses after the loss is investigated and adjusted. We frequently panel haystacks – protect with heavy duty galvanized wire panels to prevent elk or deer from dismantling and consuming a stack – and sometimes, if the risk is large enough, a fenced stack-yard may be constructed to protect a large amount of stored hay from depredations.

  17. Howl Basin Avatar
    Howl Basin

    Blaine County Commissioner Larry Schoen wrote this comment in response to the Mt Express story on the Sept. 14 hearing on giving county levy funds to Flat Top Ranch:

    “The issue of predator management is a significant one. I said the easement should address it and in that language, non-lethal deterrence and management techniques should be prioritized over lethal control in the easement area. The Board requested the landowner develop the language with the Nature Conservancy and the Levy Advisory Board for Board of Commissioners approval.

    It is my position that lethal control of certain predators in conflict with livestock cannot be ruled out entirely, for a number of reasons, but should be used only as a last resort when other non-lethal management tools have been employed appropriately. I am pleased that the Peavey family has expressed its willingness to work with experts to develop some of these tools on the broader ranch. I am confident many of these will be succesful in deterring depredations, saving wildlife, livestock and money, as they have in other places.

    This is an opportunity for leadership on this issue.”

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Brian Ertz