The towns of Arco, Mackay and Moore sit nestled in the Rocky Mountain Range of Idaho boasting the three highest peaks in the State; Craters of the Moon National Monument, one of the largest lava flows in the world; and the Idaho National Environmental Engineering Lab (INEEL), a nuclear site. The Lost River Valley, just over the hill from Sun Valley, is nationally known for its unique, majestic landscape, wildlife habitat and, increasingly, by the conflict that has arisen during the last 10 years over natural resource use and management.


Custer and Butte Counties are being severely impacted by changes in both demographics and federal land management policy.  With 96% public land, the local economy depends on federal land for income-producing activities such as grazing, recreation and timber. With just 4% private land, the area has virtually no property tax base and populations are declining. In many cases, land management policies and turnover at agencies hinder individual and collective efforts to create a more stable economy and sustain the natural resources. Large corporate buyers and industrial packing plants are making many management, production, and distribution decisions. Rarely do people on the land have a significant opportunity to shape the policies that directly, and often negatively, impact them.


The choices for the Lost Rivers Project Team and the people who live in this area are many. They include a range of options from accepting changes largely imposed from the outside to actively managing those changes in designing our own future and maintaining the values, traditions and culture that define us. With the trends of increasing federal land regulations and market consolidations, the choices appear limited. Our communities are generally clear they do not want to create the fast, uncontrolled growth towns like Sun Valley have experienced. Some knowledge of how to move toward something different exists, but the challenge to create momentum throughout the community can be overwhelming. 

Creating momentum requires a common vision; ensuring a more sustainable future requires asking deeper questions:

Are our actions environmentally sound?

Are our actions financially sound?

Are our actions socially sound?

…Are they within our values?



In order to better control our own future, our communities can create a new kind of economy - one based on regenerative harvesting of natural resources, mixed with tourism, recreation and other enterprises that align with our values. And, for the agriculture industry to flourish, models of ranching and timbering that produce increasingly healthy land and habitat need to be built before development, policies and regulations eliminate these sources of revenue and the open landscapes that accompany them. Finally, common ground among producers, town’s people, agencies and recreationists need to grow with all sides working toward solutions that produce - healthy land, stable economies, and beautiful places.


To assist our communities in building this kind of approach, members of the community have used a variety of models in a few projects, including Holistic Management decision-making (see www.holisticmanagement.org). This planning and decision making process has a track record of helping rural producers and diverse community groups create more productive land (including wildlife habitat) and increased wealth.

The purpose of our efforts is to provide a site and opportunity where producers, conservationists, agencies, and other citizens can use Holistic Management (as well as other methodologies) in their efforts to enhance and restore natural resources and build a stronger economy. We will focus on the development of human and natural capital. The activities we undertake will arise from the people whose long-term livelihoods depend on the resources here. The working teams are designed with the premise that real change rises up - it's not imposed from above. It draws forth the creativity, integrity and motivation of local citizens to find solutions to these often-contentious situations on the western landscape.

We plan to produce:

… sustainability is not an event, it’s a process.