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Face-2-Face: Three Rivers Ranch

Ron Sali opens his gates to Eagle Magazine for an exclusive glimpse of Three Rivers Ranch.

By Kate Matthews
Photography by Copper Chadwick and Courtesy of Ron Sali

Just west of Eagle Road, nestled against the banks of the Boise River, Three Rivers Ranch stretches across the otherwise subdivided farmland of what used to be the middle of nowhere. This 240-acre spread is home to Ron Sali, a Washington native-turned Idaho entrepreneur who first made a name for himself by bringing the hops industry to Idaho’s Wilder Bench along the Snake River.

Sali divested his interests in hop farming at the age of 30, when his crops turned to gold by attracting the attentions of brewing giants Miller and Anheuser-Busch. With the world at his feet, Sali chose to remain in Idaho and soon began harvesting an entirely new crop from the earth—sand and gravel.

It was 1989, and Sali had just purchased the Three Rivers property and was looking to reinvent the antiquated irrigation system that had been in service longer than anyone cared to remember. It didn’t take long for Sali to figure out that the by-product of his endeavor to a create reservoir irrigation system had an inherent value of its own and build an industry around the opportunity under his feet.

But Ron Sali’s legacy is not in what he has harvested from the earth, but rather what he has given back to it.
Three Rivers Ranch is much more than meets the eye. In fact, it’s unlikely that many really know what’s lays behind the gilded gates. The acreage beyond boasts more than just an upscale house and expansive grounds; it is a refuge, a sanctuary and a home. And it’s home for more than just Sali and his family; a seemingly unending array of birds, fish, mink, deer and other wildlife have made a life for themselves at Three Rivers Ranch as well.

And it’s no surprise that they have moved in. The property abuts the Boise River, and a small fork even runs through the property itself; the waters of which Sali, in partnership with Trout Unlimited, rehabilitated from the muck and noxious weeds of mismanagement prior to his stewardship of the land. From his early sand and gravel extraction two lakes have risen to the surface and are home to cutthroat bass and rainbow trout, the former even using their protected fork of the river as safe grounds for spawning. Even a mated pair of Mute swans has taken Three Rivers for their own and has returned to the Ranch for eight years running treating it as their own solace from the modern world.

Three Rivers Ranch is extraordinary in every way, but what makes it unique is its permanence. Save the acreage where Sali’s home and outbuildings sit, the rest of the property is held in-perpetuity as a conservation easement held by the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley. “You’ve never really, truly considered the meaning of ‘forever’ until you’ve been through the process of protecting land in this way.” says Sali of the process. “When they say ‘forever’, they mean forever.”

Indeed, barring a revolution of such epic proportions that the system supporting the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley ceases to exist, the open space of Three Rivers Ranch will remain just as it is for generations to come. None of the hundreds of trees surrounding the lakes, rivers and grounds can be harvested except to mitigate disease; the lakes and river cannot be mined, dredged or otherwise defiled. Even the land itself must be allowed to follow its natural cycles, with the exception of routine maintenance and care.

2011 family photo 1Sali’s success with his own property has led him to model new communities based on the template of compassionate conservation he used for Three Rivers. “I take the environmental aspects of the alterations to the land my business makes very seriously,” Sali says, “I wouldn’t feel right about making them if I couldn’t give back something in return.”
And Sali does just that. Not only has he created an environmental refuge in the midst of Idaho’s fastest growing market, but he actively gives back to his community as well, through a variety of charitable works ranging from serving on the Board of Directors for St. Luke’s to his works with both The Boys and Girls Club and higher ground.
To learn more about Ron Sali, his entrepreneurial spirit and environmental concern, as well as his philanthropic work throughout Idaho, visit his website www.3riversranch.com.