Monday, September 28, 2009

Lands Protected on South Fork of the Snake River

The Teton Regional Land Trust announced today that two of the last unprotected parcels of private land along the canyon stretch of the South Fork Snake River in Bonneville County are now conserved permanently.

More than 300,000 people visit the South Fork each year to enjoy world-class fishing and floating, abundant wildlife and one of the most scenic rivers in the West. Thanks to conservation projects like this, the South Fork’s going to stay that way. The Nature Conservancy, the land trust, the Conservation Fund, the BLM and other partners have worked together to protect this river canyon.

The two projects recently completed include:

* A Bureau of Land Management (BLM) purchase of 440 acres from a willing landowner along the South Fork, with assistance from The Conservation Fund and funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) and the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA).

* A permanent conservation easement protecting 713 acres, protecting private lands adjoining the purchased property. The BLM will hold the easement on the property of dry farmers Cletus and Sharon Hamilton. The Teton Regional Land Trust, DDCF and FLTFA assisted with the project.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Important Bird Areas--Idaho

Important Bird Areas (IBA's) were created to identify a global network of areas most important for bird conservation.

IBA programs focus on monitoring bird populations, installing interpretive signs and developing conservation plans.

But they can also point you to great birding.

Check out Idaho's Important Bird Areas newsletter to learn more about the program--and to find new places to find birds. This issue includes an article on The Nature Conservancy's Silver Creek Preserve.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Check us out on Facebook

The Nature Conservancy in Idaho now has a Facebook Fan page, with photos, events, links and more. Become a fan today.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dead Salmon: Lifeblood of Rivers

Salmon leaping up waterfalls and surging into small streams: These are the images we're used to seeing of fish migrations.

Salmon are brightly, photgenically red in their final days--and then quickly become less so.

The above photo--taken this weekend near Stanley--captures the real end of the journey for spawning salmon. But it's not the end of the salmon's impact on streams.

Dead, decaying salmon are vitally important for our waterways, forests and meadows.

Where viable runs of salmon occur, they return vital nutrients to waterways, feeding aquatic insects and fish. Studies have found that streamside vegetation in salmon spawning areas is dependent on nutrients from dead fish.

Black and grizzly bears, otters, mink, bald eagles, ospreys and other predatory mammals and birds feed directly on the salmon carcasses. Bears drag thousands of carcasses away from the river, fertilizing trees, shrubs and grasses.

Rainbow trout and other fish often follow dying salmon and feed on pieces that fall off the salmon as they decompose--unsavory to us, perhaps, but a protein feast for trout.

In short, the whole river depends on a healthy, large run of salmon. As is evidenced in watersheds like Bristol Bay, a large salmon run can feed humans, wildlife and the river--and we should be working to ensure that such watersheds remain protected.

In Idaho, for many rivers we can only guess. But by continuing to work on salmon restoration, perhaps one day we can see rivers in their full glory--rivers brought to life by dying salmon.--Matt Miller

Photo by Michael Gordon.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hemingway and Silver Creek

"You’ll love it here, Schatz…There’s a stream called Silver Creek where we shoot ducks from canoe…Saw more big trout rising than have ever seen…Just like English chalk streams…We’ll fish it together next year."--Ernest Hemingway, 1939

Ernest Hemingway wrote the above to his son, Jack, on his first visit to Idaho--a trip that would establish a life-long connection between the Hemingway family in Idaho.

Ernest was in Idaho as a guest of the Sun Valley Company, a new resort attracting publicity through high-profile visitors. Hemingway, in the process of completing For Whom The Bell Tolls, joined Gary Cooper and other celebrities in Idaho.

At the time, Sun Valley Company was as well known for its fishing and hunting opportunities along Silver Creek as for the skiing. Ernest, of course, immediately saw the potential at Silver Creek and knew his sons would love it as well.

He made good on his promise, returning the next year with son Jack. Jack's experience at Silver Creek mirrored that of many anglers: Trout--big trout--rose everywhere. He felt like had landed in paradise. He cast and cast. And cast. And got skunked. But he vowed to figure out the stream, an aspiration that eventually led him to move to Idaho. Over the years, the Hemingways frequented Silver Creek and the nearby ranch owned by Bud Purdy, enjoying both the hunting and fishing in the valley. In fact, many famous Life magazine photographs were taken at landmarks around Silver Creek.

When Silver Creek Preserve came up for sale, Jack Hemingway convinced The Nature Conservancy to purchase the property.

Eventually, Mary Hemingway--Ernest's widow--bequeathed his last home in Ketchum to The Nature Conservancy.

The Nature Conservancy remains committed to the Hemingway legacy at Silver Creek and the Hemingway House. Visit the links below to learn more.

Ernest Hemingway Symposium 2009 - Sun Valley

Hemingway's Last Home and the Conservancy - Learn why the Conservancy owns the Hemingway House and how we are protecting the cultural and historical features of the home.

Hemingway Memorial at Silver Creek - Reflect on the Hemingway family's connection to Silver Creek at this memorial on the preserve.

Photos: Ernest Hemingway and friends on a hunting trip at Silver Creek (TNC archive); Hemingway Memorial at Silver Creek Preserve (Sara Sheehy); Hemingway House in Ketchum (William H. Mullins).

Monday, September 14, 2009

Idaho Place Names

What's in a name? The Nature Conservancy's Idaho conservation staff often work in remote areas with colorful, and sometimes confusing, names. Where did these names originate? What stories do they tell?

Lalia Boone's Idaho Place Names: A Geographical History answers these questions for many places around the state.

Of course, many names have the usual origins: founding original settlers or soldiers (Henrys Fork, Lewiston), or settlers' children's first names (Emmett, Ada), or tribal names (Shoshone, Kootenai, Snake).

Others are just accurate descriptions: Anyone who has seen the Sawtooths knows why those mountains are so named.

But other place names have more interesting origins...

A surprising number of place names originate from misfortune and tragedy. There are no fewer than nine geographical features in the state that bear the name "Deadman," for instance. All are named after some "dead man" who met an unfortunate end by, to name a few examples, exposure, falling off a horse, forest fire and violence.
"Malade" means "sick" in French, an unfortunate name for the impressive canyon gorge and river in southern Idaho (above). The Malad River is named not for the scenery but for the fact that three separate groups of French trappers became sick in the area after eating beavers killed in the river. Presumably they didn't appreciate the scenery.
Hemingway Butte in Owyhee County might seem obvious: After all, Ernest Hemingway was a prominent Idaho resident. But Ernest was not associated with the Owyhees, and this butte is instead named after John Hemingway, a stagecoach driver mortally wounded while protecting his passengers.
Animals figure prominently in place names: Grouse Creek, Deer Creek, Moose Creek and Elk City were all named due to the abundance of their namesakes in the area.
Bears figure prominently in Idaho names. There's a Bear Valley and Bear Lake and Bear Gulch and Bear Mountain and Grizzly Creek. All attest to the abundance of bears, both black and grizzly, that early Idaho explorers found in the forested regions of the state. Some names are a little more mysterious. A nickname given to a place catches on and eventually becomes the official name. Hells Canyon is one such place. One can assume why the canyon was so named: It may have been "hell" to cross this rugged terrain (it still can be), or it may have referred to the depths of the canyon (the deepest in North America), or perhaps it was even a reference to the summer temperatures.
But nobody knows for sure. The name was first used in 1895 (before that it was often simply the Snake River Canyon), and then slowly but surely began appearing in print more and more by this name--until it became official in the 1950s. --Matt Miller

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

South Fork Work Day

Each summer, The Nature Conservancy's Idaho staff meets at one of our projects--to camp out, see our conservation work on the ground, discuss future efforts--and to do some field work to benefit the preserve we're visiting.
This year, we met at the Conservancy's preserve on the South Fork of the Snake River, an incredible conservation success. It's one of the West's most scenic rivers, with lots of cutthroat trout, bald eagles, ospreys, moose and other wildlife.
It's hard to believe, but at one point it looked like this beautiful canyon would be lined with houses, resorts and a golf course. But thanks to conservationists, almost the entire South Fork Canyon is protected.
More than 300,000 people visit this river each year, to fish and float. The beautiful scenery and abundant wildlife are now protected by conservation easements throughout the canyon. How awesome to see such a conservation success--and to know it's going to stay this way.
Of course, even at a successful conservation project, there is always work to be done. Some staff devoted time to building a fence at the preserve entrance. We welcome walk-in visitors to the preserve who come to hunt, fish, hike, watch wildlife and explore. However, unauthorized, off-road vehicle use can damage habitat, so we need to fence off these illegal trails.
The steep terrain meant that some of us dug the fence holes by hand...
While others found that a power auger requires a bit of effort, especially when it hits buried barbed wire or rocks.
Of course, you couldn't ask for better scenery. Not a bad place at all to spend a few days.
Associate state director Lou Lunte and East Idaho conservation manager Chet Work--both of whom have played key roles in conservation along the South Fork--put the finishing touches on the fence.
Our staff at the South Fork. It was gratifying to meet in a place where our work is having such benefits for people and for nature. We hope you have the chance to visit the South Fork yourself and enjoy its scenery, wildlife and world-class recreational opportunities.
Photos by Sara Sheehy.