Friday, March 29, 2013

The Wheels on the Bus

By Justin Petty, Associate Director of Philanthropy

The snow around town is all but gone, and the 5 day weather forecast is predicting highs in the low 60’s. Trout have been on the rise, a few low elevation trails close to home have dried out enough to hike, and I find myself staring out my office window wishing I was spending more time outdoors. Before moving to Idaho, I would tell folks that my favorite season was fall, but these days I find the first of the warm months – the first green growth, bird song, sun you can feel in your bones – to be as good as it gets.

I have worked for the Conservancy in Idaho for close to 8 years now, the last 3 in the philanthropy department. The best days on the job are those spent in the field with the individuals that support our work. As the largest conservation organization in the world, The Nature Conservancy is addressing the biggest conservation threats at the largest scale – 119 million acres of land protected globally, thousands of miles of rivers, and over 100 marine programs. From humble beginnings in 1951, today’s Conservancy is a force that I am humbled to be a part of. And none of it would be possible without the commitment of those that donate to fund the work. 

Conservation outing with donors Jane and Tom Oliver.  
Photo ©Clark Shafer/The Nature Conservancy

When the days grow longer, the snow falls less frequent, and I start feeling restless, I know that I have another season in the field with our donors to look forward to. Time spent standing in a creek with a fly rod discussing an important restoration project, floating a river canyon that demonstrates what successful conservation looks like, or hiking a trail with binoculars at the ready. It is during these moments that I hear what others appreciate about the work of the Conservancy, why they invest in protecting lands and waters of ecological and human importance. It’s an opportunity for me to listen and learn. These supporters do not stumble on to the Conservancy, they seek it out because the mission aligns with their values. 

In a couple of weeks I’ll be at The Crooked Creek Preserve with someone who has been a good friend to the Conservancy for decades, viewing Sage Grouse strutting on their leks. His support for the Conservancy, and his interests in conservation, extends well beyond Idaho. We will make our way through the sage brush predawn with stars still in the sky, to shiver in the cold, and wait for the grouse show to begin. And while we wait, Bob will tell me about his travels, his health, and his commitment to places that are important to people and where Sage Grouse dance.

Sage grouse strut. Photo ©Bob Griffith

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sharing Idaho's Natural Heritage

By Nathan Welch, GIS Analyst

So, you're backpacking in the Pioneer Mountains of south-central Idaho and you have a close encounter with a wolverine...

Wolverine photo-op, courtesy of the National Park Service

You immediately want to share this thrilling sighting with the world… but how? A post on Facebook might get lost among posts on the relatively mundane eating habits of your friends. Perhaps you’d like your observation to be useful, to make a difference. Where can amateur and professional naturalists alike go to report these rare observations?

In Idaho, go to the web site for the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Information System, or IFWIS: Here you can document your observation and provide lots of detail, including pinpointing the location on a map or providing GPS coordinates. The site also provides lists of rare plant and animal species, including species of greatest conservation need:

Castilleja christii (Christ's Indian paintbrush) - 
Photo courtesy of the US Forest Service /Teresa Prendusi

The Idaho Fish and Wildlife Information System is a small team within the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, responsible for compiling, managing, and sharing data about the state’s natural heritage. It is the primary source for detailed information about the distribution of rare plants and animals in Idaho. IFWIS does not receive direct funding from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. It depends on support from partnering agencies, businesses, and organizations.

The Idaho Fish and Wildlife Information System is one of 82 natural heritage programs in the Western Hemisphere. The Nature Conservancy started the first program in 1974 in the United States. Today, local fish and wildlife agencies and universities manage most of these programs.

The Nature Conservancy in Idaho uses the information about rare and threatened plants and animals to guide its conservation work in identifying critical habitat, protecting and managing lands for key species, and prioritizing areas where we focus our protection efforts.