Working for a Watershed; Conservation on the Henry’s Fork River
By Nessarose Schear
B.S. Earth Systems, Biosphere
Summer Intern with Henry's Fork Foundation
Read about our summer research projects on the OutWest student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.
It feels strange to be back in a city after spending the whole summer with the Tetons and Yellowstone as my backyard. After weeks of a smoky skyline and blood red sunsets, caused by nearby forest fires, the clear New England sky of Massachusetts is disorienting.
This summer was an incredible opportunity to participate in important conservation work and research and I look forward to seeing how the data we collected impacts the future management of the Henry’s Fork Watershed. This summer the crew of five interns and I, under the guidance of the excellent field leader Matt Cahoon, surveyed tributaries to the Henry’s Fork River. We worked mostly in Grand Targhee National Forest and Harriman State Park. Our work was focused on the native trout species, the Yellowstone Cutthroat trout, checking in on populations that had been surveyed around ten years ago. The cutthroat are threatened by invasive rainbow and brook trout that were introduced historically by anglers and by human activity such as cattle gazing and irrigation. In addition to research we also worked on some conservation projects to mitigate and reverse erosion, putting up fences and planting native willows and grasses along the banks of the Henry’s Fork. Luckily for the Fork, Henry’s Fork Foundation (HFF) is working hard on all fronts to make sure the river and its ecologic services are preserved.
I could really see myself wanting to work for an organization similar to HFF after I graduate. I see great value in their method of applying their research to implement policies and projects that protect the fish and the watershed. For example, there now is a fish ladder that lets trout and white fish migrate through a dam on Buffalo Creek. Working with HFF also taught me about the importance of compromising and collaborating with corporations and interests that some environmental groups consider to be the “enemy” in order to create solutions that truly work for all interests. On my second to last day of work we went on a tour of the watershed with a diverse group of representatives from the forest service, irrigation corporations, Idaho master naturalists, and many other conservation and land management organizations. This tour summed up the challenges and triumphs of working in such an incredible region. We saw an example of successful restoration, an eroding irrigation canal that was re-routed to its historic stream that did not conflict with human needs for the land, but did conflict with certain personalities, emphasizing again the need to delicately navigate politics. Learning from the passionate staff and the other talented interns gave me hope that with patience and hard work, intelligent land and resource management is achievable. I am grateful for this summer; to everyone I met who generously shared knowledge with me.
Read more at the Out West Blog for Summer Interns »