Sophomore College in Idaho 2012: Student Reports

People, Land, and Water in the Heart of the West

Salmon River. Sun Valley. Pioneer Mountains. The names speak of powerful forces and ideas in the American West. Central and Southern Idaho — a landscape embracing snow-capped mountains, raging rivers, sagebrush deserts, farms, ranches, and resort communities — was our classroom for this field-based seminar led by David Freyberg, professor of civil and environmental engineering, and David Kennedy, professor emeritus of history.

In September 2012, a dozen Stanford undergraduates participated in the Sophomore College Course “People, Land, and Water in the Heart of the West.” Sponsored by the Bill Lane Center for the American West, the College offered students the opportunity to learn about the history and future of a broad range of natural resource management issues in the western United States. During the first week on campus, students engaged in a morning lecture series on the physical properties, political economy, legal frameworks, and ethics of resource management (taught by Freyberg, Kennedy, and Stanford colleagues David Brady (political science), Buzz Thompson (Law School), and Debra Satz (philosophy). They met for afternoon lab sessions to learn the ArcGIS geographic information system and begin collecting data for their final presentations.

Click to enlarge image

Equipped with a foundational knowledge of resource management, students and faculty headed to Idaho for the two-week field portion of the course. They visited resource management sites near Boise and Twin Falls on the Snake River Plain, Craters of the Moon National Monument, the Upper Salmon River in Custer County, and Stanley in the Sawtooth National Forest. The breadth of their interactions spanned fourth-generation ranchers and farmers; officers of the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Forest Service; entrepreneurs; conservationists; foresters; biologists; and recreationalists. From these discussions, students explored the complexities of public-private partnerships and examined the role of science in conservation and natural resource management.

These experiences culminated in team presentations on three major topics: water management of the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer, policies surrounding the Lower Granite Dam, and the history and future of Multiple Use policy. The students' projects highlight tensions and overlapping interests of land users in the American West. In addition to presenting their work through live presentations, students prepared written reports to share their findings with the larger community. The reports highlight their experiences and reflections from this intellectual journey exploring natural resource management in the American West. 

Image credit: David Freyberg. Itinerary in Idaho: Mining & Geology Museum and Interagency Fire Center (Boise), the BLM and US Forest Service (Twin Falls), Hagerman Fish Culture Experiment Station & Hatchery (Hagerman), Milner Dam and Bpl. Farm (Hazelton), Silver Creek Preserve, Lava Lake Ranch and Craters of the Moon (Pioneer Mountains), Big Creek Ranch (Pahsimeroi Valley), Crooked Creek Ranch (Stanley), the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, and Ketchum. 


To view the students' projects, please use the links below:

Teaching Assistants 
Julia Barrero
Dane Klinger
Ryan McGinley-Stempel

Course Coordinator
Madeline Weeks

The Multiple Use Land Management Policy in Idaho’s Sawtooth National Forest: Evolution, Efficacy, and Evaluation for the Future

Since 1976, the prevailing doctrine for managing public lands has been the Multiple Use policy, defined as “…The management of the public lands and their various resource values so that they are utilized in the combination that will best meet the present and future needs of the American people....” (Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976). Working in the scope of this project, we examine the present and future land use concerns of land users in the American West.

A Study of the Lower Granite Dam and its Effects on Idaho

The removal of the four Lower Snake River dams is a highly contested topic. The Lower Granite Dam in particular raises a number of issues, from the flooding of Lewiston, Idaho, to fish migration.

The Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer: Water Management Conflicts and Strategies

Water is at once our most precious and most mismanaged resource. Improving efficiency in how we consume our water is thus a hallmark of any effective management strategy. In the process of conducting our research along the Snake Plain, however, we found that even efficient practices are subject to conflict, controversy, and their fair share of management issues. The depletion of the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer (ESPA) in southern Idaho presents just such a conundrum.