I’m driving through a campsite, and I’m wondering if I’m at the right place. I’m looking for a boat ramp which goes down to the Henry’s Fork river. I’ve been told by my supervisor that it’s notoriously steep. I decide to get out of the car, and then I see it. I’ve never seen such a steep ramp, and I’m perplexed by how people walk down it with boats. There are loose rocks and nothing to hold on to. I immediately take note: “the site needs revisiting”.
This ramp is just one example of the projects I’m visiting this summer as the Henry’s Fork Foundation’s (HFF) Project Monitoring Intern. This NGO works to ensure that all users of the Henry’s Fork (farmers, fishermen and recreational users) can satisfy their needs. The sites I’m visiting consist of past conservation projects by HFF, such as restored streams and boat access sites, and seeing what their status is now. In the American West, where droughts are increasingly threatening water supply, and yet agriculture, fisheries and tourism are vital to the economy, NGOs like the Henry’s Fork Foundation are key to ensuring a sustainable future.
Something I would like to highlight about the Henry’s Fork Foundation is the NGO’s mentality of thinking big but acting locally. The scientific concepts applied to suggest the best management for the watershed are universal, and are used in freshwater systems around the world. When we try to apply the principles of conservation, it can often feel overwhelming not being able to save every critical ecosystem on the planet. HFF tries to deal with this dilemma by focusing specifically on the area in which it is located in eastern Idaho. However, conserving the resources in the Henry’s Fork has impacts that extend beyond this unique corner of the world. The Henry’s Fork connects to the Snake River, which itself is part of the Columbia River Basin which reaches the Pacific Ocean right between Oregon and Washington. The Pacific Ocean covers half the world, and the health of the river waters which fall into it influence how productive this ocean is, and thus affecting the lives of the billions of people and organisms that depend on it. Evidently, acting locally is not something that I will ever take for granted.
Working at HFF has also allowed me to meet professionals in the natural resource management sector. Both at the Foundation, as well as through seminars and partner organizations, I’ve been able to see how scientists use real-time data to make informed decisions about the best ways to manage the river. I’ve also been fortunate enough to learn from my fellow interns and their own independent projects. All of these new relationships will hopefully guide me in choosing my own professional path related to Environmental Science.