Don C. Byers Memorial Scholarship

Monday, June 10, 2019 - 10:25am


Kamberlee Allison

The HFF interns arrived this weekend excited for the upcoming roles they will play in the organization.  One of these interns was born and raised in Ashton and has received the Don C. Byers Memorial Scholarship.

In the following paragraphs Rob Van Kirk tells us about the life of Don Byers and the generosity of the Byers family which led to a yearly intern scholarship:

Don Byers was one of those “never-say-die” individuals who loved life, and as long-time HFF member Jerry Pulley put it, “took huge celebratory bites of it every day.” He loved hiking, skiing, cycling, windsurfing, kayaking, and fortunately for us, fly-fishing. His passion for the latter brought him to the Henry’s Fork in the 1970s, and he quickly established himself as a skilled Ranch angler and member of the tight-knit community of “Ranch regulars.” While working behind the counter at Henry’s Fork Anglers, HFF Senior Scientist Rob Van Kirk first met Don in 1981 and recalls his enthusiasm for fishing and passion for the Henry’s Fork.

In 1991, Don put that enthusiasm and passion to work on behalf of the river by volunteering to chair HFF’s fundraising committee. Under Don’s leadership, financial contributions to HFF increased from $20,000 in 1991 to over $100,000 in 1992. Don put HFF on the path to sustainable funding that supported full-time staff and commitment to long-term goals. Don was elected to HFF’s Board of Directors in 1992 and became Chair in 1994. Unfortunately, Don lost a two-year battle with cancer on New Year’s Day of 1996 at age 56.

However, Don’s legacy and commitment to the river live on through the Don C. Byers Memorial Scholarship, funded through an endowment established upon his death. The scholarship supports a paid internship with the Henry’s Fork Foundation to students pursuing a career in some aspect of environmental science. The Byers scholarship was the second established at HFF, the first being the A. Paul Knight Memorial Scholarship at Washington and Lee University, which funded its first HFF intern in 1989.

Don’s widow Nancy and nephew Evan presented the first Byers scholarship to Wade Thorson at the 1997 HFF membership meeting. Wade was a Montana State University student who spent two summers in HFF’s research program. Although Wade was not from the area, all subsequent recipients of the Byers scholarship have had a personal or family connection to the Henry’s Fork Watershed, in accordance with Don’s wishes.

Over the years, Byers scholars have come from Madison, South Fremont, and North Fremont high schools and BYU-Idaho. They have worked on almost every type of research, restoration, and stewardship project HFF does, ranging from stream habitat assessment to riparian restoration to surveys of recreational use. In recent years, Byers interns have filled an extremely valuable role in HFF’s work, since they can continue to work into the late summer and fall when interns from other parts of the country return to school. This has been especially important since HFF began developing its water quality network in 2014; water sampling and sonde maintenance continue for several months after the other interns leave.

The 2018 Byers intern, Kamberlee Allison, proved to be so valuable, that HFF hired her to be a full-time technician after her internship finished. Kamberlee’s experience is described here, in her own words.

When I received the Don C. Byers Memorial Scholarship at HFF I was thrilled. I grew up in Rexburg Idaho and was attending my Senior year at BYU-Idaho when I first learned about the internship through my ichthyology professor. Throughout my college career I’d developed a passion for conservation, an interest in non-profit work, and a desire to delve deeper into the environmental science world. So HFF’s opening statement about their organization, which mentioned all three of those things, had me hooked before I even read the description of intern responsibilities.

In movies, the intern is the one designated to quietly sit in a corner and go on coffee runs when needed. At HFF this is as far from the truth as you can get. I was constantly given opportunities to grow and develop new skills. I conducted surveys along the Teton River which concluded four years of field work to assess the economic value of fishing and river recreation in the Henry’s Fork Watershed. I maintained and, when necessary, repaired the 3 miles of fencing HFF puts up every summer across from Pinehaven and at Last Chance to keep cattle from entering the riparian zone and potentially causing degradation and erosion. I collected water samples and maintained the network of 12 water quality monitoring stations where we have sondes located at strategic points throughout the watershed.   also participated in seminars, meetings, and other educational experiences such as a farm tour where we learned about the innovative techniques farmers are using to conserve resources where possible. And all that is really only scratching the surface.

The Byers intern begins their work later than the other interns and therefore stays later into the season. Because HFF didn’t have a technician at the time, I stayed on past the internship end date to assist with field work. I was lucky enough to secure a fulltime position with the foundation once I graduated in December. Since becoming an employee with the foundation, the learning and growing hasn’t stopped. From writing reports to acting as field supervisor for a study we’re currently conducting, HFF continues to help me hone and develop new skills. My participation in educational conferences and meetings have only expanded. In Boise, my eyes were opened to just how creative and collaborative the environmental science world could be when I attended the annual Idaho Water Quality Workshop. Perhaps most exciting is the chance I have to mentor an intern this Summer. Because the intern experience meant so much to me and the beginning of my professional career, I am looking forward to helping provide some of those same meaningful experiences to a new HFF intern.

I am extremely grateful to the Byers family for providing this scholarship which has launched me into the scientific conservation world. I can’t think of a better place to start than the Henry’s Fork Foundation.

2018 HFF Interns