The Henry's Fork Foundation uses science-based collaboration to inform real-time management of the Henry’s Fork and its wild trout fisheries. HFF also uses predictive computer models, modern statistical methods, and the latest high-tech hardware and software to promote favorable streamflow, good water quality, healthy fish populations, and a positive fishing experience.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Fish need water. That seems simple, but often when we think of fisheries, our minds jump straight to images of trophy-sized trout or hatches that cover a river like a blanket. But how do we get there? How do we make those images a reality? It all starts with water. The amount of water and the quality of water in the river have a direct impact on fish and insect health and, therefore, the health of our fishery.
In Idaho, and especially the Upper Snake River Basin (see map), the amount of water in the river is determined by: 1. the previous year’s snow pack, 2. baseflows (from springs whose water supply depends on the previous three years’ snowpack), 3. spring and summer rains, and 4. irrigation need. Just like your local weatherman, none of us can control the weather, we can only do our best with the amount of water available.
Once that water exists, it is managed very carefully in the state of Idaho via a system of water rights. Water rights can be complicated, but the important thing to know is that they are a part of the Idaho Constitution and fish don’t have any. Because fish don’t have water rights, that means HFF has to get creative to work within a system where we have no management authority or decision-making power. What we do have, is data.
HFF’s science program collects, analyzes, and distributes data on the scale of a small-university lab. In 2018 alone, HFF had six university interns and a PhD student conducting independent projects to study and share data on various aspects of the river. To date, HFF has completed or funded well over 100 research and monitoring projects and conducted numerous on-the-ground restoration projects throughout the watershed. HFF has also developed one of the most extensive water-quality monitoring networks run by a non-profit in the state. It is our reputation as a source for reliable data about both the quantity and quality of water in the river, that gets us a seat at the table with the individuals and organizations who do make those crucial water management decisions (i.e., how much water is released from Island Park Reservoir).
That is what we call science-based collaboration. It is why building partnerships with local, state, and federal agencies, with hydropower companies, and with local irrigators is so crucial. Even the most unlikely of partnerships can bring significant benefits if groups are willing to collaborate and find common ground.
Not Your Typical Non-Profit
The Henry's Fork Foundation may be an organization established to conserve, protect, and restore the Henry’s Fork and its watershed, but this river does not exist in a vacuum and is not managed in a vacuum. We have to take a much broader look at water in eastern Idaho, the entire state, and the West as a whole to successfully conserve our 126 river miles of the Henry’s Fork.
The core of our programmatic work continues through fisheries health, habitat, and biological research, and stewardship and restoration projects; but we will also continue to expand our work in water quality monitoring, water supply assessment, water marketing, and social and economic research. With major issues like drought, a changing climate bringing more variable weather, and less reliable water resources year-after-year, we need new and innovative approaches when we’re trying to tackle issues of this scale.
That is what is going to take us into the next 35 years. Staying ahead of the curve, and being innovators and leaders, with the support of a dedicated community of people who believe that this river is worth protecting. Our founders and members have supported us along the way and are the reason we are here, but we need your support to see this river stays vibrant and healthy for generations to come.
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How can you get involved?
Read some of our Annual Reports to learn more about our accomplishments by the numbers.
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