HFF’s “to-do” list hits high point

From the outside, it would appear that HFF’s busiest time of year is the month or two leading up to and surrounding Henry’s Fork Day in June. But, I’m going to make the case here that the next six or eight weeks are in fact the busiest of the year when averaged over the entire HFF team. If nothing else, this week’s blog will give you a good idea of the breadth of our work.

Let’s start with fundraising and events. First, I should say that fundraising is a constant at any nonprofit organization, and there is never any down time. Brady and Brandon are always meeting with past, present, and potential donors, and Julie takes good care of our members year-round, with assistance from Kennalee Howell, one of two BYUI students who works for HFF part-time. But, the annual cycle of major fundraising events hits a high point in February, at our annual Salt Lake City reception. There is no doubt that Henry’s Fork Day is by far our largest event and that for Paige and others on our staff, the month or so surrounding Henry’s Fork Day is the busiest time of year. But, the Salt Lake City event is our second largest event, and in some ways, it is even more difficult to plan and carry out than Henry’s Fork Day because of logistical challenges. This year’s Salt Lake City reception is February 27, five weeks from today.

Next on the list is preparation of HFF’s annual report, which we distribute a few days prior to the Salt Lake City reception and HFF Board of Directors meeting. This year’s annual report is more than just a summary of what HFF accomplished in 2014; it is a summary of what HFF has accomplished in its first 30 years. Cathy has been working diligently to combine highlights from 2014 with a detailed chronicle of HFF’s first 30 years.

On the administrative side, the first quarter of the year is always the busiest for bookkeeping, given close-out of the previous calendar year, preparation and filing of our annual exempt-from-tax forms, and several programmatic reports due. This will be the first year in 15 that the first-quarter administrative burden will not be handled by Joan Rice, who has recently retired from her position as HFF’s finance and human resources manager. Tim Maurer was hired into that position just before the holidays. Although he received a few weeks of personal training from Joan before she left, starting the bookkeeping job in the last two weeks of the year is no doubt a trial-by-fire. We had several grants and contracts that expired at the end of calendar year 2014, and this created a large amount of paperwork that had to be processed by December 31. Tim has been very patient with my numerous memos detailing which pieces of which projects were to be paid from which accounts.

January is also a high point in the annual cycle of education activities, as it marks the start of Trout in the Classroom (TIC) for 5th-graders at Ashton Elementary School. Anne Marie has been hard at work all month preparing materials, teachers, and physical space at the school for arrival of the trout eggs. The two fifth-grade teachers at Ashton Elementary are new this year to the TIC program, providing both new opportunities and extra preparation time for Anne Marie. The trout eggs arrived two days ago, and as I write this on Friday morning, Anne Marie is in the classroom teaching the first lesson—predicting when the eggs will hatch, based on water temperature. From now until May, she will be busy with TIC activities, on top of her other education and research duties. In fact, this afternoon she is giving a presentation on trout ecology to a group of Boy Scouts.

For those of us involved in the Henry’s Fork Watershed Council and related state-wide water-management issues, the first quarter of the year is especially busy. Most of our regular Watershed Council meetings each year are held between January and May. The first two meetings of 2015 will be February 10 and March 10, respectively, bracketing the Salt Lake City Board meeting and reception. Meanwhile, the annual session of the Idaho legislature occurs in the first quarter of the year. In 2015, the legislature will consider several important bills relating to water management, and I’ll be watching those closely.

Also on the list for early 2015 is the kick-off of Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s (IDFG) process for revising fishing regulations. Formerly done on a two-year cycle, regulations are now revised every three years, reducing workload and cost and providing anglers with a longer time window of stability in regulations. IDFG will open the regulation-development process with public scoping meetings in February. Meetings in the upper Snake River region are scheduled for February 19 in Driggs, February 23 in Ashton, and February 24 in Idaho Falls. Brandon and/or I will attend the Ashton meeting and may also attend the Idaho Falls meeting. Our partners at Friends of the Teton River will represent fisheries conservation interests at the Driggs meeting. Any proposed changes to existing regulations will be presented by IDFG staff at a second round of public meetings, held in June. High on HFF’s priority list for changes is replacement of the current six-fish limit on the Henry’s Fork downstream of St. Anthony with the two-fish limit in effect nearly everywhere else on the river and its tributaries. I’ll be providing more details and discussion on the regulations process as it develops.

The list is already pretty long, and I haven’t even started on Research and Restoration activities! Field work begins in February, with the start of annual fish migration at the Buffalo River. This spring, we have additional responsibilities for monitoring fish passage now that the fish ladder at Chester Dam is fully operational. Water-quality sampling picks up again in February, including a snowmobile trip to Sheridan Creek planned for the first week of the month, to collect water samples when the creek is at its annual low-flow point. The continuous-recording water-quality sondes will go back in the river in February, once the threat of full ice cover has passed. We will also be adding two new components to our water-quality monitoring program in early 2015. Three new sonde locations will be added on the lower Henry’s Fork, and an exciting new DNA-based invertebrate monitoring effort will kick off in March. Thacia Schmidt, the other of our BYUI students, will be busy over the next month building new housings for the sondes and overseeing a remodel of the back room in our office building so it can serve as a water-quality lab.

Speaking of water quality, HFF staff and volunteers are assisting the City of Ashton in addressing some issues with its waste-water treatment plant effluent. First steps in this process are to compile existing water-quality data and document current operations at the plant; this effort begins today. I’ll provide more details on this in a week or two. Meanwhile, I will be attending Idaho Department of Environmental Quality’s annual water-quality workshop in Boise, February 3-5 and giving a talk there on sediment and nutrient dynamics in the Henry’s Fork downstream of Island Park Reservoir. I’ll return to Boise four weeks later to attend the Idaho Chapter American Fisheries Society’s annual meeting, at which I’ll give a presentation on groundwater management in the upper Snake River basin and its implications for fisheries conservation and management.

I’ll spare you the details of what’s on the rest of our to-do list, but by now you should have a pretty good idea of just how much our small organization does—and just how busy it is around here during the first quarter of the year.