Intro to HFF

Monday, June 5, 2017 - 4:00pm


Maggie Dunn

After a long flight to Denver and then to Jackson, Wyoming coupled with a night’s stay in Rexburg, I finally arrived at 61 Cherry Street, the intern house whereI would stay for my ten weeks time at Henry’s Fork Foundation (HFF). To be honest the biggest surprise was the fact that Idaho has mountains; I really had no idea what I was in for.

            I am a rising junior at Colgate University with a major in Environmental Geography and a minor in Philosophy. My area of interest is in water conservation so I’m particularly excited for my time at HFF because there may never be a more important time to learn about the ecological processes and physical properties of water. HFF offers me this unique opportunity in the variety of work that I will be doing for them this summer as an intern. So far I have started doing work on creel, water quality, and the beginnings of what will become my very own project!

            Creel involves driving all over Henry’s Fork proper as well as some of its tributaries in order to talk to anglers (fishermen and women). Idaho Fish and Game is utilizing HFF to survey as many anglers as possible about various aspects of their fishing experience such as how long they fished, what they caught, whether they were wading or in a boat, whether their fishing was guided, and how they would rate their overall fishing experience that day from 1-5. All of this information is collected in order to help Idaho Fish and Game manage the Henrys Fork fishery. At the end of that line of questioning, we then ask the angler if they would be willing to take a short survey about their fishing related expenses. This Economic Values Survey is a project that Ben Ortman at HFF is conducting which will help him calculate the value of fishing to the local economy, which will then allow organizations such as Fish and Game and legislators better be of service to anglers and their various needs.

            HFF is also attempting to understand how water quality changes along the Henry’s Fork to better interpret how all of this affects biological, physical, and chemical processes. HFF installed multiple “sondes” all along Henry’s Fork which every fifteen minutes take down data such as temperature, dissolved oxygen, depth, dissolved solids, turbidity, chlorophyll, and blue-green algae. Melissa Muradian heads this work and I will continue to work with her on checking the sondes and taking water turbidity samples for the rest of the summer. Checking these sondes and turbidity sites involves long drives and sometimes a hike or two (if you’re like Melissa and forget where the site is…) but the turbidity data recording itself is simple enough and just involves taking a sample from that part of the river. Once we had all of the samples in labeled bottles, we took them back to the lab and used a machine which calculates the turbidity for that site. We ran each sample through three times and took the average to try to get the most accurate results possible.

            In terms of my project, it was pitched to me last Friday and I already can’t wait to start working on it. This is one of many projects that lie outside of the Henry’s Fork watershed but can affect management of Island Park Reservoir because of the common water rights system in the upper Snake River Basin. The basic background (because that is all I have so far) is that Gray’s Lake, to the southeast of the Henry’s Fork watershed, is being diverted into Blackfoot reservoir. Historically the lake drained into Willow Creek but in 1919 Clark’s Cut was made which diverts the water into Meadow Creek. Meadow Creek is now having erosion issues as well as other problems because of the unnatural volumes of water going through it. Various native species are being harmed in this process as well including Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout and Trumpeter Swans. The Shoshone-Bannock Tribe has water rights dating back to the 1870s which gives them a lot of water which they take from the Blackfoot reservoir. There are also people along Willow Creek, which is now basically dry, who have water rights as well. One of the issues surrounding this case is that we don’t know if the Tribe’s original water rights included getting water from Gray’s Lake. If they do not then the tribe may not have rights to that water at all. However, the goal of this project is not to take water away from the tribe but to find a more ecologically friendly way for them to use it. All of this of course depends on the water rights and what kind of rights those are. The restoration of Gray’s Lake itself is also hugely important because it is actually a marsh, in fact it is the largest marsh in the entire Greater Yellowstone Region. Improving its function is essential to the restoration of multiple breeding populations that live there. HFF has been asked to assist with this project because of its expertise in water rights and water management, and I’m excited to be able to contribute to this effort.

            I’ve already gotten to know the area fairly well through Creel so I’ve been able to go on a couple of walks around Box Canyon especially just to find a nice place to read. I’ve also thankfully acquired a bike so I’ve ridden around the surrounding areas of Ashton to try to get to know it better as well. Despite getting lost multiple times on my bike, during Creel, and on my way around Henry’s Fork, I haven’t been too upset because the land is too beautiful to warrant any real annoyance. I think there are a lot of great opportunities to try lots of different things that I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise such as fly fishing and with so many opportunities for hiking and camping I’m going to try to do a lot more of that then I would have otherwise.