Making friends in the High Divide

Posted by Renee Magyar on March 19, 2013

Alaina Pomeroy shares her latest experience working in the High Divide.


One thing I appreciate about working at Sustainable Northwest is the guarantee that I will find friends in the most unlikely places. For example, when I started working at Sustainable Northwest I had no idea that I would be befriending Enterprise rental car agents in Missoula, Montana. I'm not alone in this circumstance. My former coworker James Honey became a familiar face at the Klamath Falls Best Western, eventually earning himself an Elite card membership. Patrick Shannon travels 6 hours to John Day at least once a month and joined the ranks of the Outpost coffee club. To be happy in this job, you've got to love (or at least like) to travel, and make friends along the way.

I recently made the journey to Salmon, ID, and the flight to Missoula is only the first leg. It is followed by a 3-hour drive south along Hwy 93, through the steep and sinuous Lost Trail Pass, and finally dips down alongside the beautiful Salmon River. I'm always encouraging my coworkers to take bad pictures out of the foggy windows on their smart phones - it's that pretty. Our rural partners at Salmon Valley Stewardship and the Lemhi Regional Land Trust aren't really that impressed by the distance. To get to pretty much anywhere they have to drive, and drive far, but their home, Salmon, ID, is definitely worth the trip.

Salmon is located in north central Idaho, about 45 miles from the Montana boarder - it's long on views and short on people. The population of Salmon is 3,112, that many cows and more, and hundreds of its namesake -- salmon. We've worked with our partners in Salmon since 2005 when we helped them get the forestry collaborative group on the Salmon-Challis National Forest up and running. Today the Lemhi Forest Restoration Group can boast projects like Hughes Creek that restore the forest, create safe access for fire fighters, and local and regional economic benefit of close to $1 million since 2008.  Our partners are also avid participants in the Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition, committing time, local experience, and effort to advancing good policy for the land and rural towns like Salmon.

The last time I was in town I came prepared and brought two attorneys - and I know you are thinking, wait a minute, that isn't the Sustainable Northwest approach. And you're right, it's not. These were the collaborative kind who were there to teach, not sue. Their knowledge of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act consultation process was valuable information for the Central Idaho Rangelands Network. We spent a full day with this Network of ranchers who are committed to keeping ranchers ranching and promoting the health of the land. Their values are evident in the restoration projects they have done with the Lemhi Regional Land Trust and TNC, but they are also clear in the time they devoted to being in the room. One rancher was red eyed from calving all night and I'm sure all of them had a lengthy list of things to do. And yet, they were still there to learn, to share their perspectives and to work together towards a better, more prosperous, harmonious future with healthy people, and healthy resources - water, plants, fish and wildlife.

And that is what really makes the travel to Salmon completely worth the trip.