At first glance, a salmon swimming in the Pahsimeroi River looks incongruous, perhaps even impossible.
After becoming accustomed to the trout usually associated with such a river, a full-grown chinook looks positively huge, as out of place as if someone had decided to stock sharks.
A closer examination, though, reveals a fish perfectly adapted to this water. The salmon knows place in a way that defies human understanding. It has returned here to spawn, and then die. When the eggs hatch, a new generation will start the incredible process that is salmon migration all over again.
But for all this to happen, the salmon--and steelhead, and resident bull trout--need clean water, and healthy habitat.
That's why The Nature Conservancy, working with partners, purchased the Moen Ranch in December 2004. This ranch, located in the heart of the Pahsimeroi Valley, consists of two parcels totaling 1800 acres and 45,000 acres of grazing allotments. The stretch of river that flows through the ranch often contains as many as 40% of the chinook spawning areas of the entire river.
One of the Conservancy's goals for the property was to keep the rest of the property operating as a privately owned ranch. That goal has been realized with the sale of the ranch to to Glenn and Caryl Elzinga, organic beef ranchers who will not only continue their business, but also provide important protection for the river's habitat.
Alderspring Ranch, as the property is now known, shows again that sound conservation benefits both people and nature.
On the Pahsimeroi Ranch, the sounds of cattle mix with the calls of sandhill cranes, ducks and pheasants--and the sounds of the Elzingas' seven young daughters playing. Nestled in this rural valley, it's a postcard-perfect scene, the kind of place people dream about visiting.
And through the work of the Conservancy and our partners, it's creating an environment where salmon can return year after year, following ancient cycles. Our work is creating a hopeful future for a place that, quite literally, salmon will die for.September 21, 2011