WILD HEART OF IDAHO
“Going back thousands of years, the indigenous communities of this area have built entire cultures and a way of life around salmon. Those of us who are newcomers have also built a way of life, a culture and an economy around salmon. Today, these fish are in trouble.”
- Mark Menlove, Idaho state director
No other wild creatures are more integrally tied to our way of life and the health of our natural systems than salmon and steelhead. Resilient and bold, salmon and steelhead embody our regional culture. They have been called the “wild heart” of Idaho for good reason.
Restoring these wild populations is of the utmost importance to The Nature Conservancy in Idaho. Through collaboration and creative solutions, TNC Idaho has helped to protect habitat and return water back to streams that were dry for over a century, effectively opening miles of previously inaccessible habitat. All of this is to ensure that when more wild fish return, they have adequate spawning and rearing areas.
UPPER SALMON BASIN
The Upper Salmon basin in central Idaho is the easternmost range for the oceangoing fish. This is where they come to spawn and rear the next generation of wild salmon and steelhead.
The basin includes four large watersheds with more than 7,000 miles of waterways—the Lemhi, the Pahsimeroi, the East Fork and the headwaters of the Salmon River.
These waters once provided remarkably productive spawning and rearing habitat for millions of salmon and steelhead. Now, only thousands of fish return. Threats such as loss of habitat, diverted and reduced water flows and increased stream temperatures keep remaining fish populations at risk.
The basin is known for huge wilderness areas and vast public land, but over half of critical spawning habitat for salmon is located on private land.
With a diverse team of partners, TNC Idaho is leading efforts in the Upper Salmon to balance the needs of salmon and steelhead with the needs of human communities in Idaho. Taking a collaborative approach that unites stakeholders around recovery efforts, TNC Idaho is facilitating strategic land transactions that result in the protection of important stream habitat and increased flows in rivers and streams.
The collective efforts of many in restoring this habitat have been a lifeline for the fish but we remain perilously close to losing our salmon and steelhead. They continue to return in critically low numbers and additional protections and habitat improvements are urgently needed.
Although the challenges are complex and the solutions uncertain, what remains clear is that it will take all of us working together to save salmon and steelhead.