By Ivory Williams

Have you ever seen a river turned inside out? I have and it is a pretty shocking sight.

For the past six summers I worked as an intern for Nez Perce Fisheries. Trout Unlimited and the Nez Perce Tribe are partnering on some projects throughout Idaho and I was excited to get a chance this summer to do an internship under Kira Finkler – director of the Idaho Water and Habitat Program – and Peter Anderson – Counsel for the Idaho Water and Habitat Program.

The idea is to give a college student affiliated with the Nez Perce Tribe a chance to learn the “other side” of things; policy work; politics and legal issues, as well as collaboration and community involvement.

The Yankee Fork, a tributary to the Salmon River.

The Yankee Fork is a tributary to the main Salmon River near Stanley and is one of the few places in Idaho that I’m not familiar with. Which is probably why when Kira gave me the opportunity to go up and tour a Trout Unlimited project there I had to seize it. 

My first impression of the Yankee Fork was the beautiful country that I drove through on the way there. We spotted all kinds of wildlife including: Rocky Mountain goats; pronghorn; Rocky Mountain elk and bald eagles. The trip was special before we even made it to the restoration site.
My first reaction upon seeing the river was shock. I couldn’t believe the amount of dredge tailings from mining. I had seen video and read some stories about the site, but it was something to see it in person.

Ivory Thompson checking out the historic mining equipment on the Yankee Fork.

I immediately thought to myself – “the whole river was flipped inside out”. I found myself thinking that about every five minutes during my trip because I was so surprised how true it was.

I watched as efforts to restore the Yankee Fork were underway. Workers were creating side channels to provide fish habitat during high flows, planting trees and resorting flood plains. I could see the landscape slowly starting to look more like it might have before mining.

One of the stories I read about the project was how the U.S. Forest Service awarded the Yankee Fork Project with the Chief’s Honor Award in 2017.

Ivory Thompson learns about the restoration plan for the Yankee Fork.

The project includes an impressive collaboration including: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation; U.S. Fish and Wildlife; Shoshone-Bannock Tribes; National Marine Fisheries Service; Bonneville Power Administration; Idaho Department of Fish and Game; Idaho Governor’s Office of Species Conservation; Salmon-Challis National Forest and Trout Unlimited.

Reading about and watching videos on conservation is great, but there is nothing like getting on the land to see it in action for yourself.
I was truly honored to work with Kira and Peter. I’m sure things I learned this summer will come in handy for the rest of my professional life.

Ivory Williams during his summer internship with Trout Unlimited in Idaho.

Ivory Williams is entering his junior year at The College of Idaho studying psychology and playing basketball. He says the internship has shown him you don’t have to be a biology major to still work on the things you cherish and that for him it is to see fish thrive like they once did.

By Brett Prettyman.