Last week at a ceremony in Washington D.C., representatives from The J.R. Simplot Company, Trout Unlimited and other organizations received the US Forest Service’s highest honor – the Chiefs Honor Award. The award recognizes the five-year collaborative effort to restore the waterways and fish habitats on the Yankee Fork of the Salmon River in eastern Idaho.
The Yankee Fork Restoration Project involves a diverse group of organizations that came together in 2009 with the goal of restoring the area to a more natural condition. This work was needed because previously the area had been heavily impacted by dredge mining conducted in the 1950s.
The group began its restoration efforts with a comprehensive assessment of the Yankee Fork watershed. Since 2012, it has implemented a series of improvements and plans to continue working together through at least 2019.
“The restoration efforts in the Yankee Fork demonstrate the tremendous amount of work that can be accomplished when people work together,” said Vic Conrad, Simplot’s Director of Land, Water and Asset recovery. “It took a group effort to complete this work and no one organization or individual could have done it alone.”
Phases of the project involved eliminating mine tailings and dredge ponds, constructing a natural floodplain and permanently flowing side channel. Additionally, the project restored an area that had been impacted by historic logging, including placing in-stream large wood along a 7.4-mile section of river.
Now, improved recreation opportunities exist in the area, including new camping areas, parking and fishing access.
“We appreciate the opportunity to have worked on such an important project with these dedicated partners,” said Cassi Wood, Central Idaho Project Specialist for Trout Unlimited. “I was honored to travel to Washington, D.C., to attend the award ceremony and represent all the Trout Unlimited members and supporters in Idaho who helped make this happen. We look forward to completing the Yankee Fork Project and moving on to other important collaborative conservation work in Idaho.”
The project was nominated for the award by the US Forest Service’s Allison Jackson and Salmon-Challis Forest Supervisor Chuck Mark.
In addition to Simplot and Trout Unlimited, the interdisciplinary group spearheading the project consisted of representatives from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, US Fish and Wildlife, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, NOAA Fisheries, Bonneville Power Administration, Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the Idaho Governor’s Office of Species Conservation.