Betty and Dick Baker’s family have ranched 2,000 acres in the narrow East Fork Salmon Basin since 1880. When the Upper Salmon Basin Watershed Program began looking for ways to improve habitat for salmon, steelhead, and resident trout in the area, the Bakers were ready.
Betty Baker joined the USBWP’s advisory committee as its East Fork Salmon representative. She also teamed with Mark Olson, a project coordinator at the Natural Resources Conservation Service and a USBWP partner. Along with five other landowners, the Bakers joined in planting trees and vegetation, and fenced their property to keep cattle off the riverbanks. Now, up and down the East Fork, willows and cottonwoods shade and cool the river, and roots stabilize the banks.
“I think what we’ve done was good for the river, good for the fish and good for us.”
“The landowners were very cooperative, and many of the ideas were theirs,” Olson said. “They saw the opportunity to work with multiple agencies to improve their resources and their operations.” Together, their work complemented efforts by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the Custer Soil and Water Conservation District who installed fish screens where the river is diverted for irrigation.
“Where we worked, it’s doing pretty good,” Dick Baker Sr. said. “I think what we’ve done was good for the river, good for the fish and good for us,” Betty Baker agrees. Their grandchildren—the sixth generation of Bakers on the land—will now enjoy an even healthier river.