All in a day’s work on a Salmon River jetboat ride!

How is it already May?? Time has truly flown by over the last few months as a Wilderness and Wild & Scenic (WWSR for short) Resource Assistant in the Northern Region. A lot has happened in the last few weeks in my personal life…I successfully defended my Master’s thesis last week and graduated from the University of Montana last Saturday. It’s been a whirlwind and honestly tough at times balancing both school and my RAP position, but it’s been worth it, and I’ve been able to participate in some pretty cool experiences here in Region 1. A couple weeks ago, I traveled to Salmon, ID with my mentor to attend the two day-long Frank Church/River of No Return Wilderness manager’s meeting- a bi-annual meet-up of district rangers, forest supervisors, and program managers from all four forests that manage the wilderness area (Payette NF, Bitterroot NF, Nez-Perce NF, and Salmon-Challis NF) to discuss pressing issues affecting the area and collaborate across boundaries. The first day was spent inside circled around tables discussing topics like how to approach introducing prescribed fire in wilderness, updates on the forests’ heritage and invasive programs, and an overview of the Tribal Action Plan. The day wrapped up with a viewing of a short USFS-made film showcasing the work of the forests’ heritage program to restore the historic Arctic Point Lookout in the Frank Church- using traditional skills over the course of 7 summer seasons. Check it out here.

The second day got us all outside and into the field (via jetboat ride!!). We loaded up in vehicles in Salmon and headed out to meet the outfitter, Salmon River Lodge, at the Corn Creek put-in on the Salmon River. It was my first time in the area and seeing the river, and the drive was absolutely stunning along Salmon River Road to the put-in. The Middle Fork of the Salmon River was one of the original eight rivers designated Wild and Scenic in 1968 and a portion of the Main Salmon River was designated as Wild in 1980, however they have some interesting differences in how they are administered compared to other WSR rivers. While most of the designated portion of the Main Salmon is contained within wilderness, the Frank Church/River of No Return management plan recognizes existing motorized jet boat use and maintained uses along the river corridor not typically allowed in wilderness. To preserve these traditional uses, Congress provided that the less restrictive management direction of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act would prevail in the Salmon River corridor, rather than the provisions of the Wilderness Act.

It wasn’t your typical wilderness experience, but it was pretty cool to jet upstream with the group on our way to the first stop to look at some pictographs on the cliffs along the riverbank. Next, we met up with some outfitter hunting guides at their camp further upriver. The camp was within a fairly extensive archaeological site, and there was a discussion on how to best contain and mitigate impacts to the site while working with the outfitter to allow access and better meet their needs. Finally, we boated up to Lantz Bar, an old homestead site along the Salmon with an extensive apple orchard. A member of our group and his wife had been the caretakers there for a number of years, and he regaled us with the story of Frank Lantz and how he came to live in the area. We had lunch on the site soaking up the sun, and then loaded up on the boat and headed back to Salmon! All in all, it was a great experience and I feel lucky to have this opportunity to meet so many different people and get exposed to how different forests work together to manage wilderness and wild & scenic rivers.

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