Articles, Blog

Fish Habitat Restoration Means Jobs in Lemhi County

My name is Cory Bird and my wife and I
Jessica Bird we have four kids and we live here in Leadore and our business is
Bird Excavation. My name’s Boyd Foster. I started my business in 2003.
I’ve been doing stream work for quite a while. I’m Dale Peterson and I own Peterson Metal Products located
right here in Leadore and we are celebrating our 35th year in business
this year. We work for the Fish and Game building part of their fish screen and
head gates and things like that over the years. We’re versatile. We do a lot of
different things but this is one of my favorite things to do. We probably put in
over the Lemhi I’m gonna guess about 9 bridges
attached to these projects. So we do quite a few job like this. Fish work,
fish screens, irrigation projects that are generally also tied with water
savings projects. And then just some local work for ranchers but
the majority of it is jobs like this. You know it can vary from year to year but
I’d say probably 60 to 70 percent. I have yet to hire a contractor out of this
valley and that’s not my decision. We go through the Public Works
Department and competitively bid and we select the lowest bidder and people that
live in this valley are more competitive and the dollars stay here. The economic benefit is huge. We employ up to probably 12 people in
the summer and I try to use local people between here and Salmon.
And so you know hopefully we’re returning some of the
the money that’s made here into the community. Well I was born and raised on
a ranch here and of course it was a small ranch not big enough for four boys
in our family so I went to school and then I went to work for the INEL and I
always wanted to come back to Leadore. So we moved back to Leadore and created this
welding business and right now we’re probably one of the largest employers
full-time employers in the upper valley. So I grew up here and then went to college and came back for a couple years and thought “you know there’s
really not a lot here” so my wife and I we moved. We went down to Idaho Falls and
we were down there for 4 years and that’s where we started our business and
then there started to be more of these projects that were coming up and so we
thought “well you know let’s try it. Let’s and see if we can go home and you
know make a go of it” and you know I don’t think without some of these
projects I don’t know that I’d have been brave enough to either couldn’t
afford it or be brave enough just to say “hey let’s go build a house” and
because when you build a house here you’re kind of planning on staying for
forever so. You know either myself or some of the other contractors that does it just allows us to have some stability and to be able to have you know good
families that want to be here and provide employment. Not everybody loves
it but you know we do. You know when I was a kid growing up here you could
walk down on the river and you could see salmon. And it’s nice to see the attempt to get them back and help them with their
habitat. I remember the salmon being here when I was a kid. My dad would take
me down there and we’d often each catch of salmon two or three times a
year. I would love to see that salmon come back. One thing that you’ve
probably heard you know during all these interviews there’s so much
pride and ownership in seeing these changes and I hear it every day.
There’s just a real commitment of ownership and pride in seeing these
improvements in our riparian and aquatic systems. So as well as being a
rancher you know you find places in the community where you serve and right now
I currently serve as Chairman of the Board of the Lemhi Regional Land Trust. So
that was put together 15 years ago by four ranchers. The vision was we want to
protect these ranch lands. We want to make sure that we don’t lose those
valuable places. It’s part of our culture, it’s part of our heritage. It’s all of
those things that identifies us as a valley. So when we started looking at
doing projects in the Lemhi, and there’s been a number of those done, we kind of
thought “okay how do we ensure that we begin to look at the interests of others
and we’re not just looking at our own personal interest.” And we thought “okay
let’s set down some parameters” and so we set down three parameters and they’ve
served us I think really well over an extended period of time. And so the first
parameter was if we were going to do a project we wanted to make sure that the
ranch where the project was going to take place on or the piece of private
private property when the project was completed was in a better place than it
was before we entered into the project. The second thing that we thought was
important is we wanted to make sure there was a biological outcome that we
could measure. And so if you look at the bridge that’s pretty easy to measure.
You say there wasn’t a bridge here. There was an old culvert. It was kind of a
fish barrier, etc. etc. Now there’s a bridge. And then the third thing that we
wanted to achieve is we wanted to make sure that the community was better
off after it was done. And so if you noticed on that project, as are almost
all of the projects, those are done by local contractors. And when I think
back when there was a project that was too complicated for our local contractor,
it was going to go to someone outside of this area, one of the criteria we put on
that was that they would have to mentor a local contractor and since that time
there are local contractors that are now doing those jobs that they didn’t have
the skills set before and that creates rural prosperity and that’s the bottom
line. When you look at this part of the world if we just wanted to ranch, grow
hay, and those kind of things, we could find an easier place to do it for sure,
but we love this landscape.

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