July 8, 2010

Kids Get It: Salmon, Wildlife and Connecting the Dots in the Sawtooth Valley

Little Redfish Lake in the Sawtooth Valley. No wonder salmon want to spawn here! ©Neil Ever Osborne

Just one week ago, I was crouched behind a sagebrush, holding my breath and had my eyes locked on two sandhill cranes poking their way through a massive meadow in the Sawtooth Valley of Idaho.

I watched as Neil Osborne, a rockstar photographer from the International League of Conservation Photographers, stalked through the bushes to get a closer shot.

We were there as part of the Tripods in the Mud Initiative. Save Our Wild Salmon and the International League of Conservation Photographers have joined forces to tell the story of the Snake River’s one of a kind salmon and the place they call home.

From my post on Save Our Wild Salmon’s blog:

©Neil Ever Osborne

Not since I was little, have I searched for wildlife so hard.

When you’re out there stalking a moose in the woods, or hiding behind sagebrush to get the perfect shot of a pronghorn, or staring for hours staring at the river hoping for a glimpse of the first salmon runs, it’s really not that difficult to see how all of these animals are connected.

These salmon that migrate from the ocean are packed with nutrients, carrying them the forests and rivers, and hundreds of animals that exist on land and water. They’re little powerhouses. When you simplify that process, it’s even more clear…

It’s all so clear to kids. Everything is obviously interconnected. And everything is exciting. Their point of view of the world is untainted and hopeful. But somewhere along the way, we adults have lost that simplicity to our lives. And I’m lucky enough to say that one week reminded me of how important that simplicity is.

©Neil Ever Osborne

Last week I got to think, see (and act) like a kid again. We rose at 5a.m. every day to catch the sunrise and didn’t stop again until 10p.m. when the sun went down. While the sun was our guide, we were also out to catch wildlife. I have to admit, I was a bit pessimistic about our chances of snagging good wildlife shots, but we were determined… And incredibly lucky.

©Neil Ever Osborne

When salmon come home to spawn and die, the forest has a feast. Eagles, ospreys, bugs, raccoons, wolves, bears and riparian grasses and trees all dine on these iconic fish. From there, it’s a domino effect. Deer, elk, bighorn sheep and more dine on the lush grasses by the river. And more wolves and bears eat them. And hey, humans are part of the equation too — eating salmon and large game animals.

Once you break it down. It’s clear as day. We’re all connected and our futures rely on that interconnectedness. You take one piece out, and it affects every single one of us in one way or another. We lose the way our ecosystem works.

Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen with these one of kind fish. Take action to save our wild salmon today!

Big thanks to the folks of Idaho Rivers United for guiding us in the field. We couldn’t have done it without you!

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