Story by Amanda Bernamonti
Photos by Emma Thompson
Idaho is a treasure trove of natural resources. From the towering mountains in which we love to hike and emerald forests full of wildlife in which we love to camp, to the 100,000 miles of waterways that provide us with endless sporting possibilities, Idaho rivers truly are the gem of the state. The ample rivers in Idaho provide us with an abundance of precious resources that are easy to take for granted. From energy to power our homes to drinking water and food to keep us alive, it’s safe to say that Idaho relies on its rivers. After speaking with Anna Buschbacher with Idaho Rivers United (IRU), I was able to gain a new understanding on this lifeline for our beautiful state. Idaho Rivers United is dedicated to maintaining the health of the rivers for our state through water testing, conservation education, and events with river supporters.
To someone who isn’t familiar with the conservation process, it can be difficult to know where to start. In order to know what action needs to be taken, tests are performed throughout the year to monitor water quality levels and create viewable data. By working with an Idaho based water testing facility, IdaH2O, IRU makes constant efforts throughout the year training staff to understand water quality using the IdaH20 database. We may be able to look forward to new information as a community as “Boise State intern Stephen Ritter built the logistics for an Adopt-a-River program, something we are working to implement as a citizen science/ training course in conjunction with IdaH2O’s online database.”
This leads directly into the crux of IRU, conservation awareness. Growing awareness within the community allows us to understand the direct impact of the rivers on our home state. It affects not only our recreational bike rides down the greenbelt, but the food we grow and the animals with which we coexist. Anna so beautifully states, “We educate, advocate and work to promote knowledge and understanding of the conservation issues happening around the state about our Idaho rivers. We are focusing in on making sure our communities know that our rivers need our protection – daily. We as humans haven’t always taken good care of our rivers, no one wants to see our precious waters misused or polluted but often there is a dramatic imbalance between the desires of use and the sustainability of our rives and native fisheries. As we continue our conservation and education programs we seek to teach about the importance of natural resources, water quality needs, use impacts, and promote river stewardship.” For many Idaho residents, this knowledge begins at a young age. Between programs with Anser Charter, Riverstone, Foothills and Hillside Junior High among other local schools IRU is working to increase education on a multitude of conservation topics including water quality observation surveying, salmon, Endangered Species Act, Idaho river history, and conservation efforts in the state. Anna states that “We are continually trying to connect younger generations to our river systems and encourage them to take an interest in the water quality, plummeting salmon populations, and how to be a part of the solution for all our rivers in Idaho.” They are also working to build an online education library as a resource for teachers.
In addition to educating some of Idaho’s youngest residents, IRU partners with business across the state. By doing so, they are creating a united front dedicated to keeping Idaho a beautiful place to be. “Our IRU supporters are young and young at heart, from all areas of Idaho and from around the US – they are businesses, business leaders, students, families, individuals, and they are river and fish lovers. Some have been with us since the very beginning, some brand new but all of them have been touched by Idaho’s rivers and waterways and want to make sure these precious resources are protected now and for future generations. Our supporters are dedicated, informed, caring, and determined – they are loyal and they are what make up IRU!” Some of the Boise River Greenbelt partners include Payette Brewing, Idaho River Sports, and Generation Wild. Together, they’ve been able to organize fantastic events including the Boise River Clean up, Payette Brewing Happy Hour donating to IRU, and auction nights. These partners are vital for spreading the word beyond the school environment to Idaho residents for all ages; reminding us once again that our rivers are the life blood of our communities. Be on the lookout for events year-round that provide opportunity for volunteer work as well as donations to Idaho Rivers United. “We have an amazing group of members. Our IRU supporters come from 39 states and 2 countries. We involve volunteers, members, and students in our work with opportunities for river clean-ups, event and outreach assistance, building grassroot conservation campaigns, and asking supporters to share their voices and work with us to promote effective advocacy and education to our leaders.” For more information regarding volunteer information and getting involved with protecting Idaho’s rivers, visit idahorivers.org.