Outdoor Idaho


Bruce Reichert, Host:
People volunteer for different reasons. Some to rediscover the past.

Robert Lawson:
If you do something you enjoy, you're really doing a lot of it for yourself.

Others to find adventure.

Barry Miller:
Without the support of my volunteer program, we couldn't accomplish the objectives that we do for this district.

Still others, to preserve a way of life.

Jim Allen:
I think it's just a way of paying back to the sport that I love because hunting is not guaranteed by anything, it's a privilege.

Outdoor Idaho salutes the West's many outdoor volunteers. By their actions, they enrich us all.

It's easy to take them for granted. They don't make a lot of fuss. They like what they do. And they work for free.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of many organizations. And in the West, volunteers are often the reason, the only reason, that projects get completed.

Hi, I'm Bruce Reichert and welcome to Outdoor Idaho.

Volunteerism went through a tough time a few years ago, but it is making a comeback. As more and more people realize the benefits to themselves and to the outdoors.

Beth Sermersheim, Backcountry Horsemen of Southwest Idaho:
Idaho has a large number of trails, throughout the state, in numerous different forest districts and a lot of very pretty scenery. But a lot of those trails are becoming impassible. It's necessary that there is volunteer help to help the Forest Service and different public agencies to keep these trails open, or they will go away because they just can't maintain them all.

So if there is not trail maintenance done on a regular basis, there will be no trails.

Daryl Sermersheim, Backcountry Horsemen of Southwest Idaho:
This trail being gone for ten good years, and a few blazes are left. That's our goal today is get down there and try to find existing blazes and find out what it's going to take to actually clear the brush around it.

For the members of the Backcountry Horsemen of Southwest Idaho, clearing trails is a way to open up opportunities for recreation for everyone.

D. Sermersheim:
It's hard, the rugged state of Idaho is, you know to close a trail because it's rough terrain because then you'd be closing a lot of the state. We work with government agencies, and they'd be the Forest Service, BLM, Park and Rec, if they have any trails that they are having trouble with, we'll go to volunteer and go up and clear it and make it a safe trail. We enjoy to pack and we enjoy, you know, clearing trails and helping them.

Clark Fleege, Boise National Forest:
A volunteer wants to be there. And they'll come in with a lot of enthusiasm and get that project done.

You know, it's kind of a spiritual thing, I think. There's something rewarding about being in the out-of-doors and working with your hands, and accomplishing a goal.

According to medical studies, being a volunteer strengthens your immune system. It promotes longevity. But being a volunteer has another very practical side. Volunteers make up the difference when dollars are in short supply.

Sheryl and Lee Carnegie have volunteered their time to finish construction of the Flat Ranch Visitor Center for the Nature Conservancy.

Lee Carnegie, Volunteer:
I like what the Nature Conservancy stands for. I like what they're trying to do. And especially at a place like this up here at the Flat Ranch where they have acquired this property and will do some stream restoration and revegetation and hopefully rebuild the fishery as to what it used to be years ago. And I like to be a part of that.

Whether working to preserve a way of life, or finding new places, or passing on the traditions of the past, volunteers in the out-of-doors make a difference.

You know, the National Forest really belong to everybody. And when people volunteer, they're really expressing their ownership in our National Forest and everything we've got out here.

Some people aren't content to read about history, they want to touch it. And the Forest Service's Passport in Time program lets them do just that.

In the Passport in Time program, or PIT as it's called, volunteers help out on archeological projects like this "dig" at what was once Sawtooth City.

To some, the scattered bits of broken glass and cans that litter the area may seem like junk. But to the trained eye, this "junk" tells a story.

Donna Turnipseed, Archeologist:
Here's one, it's three and a fourth high and it's three inches across, has a really small cap so it was probably a vegetable can. The cans allow us to find out diets. Because of the construction techniques we can figure out possibly if a peach was in there versus an oyster or a pea. And the medicine bottles allow us to find out if people were injured, if they had a lot of ailments up here, and the fragments that are left, we can glean a lot of information based on the things that are left on the ground. Even though they are fragmented, it still gives us a lot of information about the lifestyles.

This is one of the original rubber boots, the very first mass produced footwear.

Teacher Shauna Robinson uses the experience to help make Idaho history come alive for her students.

Shauna Robinson, Teacher:
This is the best way to learn about Idaho's history, is to be out in the field, seeing what the countryside was like that our early pioneers lived in. To see how they lived with some of these, well the artifacts that show what it was like with their daily living and the products and things they used.

To me, it's a wonderful experience to put all these pieces together, to sort of solve this mystery of Sawtooth City. And it's a mental challenge for me. I like the thinking that goes with it.

It's like my husband says, he says it's sort of like a crime scene and you go into this place with all the evidence and you piece the evidence together to figure out what happened in each section. And we're the detectives.

Further north, volunteers help excavate the town of Grand Forks.

Founded in 1907, Grand Forks helped laborers escape the drudgery of building the Milwaukee Railroad line across Idaho.

Cort Sims, Forest Service Archeologist:
The census in April 1910 says that there were about 25 people. And the photographs that we see, there's obviously a lot more than 25 people, even during the day. So during the night when things really got hopping, I would imagine there was in the hundreds of people. There was bars, and gambling, and houses of prostitution, places to stay after you got too drunk to go back to the camps.

I'm sure that the Milwaukee wasn't real crazy about having these people here, but on the other hand, there wasn't any other place for the railroad workers to go. And the people who worked on the tunnel, it was hard to keep them because it was wet, and cold, and dangerous.

And they went through a lot of turnover there. Well, if you had something that would keep them here, even if it was illegal, maybe they turned a blind eye to it. The fact that they had electricity in some of the bars leads me to believe that they were turning more than a blind eye. You know, they were maybe helping out a little bit.

Usually the Forest Service doesn't have a lot of money allocated to this type of project. Most of the cultural resource or the heritage money is oriented towards other types of projects, timber projects or road projects, where the archeologist goes out and inventories an area to prevent anything from being inadvertently destroyed, historic sites or prehistoric sites.

But there is a certain amount of money allocated just for volunteer projects, interpretative projects, research projects, and while it's not very much, if you do have volunteers, you can extend that to just so you can actually accomplish something.

The PIT program benefits the Forest Service and the volunteers. It lets Paul Wilson return to areas he visited while a Forest Service firefighter.

Paul Wilson, PIT Volunteer:
I knew Grand Forks was here, but we weren't into history at that time. So we were to go through here either going to a fire or checking on a road crew or a trail crew. But most of our fires were on the south end of the district so we didn't get in here too often. And we weren't into history in those days.

For volunteer Jordan Perrine, PIT helps him rediscover a childhood fascination with archeology, and it gives him some great stories to tell the neighbors.

Jordan Perrine, PIT Volunteer:
Well the first one was Moore Falls, Lewis River in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, where we were excavating under, under the ash fall from Mount Saint Helens of 3500 years ago evidence of civilization. Each one is more interesting in different ways than the other. It's like some people go to Europe, well, I'd rather do this than travel to Europe.

The dictionary defines a volunteer as someone who works but doesn't get paid. Dave Lyle fits that description. But he doesn't mind. He says he is getting something even more valuable than money, the chance to float Idaho's Selway River. Lyle is a volunteer for the Selway River Patrol Program. This week he is helping shuttle Forest Service crews down the Selway, one of the nation's first Wild and Scenic Rivers.

He considers himself lucky. Fewer than 1500 a year are allowed to float the Selway. The number of floaters is limited to help maintain the Selway's wilderness characteristics.

Dave Lyle, Volunteer:
The Selway has a reputation as being one of the most beautiful rivers in Idaho. I really wanted to see it. I love the Idaho rivers. They are technical. They are clear. They're a mountain river. I'm used to more desert rivers. So for me, it was an opportunity I'd been waiting for a long time.

Lyle got his chance thanks to Forest Service River Ranger Barry Miller.

It's Miller's job to patrol the Selway. He helps other boaters when necessary and shuttles Forest Service crews, equipment, and supplies into the wilderness area.

For most trips, Miller needs help. And when he does, he recruits expert boaters like Lyle. And seldom does Miller get turned down.

Barry Miller, Forest Service River Ranger:
I couldn't do it without them. We don't have the funding, of course, to have other rangers. I really am the only ranger on the Selway River and without the support of my volunteer program, we couldn't accomplish the objectives that we do for this district.

We need to have two or three boats on the water for transporting equipment and people have special needs out here. It couldn't happen without them.

The draw, of course, is the Selway River, to be on the Selway River. Most people don't experience the Selway River because of the permit system is so restricted.

The chance to float the Selway was enough to convince Lyle and Bob Anderson to take a week off work to help. Lyle, from a career guiding in the Grand Canyon and in Utah, Anderson, from his job with the State Highway Department.

Bob Anderson, Volunteer:
I thought this would be a great opportunity to come up and boat the Selway. It's one of my favorites. Beautiful, beautiful country. We start out in creek boating and you wind up in, you know, high volume technical water. It's just so pretty up here. With the permit system and the one launch a day, unless there is holdovers, you don't see anybody else. It's a vacation really.

It's hardly a relaxing vacation. Anderson, Lyle, and Miller are responsible for getting everyone down the river safely, as well as helping manage the logistics of a river trip. It's hard work but Lyle says it's all worth it and he'd gladly do it again.

This river is fabulous. It's technical. It's clean. It's a small river. There aren't a lot of people on it. The rapids are really challenging, which I love. Anywhere else, a lot of what we're running here would be marked as a rapid on the map. Up here, it's like I'm looking every fifth or sixth or seventh rapid is actually listed on the map. So, it's kind of hard to tell where exactly you are with the little river maps we have.

No napping on this river. You know, you're busy from the time you push off until you land on the beach again.

I didn't want to pass it up because the way the lottery system works here, you can go the rest of you life and never get a permit. So I wanted to take this opportunity. Actually this is the busiest time of the season in the Canyonlands area. And when Barry told me he had a seat for me, I just told him, "Okay, I'm out of here."

I have no regrets about that whatsoever. I'd leave again next week if he had a seat.

These seats are a bit more traditional.

Earl Skeen, Challis High School Teacher:
Okay, be sure you get all your equipment when you get off the bus.

The tools these volunteers use are things like tape measures, PH meters, and chemistry sets.

Six years ago, Challis High School Teacher Earl Skeen formed an "Environthon" team for an environmental science competition. In a region where natural resource based jobs are declining, Skeen saw this an opportunity to expose his students to new career possibilities and a way to connect these kids to their land.

We started out trying to find a community service project each year for the "Environthon" competition, because that's what our competition is based on.

Here, students track changes along a stream bank.

Tofer Snyder, Student:
The rest rotation project is a project where the cows can only come in a definite periods of the year so they don't over graze and cut down the banks by walking and coming down to water.

The things they are looking for is improved stream health and for geologically speaking that would be more meanders in the stream, any changes in the width to depth composition. And our data will be the baseline for that.

Ashley Armbruster, Student:
It will take about five years to be able to know for sure if it is working yet. But we measured the stream width, the bank width, and the depths every meter.

The students also look at water quality and what kind of bugs the stream supports.

I wonder if there are any leaches in here.

They even take soil samples.

Erin Hourihan, Student:
At a lot of different ranches, like this one, we do all their measurements and stuff so they don't have to hire people.

John Folsom, Watershed Project Coordinator:
Monitoring can be very expensive. And so when these kids come out and help like this, it not only teaches them great things, but it helps, you know, give us another avenue other than using, you know, employees.

Brian Corrales, Student:
Science is all around us. That's, you know, we're observers, you know, and research, and the ground is always changing, you know. And our job is to go out and look at it, observe it, and then try and change it for the better.

Steve Spengler, Landowner:
I think the agencies had the resources available to help enhance the property. And I was enhancement-minded myself. All we really had to do was maybe make a very small concession in how much land we grazed. And as a result, the big win is the wildlife.

It's a win for the students too. Because of projects like this, Challis' "Environthon" team is considered one of the best in the state.

But these students are quick to reject any notion that they are "tree-huggers."

We definitely do not consider ourselves to be environmentalists or preservationists. We have kids from varied backgrounds. Some are ranchers. Some their parents are loggers. We have some that several that work at the mines around. So these kids are truly representative of our school population.

It's an important issue just because these kids can understand that they can become involved in these things, and do good things, and see change. You know, they have an impact. These kids have an impact. And will continue to have an impact throughout their lives.

I would hope that in 20 years from now it's still making progress and we're still making this a more healthy stream.

The lure of Idaho's abundant wildlife draws hunters out of bed long before sunrise. Some hike hidden valleys. Some wait patiently near wetlands. Each greets the morning with a deepened appreciation of the outdoors.

Anyone age 12 or older can get a hunting license in Idaho. But if you are new to the sport, chances are you must first take a required course in hunter education.

It's a class that teaches gun safety, instills hunting ethics, and prepares new hunters for the field.

And it's a class taught almost entirely by volunteers.

Jim Allen, Hunter Ed Volunteer:
Okay, why do we study wildlife?

Jim Allen is one of nearly fifteen hundred volunteer teachers.

Not only are we going to learn from the animals, but we're going to learn how to take care of them.

An avid outdoorsman and lifelong hunter, Jim devotes nearly two months per year of his own time to sharing what he knows.

I teach between five and eight classes a year, so it adds us. But it's fun. It goes fast.

I think it's just a way of paying back to the sport that I love, because afterall, hunting is not guaranteed by anything, it's a privilege.

Dan Papp, Idaho Fish and Game Dept:
We're fortunate in Idaho to have so many volunteers in our program, because the volunteer is truly the backbone of the hunter education and bowhunter education program. Without them, the department cannot do this program.

Dan Papp, with Idaho Fish and Game, says hunter education volunteers give more than 18,000 hours each year to the program. A program that would otherwise flounder and fail.

If the department had to take this program in its entirety, I think we would be at a severe loss to meet the demand that we're seeing, especially today.

Okay, pick up your firearms. Get in position.

We have some instructors that teach 13, 14 classes a year. That's full time hunter education. And they're volunteers. They love their sport so much that they want to insure that it continues to survive in our society today, which is a very difficult thing right now. And they want to make sure that these kids understand their responsibility when they assume that name "hunter."

Randy Irish, Hunter Ed Teacher:
Everybody gather up.

Volunteer teacher Randy Irish knows first hand what happens when people don't understand the responsibility of firearms.

Now what we're going to do is we're going to pair up and we're going to go through the obstacle course here.

An accident in the military left Randy with a bullet wound in his thigh and the determination to teach others.

I've seen what firearms can do to people, accidents and so on and so forth. And I don't want that to happen to them. Kids need to know and somebody needs to teach them. And that's mainly the reason why I'm out here.

About 10,000 students each year benefit from the experience and dedication of hunter education teachers like Randy and Jim. Volunteers sharing their own experience so others can safely appreciate hunting in the outdoors.

We want responsible hunters in the field, and that is what this program is all about, learning what those responsibilities are.

Bob Hayes, Sawtooth Society Executive Director:
We really appreciate all of you coming out for this Sawtooth Society Project, this adopt-a-fence project. We initiated it last year because we were very concerned that the logworm fences, which border public lands in the SNRA, were deteriorating to the point that they could never be restored and recovered.

Not every volunteer project means a lifetime commitment. But the results of some projects may last a lifetime. Back in the early 30s, the Civilian Conservation Corps built the distinctive logworm fences found in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.

These fences were a signature of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area because the soil here is so glaciated that it makes it almost impossible to dig a hole. The early settlers discovered that very quickly. And as a result, they developed a fence design that requires no digging.

It's all self-supporting and requires no nails. It only requires logs and a little bit of wire, and that's it. It's a wonderful, practical, esthetic, and functional fence. Many of them were built back in the 1930s. Some have been built more recently.

They are falling in terrible disrepair because the Forest Service simply doesn't have the money or the manpower to maintain them any longer. And we know that there's a soft spot in people's hearts for them as they come into the Stanley Basin.

And we felt that this would be a wonderful way to engage people and build these fences from the ground up so that their children can enjoy them in just the same way that they enjoyed them when they were young.

Today, volunteers from the Sawtooth Society are replacing the decaying timbers.

We're a membership organization but we also rely very heavily on volunteers to help us get some of the kinds of things done that need to get done.

Wrap around like that.

Tie that real snug in there.

And what really might get this tight is it helps to really pull back as you twist and that will get that really tight and snug. And usually these old fences will last up to 25, 30 years, so.

Katy O'Hara, Volunteer:
It's just really cool to think that in the future I'm going to be driving past here going, "that's mine," that I helped build that along with my family. And maybe come back here when I'm older and help rebuild it again with my kids.

Robert Lawson, Volunteer:
You do it for various reasons, for nature, and yourself. If you do something you enjoy you're really doing a lot of it for yourself. You go home a night and you can always sleep well when you go home after doing something like this. That's a good feeling. Many reasons to be out here.

Tamie O'Hara, Volunteer:
You're not getting any rewards for it. No one's giving you anything. You're doing it because you want to and you're giving back something. And I think it's a good example for kids and for other people.

Deb Bitten, Sawtooth Society:
It would be a shame to not be able to share this wonderful country because no one took the time and no one made the effort whether that's taxpayer dollars or volunteers that have come out to put a little back into the land.

In a state with so much public land, volunteers can make a difference, a big difference, by insuring that rivers are save, and trails are cleared, and fences are built. Volunteers make sure that the rest of us more fully enjoy the outdoors. And in the end, that enriches us all.

Thanks for watching, we'll see you next time.