Melodie Baker

melody bakerMelodie Baker is a former Custer County Commissioner, and a rancher on the East Fork of the Salmon River for the past 20 years. Her children are the sixth generation of the Baker family to be ranching on the East Fork of the Salmon River. We interviewed her in August on her ranch.

What do you enjoy about ranching on the East Fork of the Salmon River?

“I was here long enough to realize that there’s so much more here than just the people and hard work: what I call a barn-raising type of atmosphere. Everybody helps everybody out. They will drop everything at a moments notice. You have fun times in here when you’re branding cattle. All the neighbors bring food, get together and help each other. Same thing with shipping. I really appreciated that. I liked the fact that you felt quite safe here. There are problems like there are everywhere, but it’s on a smaller scale. Families are close. Friends are close. This is a great place to have family and raise kids.”

Can a compromise be reached between the different user-groups?

“We can all work together. There is enough country up here. There are places that you can’t take motorized vehicles, and there’s places that you can’t get a horse up into. But there are places that you can, and you should be able to. We have friends that for health reasons can’t walk into that country. Why should they be denied being able to go see that? It doesn’t have to be destructive. I do agree, we all do, I think all of the ranchers I’ve ever talked to, that the motorized end of it needs to be controlled and monitored, but so does people-use. One of the areas that they are looking at is the Frog Lake area up in the White Clouds. It’s beautiful. But even in the 20 years since I’ve been here, we went back up there a couple of years ago, I couldn’t believe the change. It wasn’t from the motorcycles, or the ATVs, or the cattle. It was people use, the impact there. That’s one thing we’ve been concerned about, all of the discussion on changing over just to recreation. That won’t be a total solution because if that’s not managed, you will have the same problems you will have without managing cattle, logging, mining or anything else. You can work all of them together. We’ve tried to show different ways that you can do and map out those kinds of areas, and show just how much country there is up there that can be accessible to everybody.”

What do you think about the proposal to buy ranchers’ cattle allotments?

“People seem to think that if there is enough money they will take it and run. People wouldn’t be here for six generations if they were in it for the money. They love this country, and its part of them. For most of them, it wouldn’t matter how much money you gave them. They don’t want to leave. This is their home. My husband’s family, my brother-in-law and his father know every inch of this country. The idea that they can’t go out here in this country, would kill them. It’s not about the money. It’s about the land. We love it. We care for it. We want to see it continue in same kind of operation, the same way of life, and the style that it has always been. To me, that’s what it is about. It’s not about money. It’s about the way we should be raising our kids and everything. That’s what makes this place so special.”


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