Behind the Stories

Restoring a Lost Eden: The Idaho-Gorongosa Connection

By Bruce Reichert
February 19, 2015

Lake Urema. Photo by Gorongosa National Park.

Greg Carr on Dingue RoadIt's true, we all love a good comeback story. And on March 4, we profile an excellent one, 10,000 miles away. It's not in Idaho, but it definitely has an Idaho connection. In fact, without Idahoans, it's doubtful this international comeback story would ever have occurred.

It all starts with Idaho native Greg Carr, a guy who made his money in the 1980's, in the high tech business, and now uses his millions to promote good causes. A chance encounter with the President of Mozambique – and a National Geographic magazine article — introduced him to a really cool national park in Africa that had been destroyed by years of civil war. Almost all the animals, killed. All the infrastructure, destroyed.

After further discussions with officials in Mozambique, Carr decided to put up $40 million of his own money, to try to restore Gorongosa National Park. Nothing on this scale had ever been attempted before. But Carr is not only helping to restore the park; he's also helping some of the poorest people on the planet, who live around the park. Without buy-in from those villagers, a restored Gorongosa will ultimately fail. Call it human rights, with a twist.

Waterfalls. Photo by Gorongosa National Park.You've got to admire the man. He could have lived the life of luxury with all the wealth he accumulated in his early years. Instead, he chose to live in a tent for his first year in the park, with no running water, and cooking food around a campfire. Greg is someone driven by a strong desire to improve the world, and the planet is the better for it.

But he doesn't just throw money at something and leave. No, Carr has been right there on the ground the entire time, working and defending and cajoling and strategizing to get Gorongosa National Park back on its feet.

And if anyone can do it, it's Greg Carr. There's no ego here, folks. You only have to talk with him for a few minutes to realize his commitment.

Cinematographer Bob Poole, from Idaho. Photo by Katherine Jones.This was a different kind of story to tell for director/editor Pat Metzler and me. Neither one of us has been to Gorongosa National Park. So, except for the interviews conducted in Idaho, we shot none of the footage; we were relying entirely upon the generosity of others. There have been dozens of email discussions early in the morning with folks in Amsterdam, where the PBS series on Gorongosa is being edited. That's right, there will be a six part PBS show on Gorongosa airing this fall.

Idahoans Heidi Ware and Steve Burns in Gorongosa. Photo by Katherine Jones.





For me, it essentially meant writing the story before seeing the video, something no one ever wants to do in this business. And it meant re-writing parts of the story, once the video arrived.

It affected how Pat approached the editing, too. He first tackled the material we knew we weren't going to get any more footage for... like Intermountain Bird Observatory's Heidi Ware in a helicopter; or U of Idaho researcher Ryan Long with a tranquilized kudu antelope; or Zoo Boise director Steve Burns on a safari looking for lions.

Greg Carr told our Marcia Franklin in an interview that he spent part of his growing-up years hiking in Idaho and Yellowstone National Park, and that he watches Outdoor Idaho whenever possible. “I'm a huge fan,” he said. “It just makes me love nature. And I think that helping people to love nature is part of conservation. Making these films is critical to the heart of our mission. And that's why we reached out to PBS and said, Hey, come on.”

We wish Greg and company the very best as they share their beloved Gorongosa with the world this fall. And, for our part, we are honored to share the unique “Idaho Connection” with our Idaho viewers.

This really should make us all proud.

Gorongosa wildlife. Photo by Katherine Jones.

Search and Rescue

By Sauni Symonds
February 5, 2015

Search and Rescue Team on Mt Heyburn, photo by John Ferguson

Idaho Mountain Search & Rescue Technical Team, photo by Jay KrajicIt happened so fast he wasn't even sure what had slipped first, his right hand or his right foot. He felt his entire body hit the rock wall, and watched as his glasses seemed to sail away in slow motion through the air. Hanging by a rope, upside down, at over 10,000 ft., he felt pain in his right foot and knew he was in trouble.

Mt. Heyburn, photo by Dave PahlasFor Ron Wallace a scenario like this didn't seem possible. He was an experienced mountaineer who had been climbing most of his life. But here he was. Now what? Luckily, he wasn't alone. His belayer managed to lower him off the rock to a safe place; and then they, very painfully, worked their way to a ridge where they were able to get a cell signal and call for help. Help came in the way of an Army National Guard helicopter, and a Search and Rescue team, who got him off the mountain safely.

Stur Chimney on Mt. Heyburn, photo by Dave PahlasBut what if the cell phone hadn't worked? It's a ten-mile round trip hike to Mount Heyburn, one of the most distinguished peaks in the Sawtooth Range towering over the Stanley basin. His companions and rescuers would have done quite a bit of hiking and hauling if the helicopter hadn't been able to land, or hadn't been available.

Search and Rescue teams across the country historically have been made up of volunteers who donate their time and resources. Funds to keep units operating usually come from a variety of resources, including government grants. Search teams are considered part of community service, kind of like the fire or police departments, just without the paycheck.

I.M.S.A.R.U. classroom, Boise, photo by Sauni SymondsBut when more and more people start to head into the outdoors to recreate, especially near high density population areas, the number of people getting lost, stranded, or hurt also increase. If you get lost in any National Park, the government picks up the tab to rescue you; but for recreation areas like the Sawtooths, volunteer units and the county Sheriff deal with search and rescue operations.

In many areas the cost of getting lost or hurt in the outdoors is falling back on the victims. Idaho hasn't quite reached that point. Most local search and rescue teams, like Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue and Sawtooth Search and Rescue, still don't charge. But as more people head to the hills, expenses for rescue and recovery missions are inevitably going to have to be reimbursed in some cases. Communities simply don't have budgets to handle helicopter rescues off mountain tops, or week long search operations into wilderness on a regular basis.

I.M.S.A.R.U. search team, Boise Mountains, photo by Sauni SymondsWhat constitutes negligence, reckless behavior, or an accident? At what point do individuals who head into the backcountry, unprepared or unable to take care of themselves, realize that the cost of their rescue may be their responsibility? The solution may ultimately come down to dollars for some agencies, and the scenario may often be the deciding factor.

Volunteer organizations like Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue not only save people, but they also spend much of their time educating them. Part of their mission statement is to provide outdoor safety education with the intent to teach people how to survive in the wilds if they get lost or hurt.

It's doubtful the unit will ever charge for their services. There is a concern that if people think there is a cost for help, they might not ask. To these members a life is more important than money, and the ability to help is payment enough.

Idaho Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopter, Mt Heyburn, Photo by John Ferguson

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