My wife Cheryl grew up on ranch about eight miles out of Leadore, just across the Lemhi Valley. And her father could ride a horse on the snow drifts from the ranch to Leadore over to see us and never had to open a gate, because the snow was taller than the fences. Those same fences are still there. But you could never ride a horse on that ranch to Leadore on snow drifts, over the fences today. There’s just not enough now anymore.
- Merrill Beyeler
When I look at climate models, I see wildfires. It's the warmer temperatures. The earlier onset of spring will melt snow off our landscapes earlier and will dry out our forest and rangelands earlier. And that is considerably lengthening the fire season.And, I worry about water. Are we going to have enough water? It’s certainly an issue for our agricultural communities and our forests.
- Jen Pierce, climate scientist
think people need to understand the degree to which wildfires and wildfire smoke impact Western communities. Within the last five to ten years, we now have a season of smoke that will extend from July to September. The air quality is terrible. You can't exercise outdoors, you can't see the mountains. It's become the new normal. Globally, annually we estimate that over 320,000 people lose their lives due to wildfires, from the smoke.
With something like a hurricane, know exactly how many people lost their lives due to flooding or from the storm. Smoke is this vague problem. It's not as dramatic as a big storm. But it is pervasive and it is affecting our lives to a greater and greater extent. Likewise, the fires, especially in ecosystems that are not adapted to frequent fires, it is very damaging for those ecosystems and for the animals, the bears, and birds and bees live there.
- Jen Pierce, climate scientist
Wildland firefighters are a group of people aligned in a similar direction, with backgrounds that are as varied as the terrain that we work in. The woods and the work call to each of us individually, from the isolation, the camaraderie, the sense of service, the purpose-driven life. They are all reasons that we put our lives on hold and travel the country to support our lands and the people who call them home.
- Evan Guzik
“[It is] our manifest destiny to overspread and possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated self-government entrusted to us.”
Journalist John L. O’Sullivan, 1845
Boise is the fastest growing city in America, and Idaho is fastest growing state. People are still coming here, seeking a better life. And the other thing he said is, we will not have succeeded until we create a society to match the scenery. Ultimately, protecting the view is not enough. The work we do is to protect air, water, landscapes, but ultimately we have to have a society that wants those things protected, and understands that the pretty river is only a real river if it has salmon in it.
- Rick Johnson
Everybody talks about the weather. But, politically, to talk about climate change is probably something that people don't want to talk about. And yet when I think about it, I think where are the places that are going to be most impacted by climate change? Low lying areas, coastal areas first. And the second area that's going to feel the most impact is going to be rural America, rural place. And so we're going to be most impacted. We should be most concerned.
- Merrill Beyeler, rancher
Farmers usually don’t talk about climate change. They talk about the weather, for sure, all the time. The weather is always a topic of conversation, how hot, how dry, how wet, et cetera. Farmers are never satisfied with the weather, so I think farmers always talk about the weather.
There's always something wrong with whatever weather you've got.
I worry about the weather, but no, I guess I don't know that I worry about climate change. I pay attention the weather and to the snowpack because I know it affects me, and I know that it will affect the decisions that I need to make in the coming season.
- Pat Purdy, farmer
One day, I walking through the hay and just feeling the way the hay kind of slides through my fingers, I realized: I was smiling. You have to see what you're doing during those moments when you find yourself smiling. And that's what makes life meaningful for you.
- Merrill Beyeler, rancher
Looking at a business as usual scenario for Idaho, the temperatures are predicted to be seven to ten degrees warmer by 2100. In 82 years. Actually, it's getting warmer as time goes on, so it's not as if suddenly in 2100 it's gonna be seven or ten degrees hotter. I mean those high temperature records have been set again and again, and we're having heat waves where there will be higher temperatures for a longer number of days. That really impacts tribal members because they don't necessarily have the reliable air conditioning units or good insulation in their homes. I know tribal members who can't have their lights on the summer because they're trying to run air conditioning units to keep their home cool.
- Stefanie Krantz
They built the dams for cheap electricity, but they didn’t take into account the other damage that they did: the slowing of the water, the increasing temperatures. So now, they have to pay for that and it’s no longer cheap electricity because they have to pay for these other costs. The companies are struggling to even profit and sell the electricity now. They are paying for hatcheries to grow fish, paying for the barges, paying pumps to keep the water consistency. Most of the programs are just mitigating all the damage from the dams, mostly the four dams on the lower Snake River.
Our religion is based around the salmon. The salmon is the first food. It is also the most important food to give to the land. They come here, they spawn, and they die. They bring all the goodness from the ocean here to our mountains. They lay their babies in our waters. We have the clearest water of all the land. It’s an indicator of water quality. Cold water sustains good salmon. Warm water kills the fish. The climate change is warming up the water, the dams are slowing down the water. The water's heating up and killing the fish. It's not only the fish, it's everything. There’s more fires, there's less food. We go digging for roots and there's less to dig. Our medicine and our food: a lot of it's closed off or not there no more. It burned off or died off or you go there now and there's wheat fields where there never used to be.
- Jeff Scott
When I was little, I asked my grandmother, "When will I know when it's time to fish?" And she told me, "Your grandfather will come tell you." I didn't understand that. In the Springtime, little yellow birds come here. Little yellow birds all the year. They come. They follow the salmon. My grandfather’s name was Piopio Muks-Muks, which means “Yellow Bird.” In our tribal history, they say that when you hear the doves cooing, it's time to start getting ready because the salmon are coming. And when the yellow birds come every year, then I know it's time to go. It's not time to get ready. It's time to go. When I was working as a builder or in construction, when it came time for fishing, I would go fishing. I would always come back and I would always have my job, because I was a good worker. It was more important to do the things of my grandfather every year. His name was Piopio Muks-Muks, the little yellow bird that tells us to fish. Today I think he must have been a really good fisherman to carry that name.
- Jeff Scott
This food feeds into our deepest-held spiritual beliefs. It has a role, it has a place on our table. It has a role in our ceremonial life, and it can't be replaced by something else. It has its place. Just like we have our place. This is all part of that cycle of this land that our old people were able to interpret it to us.
And so our culture, our language, and our knowledge is really like a the manual of this land. This land is not ours. Our culture's not ours, because the ways we follow are dictated by this earth, by this land. Our people, our law and this land are the same.
And it's a hard concept to try to explain to outside people. I think other indigenous people in other places understand that. So when we see these drastic changes that are happening in the plants, in the animals, in the water and the fish especially; those are things felt deeply by communities that are still trying to maintain our connections to the earth.
- Nakia Williamson
Our spirituality is centered around the foods that we set on the table, and in order to have them there, we have to gather them. I'm getting old and I'm not nearly as fast as I used to be, but I always tell our younger women, “The creator's garden is like any other garden. And you can't get radishes in January, and so when our foods are ready, you need to know when that is, and you need to get out there and get them.” Because of climate change, you don't know how long that season is going be anymore. The gathering seasons are shorter. A couple years ago, the gathering season usually is a month and a half, and it was only a week and a half, especially with the berries. It was just so hot. And so you need to get out there and get them, because once that season is over, it's over. And you can't get that food until it's ready to harvest next year.
- Lee Bourgeau
This work can be harsh. The sun is harsh, the wind is harsh. It’s hard on your hair and skin. But, it’s also nurturing in a strange way. It just makes me feel good. I don’t know quite how to say it. It’s there, and it’s what I want to do. I can’t imagine myself anyplace else.
- Lorna Steiner, rancher
My life is the rural life. It’s the open spaces, your friends, your family, your neighbors. Getting to see the coyotes and the rabbits. It’s hard to express because it’s in your heart. I’ll get emotional if I start talking about it. It goes back to my dad. He farmed and I learned as a kid to appreciate the outdoors and nature and growing something and doing something with your hands. I feel like my husband and I have instilled that in our kids, too. They love it too. I mean, gosh, look at these mountains. They are beautiful. How can you not just sit out here and wonder at the creation that the Lord’s made.
- Lorna Steiner, rancher