Story by Stew Churchwell,
Greenfire Preserve Manager 2000-2004
Photos by Teresa Tamura
In his essay "Thinking Like A Mountain," Aldo
Leopold tells the story of a time when he worked for the Forest Service in Arizona. He and
his crew spotted several wolves by a river and took aim on the pack.
After the shooting, Leopold recalls reaching an old female wolf "in time to watch a fierce green fire
dying in her eyes."
"I realized then," Leopold wrote, "and
have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes -- something known
only to her and the mountain."
In the spirit of
Leopold's revelation and essay, Western Watersheds Project's Greenfire Preserve
is being restored to its native state on the East Fork of the Salmon River.
Many WWP members aren't familiar with our activities at
Greenfire, and some not even with its origins, so I think it's appropriate to start from
In June 2000, a conservationist and friend of WWP purchased a 440-acre
former ranch along the East Fork, and a management agreement was reached with WWP, then
Idaho Watersheds Project. As WWP's Central Idaho director, I assumed the duties of
preserve manager and moved to the property on September 1.
Initially, WWP directors and administrators drew up
four short-term and several long-term objectives. The first priority was removing
livestock from the property. We also wanted to coax a smooth transfer (to the new property
owner, Valley Sun L.L.C.) of water rights and Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest
Service grazing permits attached to the property.
Another short-term objective was to meet with various
agencies to build relationships with potential partners who might help us with our
Long-term objectives include restoring Greenfire to a self-sustaining
preserve of native habitat and retiring three U.S. Forest Service and three BLM grazing
permits attached to the property. We also want to create an education center where people
can learn about properly functioning native habitat, and where universities and their
students can use the property for seminars and research projects. Finally, we want to be
able to make Greenfire available for conferences and visits by the media.