President Staben Takes a Deep Dive into Idaho Fisheries
Whether touring the largest salmon spawning hatchery in Idaho or plunging into Salmon River rapids, everyone got their feet wet during this year’s College of Natural Resources Advisory Board President’s Tour.
Since 2014, CNR’s Advisory Board has invited the University of Idaho’s president for a daylong tour to learn more about the state’s natural resources and how CNR’s research and education programs are integral in managing them. This spring, President Chuck Staben met the board, along with other Vandal alumni and friends, in Riggins to tour a fish hatchery, learn how fisheries impact the state culturally and economically and experience the Salmon River firsthand on a whitewater raft.
The Rapid River Fish Hatchery tour highlighted the economic impacts of salmon and steelhead. The hatchery is the largest collecting, spawning and rearing facility of spring Chinook salmon in Idaho. Each year, just over 3 million Rapid River salmon are released in the Salmon and Snake river basins.
Jim Fredricks, a U of I alumnus and the fisheries bureau chief with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said studies show anglers spend roughly $450 million each year in Idaho.
“We depend heavily on high-quality, capable graduates. About 25 percent of our fish production personnel are University of Idaho grads”
But factors such as sport fishing in the Pacific Northwest region, climate change and migration challenges can put a strain on fish populations in Idaho.
In addition, many state and federal agencies currently face a wave of retiring baby boomers. That’s why Fredricks said CNR’s fishery resources program is critical to supplying the next generation of fisheries workers.
“We depend heavily on high-quality, capable graduates,” he said. “About 25 percent of our fish production personnel are University of Idaho grads. U of I is a cornerstone in helping us get through this succession.”
Following the hatchery tour, attendees heard from some of CNR’s faculty. Fish and Wildlife Sciences Assistant Professor Chris Caudill used historic photos to introduce lamprey, a 400 million-year-old native species. Caudill lovingly refers to lamprey as “vampire-ninja-snake fish” because they are parasitic in saltwater, climb fish ladders using just the suction of their mouths and have long, snake-like bodies.
Of course, topics beyond the fish themselves were covered during the tour. Fish and Wildlife Sciences Associate Professor Michael Quist gave an overview about the Idaho Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit (Idaho Co-op), which works closely with state, tribal and federal agencies to execute management decisions for fish and wildlife. The importance of the Idaho Co-op and collaborative management was emphasized by featured speaker McCoy Oatman, vice chairman of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee.
Along with collaborative management, Oatman touched on the cultural significance of Idaho fisheries to the Nez Perce Tribe. He said a salmon’s journey to the ocean and eventual return to their native stream is symbolic of his people pursuing higher education in order to assist their community in resource management.
Following a three-hour river rafting tour on the Salmon River, Staben thanked CNR’s Advisory Board for giving him the opportunity to better understand the important work of the college, specific to Idaho’s fisheries.
“It is great to have an Advisory Board that is so engaged and involved,” Staben said. He also spoke of the university’s “just cause” – fulfilling its land-grant mission – and commended CNR in realizing that mission by providing a “great natural resources education for more than 100 years.”
Article by Lindsay Lodis, College of Natural Resources
Published July 2018