April 30, 2014

A Pioneer Lost But Opportunity Gained

Guest Opinion Submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Many people in Washington, DC, often comment to me about the physical beauty of Idaho-the majestic mountains, pristine whitewater streams and ample opportunities to hunt, fish and recreate.  When they do, I am quick to add that Idaho's people are every bit as unique as our scenery.

I was reminded of those conversations when I learned recently about the loss of an Idaho hero.  He was a man who set a model to build the consensus and collaboration needed to solve so many of the land management issues we face in the West.  

Bud Purdy rose from the small central Idaho town of Picabo to become a true Idaho original-a man who set the bar high for ranching and conservation, a man who established a trout fishery known around the world.  But his beginnings were humble.  He began working on the family sheep ranch in Blaine County at Picabo, near Sun Valley, back in 1928.  Not long after, a young Bud Purdy climbed nearby Hyndman Peak at over 12,000 feet.  There wasn't much Bud Purdy could not do.  He was still flying his own airplane at the age of 94.   

Bud ended up running that family ranch and he and his sister bought the nearby Picabo Store.  The ranch had a special creek running through it-Silver Creek.  It was along that creek that Bud joined a young Ernest Hemingway, actor Gary Cooper and many others to fish and hunt birds.  By the time Hemingway moved to Idaho in 1959, he had already been hunting with Bud for many years.

The Purdy ranch consisted of 6,000 acres along Silver Creek.  The waters of that creek are so crystal clear that you can see the trout.  I have been one of those lucky enough to fish there.  Bud and his family were visionaries.  They donated a 3,500-acre easement to the Nature Conservancy, which established that the fishery would remain pristine.  The land could never be subdivided, and the world-class fishery remains there today-just like it was when Bud arrived 86 years ago.

Bud felt all ranchers should have a strong conservation ethic, and he was one of the first to employ rest-rotation grazing and protect the land and water.  Bud shared that message as a founder of the Idaho Rangeland Resource Commission.  He was recently inducted into the Idaho Hall of Fame, joining the likes of Hemingway, poet Ezra Pound, skier Picabo Street, former U.S. Senator William Borah and agri-businessman J.R. Simplot.

Bud wanted to pass along the message to care about the land, and he has succeeded, even as his passage is mourned in Idaho.  As he told writer Steven Stuebner in an article for the Rangeland Commission about the ranching profession:  "Once you get started in it, you're hooked.  Every morning, you get up and do something different.  You turn out on the range and ride a horse every day.  Even now, I go out and make sure the water is OK, check the fences and make sure the gates are closed.  It's just a constant going out there and doing it.  I was never a cowboy, but I've ridden a million miles."

So, how do we preserve what is so great about Idaho without Bud Purdy to assist us?  We can follow his example of consensus and collaboration.  He gave us Silver Creek as an example of how well it can work; now it's up to us to continue his legacy throughout the state.