Patience is a virtue in the world of river conservation

Like waiting for a fish to hit, conservation work requires considerable patience. An angler works the waters of the Bear River in spring. Photo by Kevin Lewis.

I was reminded last month how important patience is in our work to protect Idaho's rivers.

On Oct. 1, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recommended denying a license to build a dam on southeast Idaho’s Bear River, and in so doing culminated more than 11 years of work by IRU and our allies to protect this special place.

A dam on the Bear River would have forever destroyed the Bear River's Oneida Narrows for local residents, visitors and the many species that depend on the river for their existence. While not quite final, FERC’s decision appears to be one of the last nails in the coffin for a very long-lasting battle. It's been more than 11 years of public hearings, studies, press releases, government filings, site visits, newspaper and television interviews, and more.

Eleven years may seem like a lifetime in our fast-food culture that’s accustomed to instant gratification, but in the fights to protect Idaho’s rivers it’s just the middle of the road. 

IRU has been working to restore Idaho’s wild salmon and steelhead for nearly the entire 25 years the organization has been in existence. While we’re proud that we’ve helped keep these species from going extinct, they aren’t yet on a road to recovery, and we still can’t claim victory.

It can be challenging to maintain focus and enthusiasm as these fights drag on. The ebb and flow of small victories countered with inevitable setbacks can become frustrating. Often, our tasks seem insurmountable, but the price of failure spurs us to charge forward — often to success.

When the FERC decision stopping the Bear River dam becomes final in the coming months it will be a great victory for IRU and our conservation allies, as well as the many citizens who have fought to protect the Bear River, one of Idaho’s special places.

And it’s due to the patience, perseverance and dogged determination of many to stand firm in defense of the rivers we all love.