Greenfire News: Late July-October, 2001

Crystals of frost glitter on the grasses, lit by the early morning sun. Orange leaves float down from the cottonwoods. I struggle to recall writing the previous Greenfire Preserve report on a warmer-than-comfortable day in late July.

Back then, all I could think about was shutting down the irrigation to avoid spending my day restoring traction to irrigation towers mired in muck. In retrospect, the job of keeping the irrigation system up and running was worthwhile. The fields of grass stand belt-buckle high, and Iím amazed watching deer disappear as they lie down to snooze under the warm fall sun. They are getting fat, so fat that I detect a slight waddle in the gait of the regular residents. Some I see daily; others come and go.

Oh yes, theyíre easy to tell apart. A few are so distinctive that I give them names like Scratch, an old doe with a long scar down her neck. I can imagine a close call with a mountain lion as the root of that injury, but more likely the culprit is a barbed-wire fence or a close encounter with a pickup truck. If a mountain lion had come that close, itís doubtful that Scratch would be eating Greenfire grass today.

I take comfort knowing the fence that might have scarred her neck was removed last winter. I take comfort knowing that tall, lush grass has returned to the river bottom of the East Fork after 100 years, when cows arrived to mow it to bare dirt. For the first time in a century, wildlife like Scratch has plenty of grass to munch without being persecuted for vandalizing someoneís haystack -- plenty of grass to store fat for the battle against hunger and the killing cold of a severe winter.

Oh, and I must tell you about the family of five -- otter, that is. I observed them swimming up the river just below the east deck of the main house at Greenfire. I thrilled to watch two adults and three young work their way up the East Fork, surfacing in unison, then diving, surfacing and diving again as they swam up the river fluidly and effortlessly against the stiff current. I was reminded of dolphins racing ahead of a boatís bow. Every time I see otter, I get this giddy feeling, and all I want to do is giggle. Iím sure it comes from sensing that otter live to play. How you can feel their joy. There are those who would claim this is all anthropomorphic, but donít believe it. Otter love life, and itís an honor to live with them at the preserve, where otter and deer and the western wood peewee rule.

Back to the business of Greenfire. Led by WWP event coordinator Stefanie Marvel, planning for the inaugural Greenfire Revival began in the summer, and preparations followed in September at the preserve. Stephanie and Judy Hall worked on invitations and coordinated the menu, while board member Gene Bray trucked in some serious industrial cooking equipment, refurbished it and hooked it up.

Stefanie coordinated all of the meals and activities for the revival, with able assistance from Judy and Irene Bray. Larry Barnes took early-birds on a birding expedition at daybreak Saturday. WWP executive director Jon Marvel and president Kelley Weston led guests on field tours on and near the Greenfire property. Jon and WWP counsel Laird Lucas spoke about the groupís strategies and legal victories.

After dinner Saturday, guests could have danced all night to the country swing of the Al Yates Trio, but the band had to drive back to the Wood River Valley.

Stream Crossing

Thunderstorm Building

The weather -- accented by an evening thunderstorm -- was glorious and dramatic, and I think I can speak for everyone in saying that the event was an empowering experience, not to mention a great time with great food and great people. Several guests traveled long distances to attend, and for that we are grateful. Many of us made new and lasting friends. Unfortunately, most of the salmon had finished spawning and were gone by the time everyone arrived. Nonetheless, some guests observed chinook in the East Fork.

Two matters concerning Greenfireís grazing allotments have occurred since my previous report. First, the Yankee Fork Ranger District informed us that we have until Sept. 13, 2002, to validate permits for the Salmon River Breaks and Spud Creek allotments. Until then, we remain the preferred applicant for these term grazing permits. Validation of the permit requires that we own cows and place 90 percent of the permitted number of livestock on the allotments during the permitted grazing season.

Second, the Yankee Fork Ranger District made a decision in September to implement a prescribed burn in the Basin Creek drainage. The drainage is in the Salmon River Breaks grazing allotment and is home to anadromous fish, bull trout and lynx. The proposed burn would degrade the habitat of these and other animals. We submitted an appeal on Oct. 26. Stay tuned.