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Preserving the Crucial High Divide Area

 The High Divide straddles Idaho and Montana, is the headwaters of two major watersheds and is an essential wildlife corridor in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. As one of LightHawk’s Strategic Initiatives, the High Divide area is home to many important issues, including protecting land corridors, open spaces, river health and wildlife migration. Photo: Courtesy of The High Divide film

Merrill Beyeler’s family was one of the earliest residents of the  Lemhi Valley, originally settling there  in 1856. He commented, “This is worth saving.” Photo: Courtesy of The High Divide film

“You don’t want to be part of something that’ll be lost in your generation.”

Merrill Beyeler couldn’t believe the news about the stream flowing through his ranch.

The eastern Idaho basin where he lives was once rich in salmon, but in 1995 only five were counted making the 900-mile inland migration. That incredible journey takes the salmon on a 6,500-foot climb to reproduce — higher and farther than any other fish on earth.

Seeing only a handful of salmon survive that journey was a jolt to Merrill and his community.

“Those were the really dark days, the sad days,” he said. “They were also maybe the best days because it made us stop and really evaluate what’s really important. Then they became exciting days when we began to roll up our sleeves and go to work.”

A recovered salmon population swims in the Lemhi River.  “This is an investment for the next generation,” Merrill said. Photo: Courtesy of The High Divide film Merrill and fellow landowners gathered with state wildlife officials, federal land managers and local Native American tribes to discuss how to restore salmon to their native headwaters. Dams and diversions were removed, tributaries were reconnected, side-channels were created, ranchers changed their fences to not interfere with river flows, and conservation easements were formed.

“And it worked,” as Merrill hoped it would.

“The last two years were two of the largest migrations of salmon back into this area in 40 years,” he said. “After 20 years, the work it took, the reconnections made, the investments made by so many – we could finally see the results. The river was healthy again.”

This valley is part of the High Divide of Idaho and Montana, headwaters of two major watersheds and an essential wildlife corridor in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem.

LightHawk is working to spread this type of collaboration throughout the High Divide with our partners Heart of the Rockies Initiative. Together, we helped capture stunning aerial videography and had one of our volunteer pilots become a “voice of High Divide,” telling this incredible story of restoration.

As one of LightHawk’s Strategic Initiatives, the Heart of the Rockies is home to many critical issues including protecting land corridors, open spaces, river health and wildlife migration.

The High Divide region has some of the most critical habitat for the nearly endangered sage grouse. LightHawk, as a partner in the High Divide Collaborative, is working to address threats to that habitat. Photo: Courtesy of The High Divide film Your support inspires us, telling us that initiatives like this one matter and deserve our attention. These successful projects can only continue with your support. 

When you give to LightHawk, you unleash a flurry of activity and create meaningful change, making the very best use of every dollar you contribute. You allow our Program Managers to seek the most important conservation projects and partners, and to develop flight campaigns that have real impact on our most pressing problems. You activate our network of skilled pilots who, like you, help us save the planet one flight at a time.

We urgently need your continuing support to ensure drinking water in Colorado, advance one of the largest conservation projects in history in the Florida Everglades, and to save the critically endangered California condor.

Will you help LightHawk protect majestic landscapes, save threatened wildlife and leave a conservation legacy?

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