Author Archives: Mike Medberry

About Mike Medberry

Mike Medberry has served as a senior environmentalist for several local and national conservation organizations. A Boise resident, he holds an MFA from the University of Washington. For more information about his book, On the Dark Side of the Moon (Caxton Press, Caldwell, 2012), visit his website, www.mikemedberry.com

Stalking the River, Part Two

Along the Boise River Greenbelt near Eagle, a man and his daughter had caught three little crayfish in a big ol’ bucket, but there was promise for more, and they ran from hole to hot spot in search of the tasty, miniature lobsters. Two other fishers were clearly in love as they showed off their puny catch, and a couple celebrating their sixteenth anniversary posed for a picture along the Bethine Church River Trail. A woman surfed with grace at the well-known recreational wave. All of them seemed to be enjoying the present.

The twenty-mile greenbelt from Eagle Island State Park to Lucky Peak Reservoir includes six parks, wildlife sanctuaries, a municipal golf course, land “donated” as a consequence of bridges built across the river, the Idaho Fish and Game Nature Center, and a stretch along Boise State University, among other acreages. There’s also the 36,000-acre Boise River Wildlife Management Area, which skirts Lucky Peak Reservoir, to support deer and elk wintering range. This seems entirely the “people’s stretch” of the river, although it also supports a wide variety of wildlife. Continue reading

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Stalking the River

“We like this place,” the man said as he and his son fished for bass and catfish at the confluence of the Boise and Snake Rivers, northwest of Parma near the Oregon border. Perhaps more than ever before on this river, anglers and wildlife, farmers and duck hunters thrive in relative peace.

Cinnamon teal and snowy egrets, osprey and black double-crested cormorants, turkey vultures and pelicans are nearly as common as mosquitoes along the lower Boise River. Deer, coyotes, and foxes creep through the thick brush, making a network of trails. Monarch, mourning cloak, and tiger swallowtail butterflies add color and elegance as they float through the cottonwood forest and big fish made a commotion in the river beside the fishermen. The region is alive.

But one small monument nearby marked a death. Fort Boise may have stood tall in 1834 when it was built, but floods have erased any hint of its presence and, in 1854, it was abandoned. It must have been swept away by high water, but that fury comes no more. It happened before dams and irrigation canals and flood-control practices were in place on the new and improved Boise River. Yet floods loom again as a possibility in the age of climate change.

Agriculture dominates the current landscape west of Boise. Canals, ditches, drains, laterals, and creeks dissect the landscape, bringing water to desiccated farmlands. I found it impossible to cross an obscure ditch in mid-May, not to mention all the named and larger canals that I traced and retraced along the river on my upstream walk. The many canals and sub-canals and mini- sub-canals blocked movement for anyone walking along the river. Numerous “No Trespassing!” signs gave the impression that no one should ever stroll alongside this charming river.

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Moonstruck

In April 2000, conservationist Mike Medberry and several friends were hiking at Craters of the Moon, gathering information for then-President Bill Clinton’s Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbitt, who hoped to expand the approximately 54,000-acre national monument to 750,000 acres. While walking, Mike suffered a stroke that impaired his speech, among other after-effects. His mother moved from California to Boise to help with his recovery. The following excerpt from his book, On the Dark Side of the Moon (Caxton Press, Caldwell, 2012), reprinted with permission, describes Mike’s return visit to Craters a few months after the stroke.

One day in early summer, when she thought I was able and interested, Mom suggested that we take a roadtrip in Idaho. “Where should we go?” she asked.

“Ow bout Craters? I would like that.” I felt like Humpty Dumpty. I had taken a great fall and had to put together the pieces of this broken egg: confidence, communication, love, sanity, work, and memories. And all of it related to Craters of the Moon, where I had fallen and lain out on the lava for many hours. This was a harrowing memory, made more poignant by the time-sensitive ischemic stroke that had permanently damaged my brain. I say that my stroke was time-sensitive because doctors give stroke victims three hours to get the person to a hospital to treat him with a clot-busting medicine, before lack of oxygen kills the afflicted cells. It must have taken me eight hours to get to the hospital in Pocatello. We never spoke of this, but it reminded me just how precious time can be. I wanted to confront this fear and show my mother the beauty of Craters of the Moon, which I had worked to protect over the years. Continue reading

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