Letters from the West

Palisades area one of Idaho's most beautiful, less known

The first time I went up Palisades Creek in eastern Idaho’s Swan Valley it was on a horse beside Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus and the entire Fish and Game Commission.

It was 1987 and Andrus was preparing to write a statewide wilderness bill for Idaho with the late GOP Sen. Jim McClure. The commission wanted to give him their take and a horsepack trip deep into one of the areas under consideration. Several weren’t too keen about having a pesky reporter along and it took some convincing of former Fish and Game Chief Jerry Conley that Idaho’s Open Meetings law required them to let me be there.

Later the late commissioner Lou Racine told me they didn’t want a reporter counting their slugs of scotch around the campfire. But eventually Conley gave in and I got a horse that carried me up the creek into one of Idaho’s gorgeous backcountry areas.

Among our group was Scott Reinecker, then a student at the University of Idaho and aide to Conservation Officer Lynn Merrill. That trip he served as a wrangler.

Today Reinecker is the Southwest Region supervisor for Fish and Game in Nampa.

The next morning a Fish and Game warden came running up the trail out of breath. He said when he left the trailhead several hours before a fire was burning in the Boise foothills toward Andrus’ house and his wife Carol was safe.

Andrus paused, then said: “Whatever will happen already has so let’s get on with our day.” A little later he expressed concerns about whether his guns burned but learned his house was safe when we got in radio range.

I’m going back this week, backpacking this time, to see how much the area has changed. Andrus had included the area in his wilderness bill but it died because both environmentalists and the timber industry at the time opposed it.

Since then both sides have been disappointed by the lack of closure on the issue. Palisades never had much timber but it was extensively explored by Anschutz Corp. for oil and gas who said they never found economic reservoirs.

Jeff Siddoway still grazes his sheep near one of the most beautiful scenes in the state, Waterfall Canyon. The falls drop 800 feet to the floor of the canyon and are often dappled in white mountain goats standing on the ridges.