Seeing Results in Silver Valley, Idaho

Author: Haley McDaniel Published: July 11, 2016

Silver Valley, IdahoEverything is crisp and fresh. I take a cold breath in and can only respect the awe and unforgiving beauty of the woods I call home. I can’t say I know what it is, but there is something about the woods that will always captivate me. It’s not just the peace that can be found here, but also the way it is fully alive without being loud, a certain tempo with its own lively hum that requires you to be still to hear. I don’t know the exact moment that I knew I wanted to pursue a career in Environmental Science, but I do know it ultimately had something to do with this sense of belonging.

I had always hoped to have the opportunity to be of use in my chosen field within the community that means so much to me, but never thought I’d be so lucky. Thanks to MFA, I find myself doing just that. I am grateful to engage in a career that allows me to play some part in positive changes in the Silver Valley. Additionally, it is an honor to work with people who are truly brilliant professionals and also genuinely motivated to do the very best work possible.

In my short quarter of a century on this earth (most spent in the Silver Valley), I have seen much positive environmental and economic change. A prime example of this change is the formerly barren hills of Smelterville, which as a child I thought resembled the surface of Mars.

No one passing by probably even takes note of the newer woody growth and pine trees on the hillsides of this extremely small “blink and you’ll miss it” Northern Idaho town. But that’s exactly the point. These once-barren hills are no longer obviously inhospitable to vegetation and are nurturing a healthy range of biota. Small and scrawny as they all started out, the pine trees and other growth on those hillsides now blends in seamlessly with the rest of the backdrop.

However mundane these hillsides may first appear to be, anyone who remembers how desolate the hills of Smelterville used to be notices these improvements every time they pass that way. I guarantee it. The improved aesthetics of this place don’t even begin to delve into the generally improved ecosystem and greatly reduced potential for heavy metals runoff that the new vegetative growth contributes as it stabilizes the hillsides. While MFA did not play a direct role in this revegetation project, we have been and are currently working on similar projects, and being a part of that is nothing short of remarkable.

Silver Valley, IdahoI’m not the only one who has noticed either. It is encouraging and uplifting to hear from entities that have been involved with these sites for years that real improvement is visibly seen and acknowledged. I hope to one day look at this place and paint a picture of the past to explain to future generations how some of the areas used to be; not dissimilar from my personal experiences hearing those who have spent a lifetime in the Silver Valley recount how the river used to literally run milky white with tailings.

To those who have engaged in this work, thank you. Thank you all for the hard work, long hours, and missed lunches. Thank you for your dedication to quality work that has culminated in helping to make this valley, my home, a better place.  I hope that my future work here continues the trend of being of the very best caliber it can, while always doing justice to this beautiful place and the wonderful people in it.