Some conservation wins come quickly. Others take decades to achieve. That’s why to be successful at conservation, you have to be in it for the long haul. Thanks to the continued support of ICL’s passionate and dedicated members and supporters, ICL is in it for the long haul. Below, we dive into some of our top conservation wins in 2023!

1. Earning wolverines the protection they deserve

Being in it for the long haul is how we reached success for wolverine. It took nearly 30 years, five presidential administrations, and six court cases to convince the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to grant Endangered Species Act protections for wolverine in the lower 48. With only about 300 wolverines remaining in the lower 48, this news is bringing real hope for the future. But our work for wolverine doesn’t stop there. We are excited to weigh in on the drafting of the North American Wolverine Recovery Plan, which will articulate threats to the species, propose methods to stabilize population declines, and ultimately increase their abundance. We also look forward to protecting wolverine habitat in Idaho, and redoubling our efforts to reverse human-caused climate change, the primary threat to wolverine.

2. Moving toward a carbon-neutral Idaho

Combating climate change is no small feat, which is why ICL’s climate work tackles the issue across multiple sectors. In 2023, ICL’s energy work brought us closer to a renewable energy future. We secured a more realistic analysis of Idaho Power’s expected hydropower contributions by ensuring climate change impacts were accounted for—future-proofing Idaho Power’s energy generation portfolio. We also secured an hourly cost-of-service accounting method that helps reflect the real value of renewables on the grid in comparison to fossil fuel resources. We also secured numerous wins for energy efficiency—pushing back against proposals to remove numerous building codes that promote energy efficiency, negotiating a new accounting mechanism that will decrease peak summer energy usage from irrigators (one of the largest energy users in the state), and keeping consumer costs from spiraling.

3. Steps for salmon

Idaho’s wild salmon and steelhead have been spiraling toward extinction for decades, which makes us excited to share that ICL’s work to restore wild Snake River salmon and steelhead to abundance reached a significant milestone this month. On December 14, the White House announced a significant development in the long-standing litigation around hydroelectric dam operations and endangered Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead. Federal defendants reached an agreement with plaintiff states, Tribes, and conservation groups—including ICL—to stay the litigation while committing to a broad set of actions that protect salmon now and prepare for the breaching of the four lower Snake River dams in the future. 

ICL has always stated that the science is clear—to save our fish, the dams must be breached and the services they provide must be replaced. Now, thanks to persistent grassroots pressure and calls for change, the U.S. Government is committing to restoring salmon in the Northwest, honoring obligations to Tribes, and setting a path to breach the four lower Snake River dams. Change is coming—and ICL is a part of making it happen.

4. Protecting clean water across the state

Clean water is vital to all life, and all of ICL’s work touches clean water. In 2023, we saw big wins for clean water across the state.

In North Idaho, our Water Quality Stewards collected pertinent data for water quality work. These stewards are a crucial part of our work to protect the waters of Idaho’s panhandle from degradation, pollution, and poor land use management. Our mining watchdog role is also paying off in North Idaho, where ICL’s work has led to the State of Idaho holding the Galena Mine near Wallace accountable for too high of pollution levels and moving the Canadian government to address coal mining pollution that is impacting the Kootenai River in Idaho. 

ICL’s monitoring of mining operations is also helping protect the South Fork Clearwater River. A major success came earlier this year when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a $150,000 penalty against a dredge miner who knowingly engaged in suction dredge mining in the river without a permit. This landmark decision puts rogue miners across the West on notice that they must follow the law.

In southern Idaho, our work to restore water quality in the Snake River is making strides. We are closing in on a revised pollution plan that aims to significantly reduce pollution in the river. We’re also tackling the issues this pollution causes—like toxic algae blooms. ICL’s advocacy on this issue has led to increased awareness and education around toxic algae, and is making the case for dedicated funding allocated from the Idaho Legislature to address this problem in the future.

Even if you don’t get out and about on Idaho’s beautiful rivers, in 2023 ICL worked to protect water quality in every Idahoans’ neighborhood with our sixth Wastewater Treatment Plant Report. This report highlights which sewage treatments in Idaho are in compliance with Clean Water Act standards and which ones are not. This report helped call attention to sewage treatment plants that are in bad need of improvements, and is helping communities find real solutions to water quality issues in their communities.

5. Keeping public lands public, clean, and balanced!

State endowment lands are increasingly at risk of development because Idaho’s constitution demands that the state maximize financial return from these lands. ICL joined a community coalition called United Payette (UP) in response to a proposal of Tricore to purchase state land around Payette Lake and then subdivide and develop luxury homes there. UP secured a 2-year recreation lease with the Idaho Department of Lands, ensuring public access to some of these parcels. UP also played a role in designating Shellworth Island in Payette Lake as an Area of Critical Concern, which will help prevent future development.

From keeping public lands public, to keeping them clean, ICL’s volunteer Wilderness Stewards had a busy year doing their part to preserve and protect wilderness characteristics throughout central Idaho Wilderness Areas. This year’s stewards covered over 1,058 miles of wilderness trails in their 138 patrols, leaving public lands better than they found them and sharing ICL’s work with nearly 3,000 fellow recreationists along the way.

ICL supporters know that public lands aren’t just for people to enjoy, but they are the permanent homes for our state’s amazing fish and wildlife. To protect Idaho’s wildlife heritage, it’s vital that management plans for public lands are balanced. In North Idaho, through a collaborative effort involving an array of stakeholders, ICL helped craft a winter recreation plan for one million acres of national forest lands in North Idaho. The Kaniksu Winter Travel Plan strikes a balance between winter recreation demand and wildlife needs. As we ease into winter, and the minds of Idahoans shift to winter recreation, we hope you keep our abundant wildlife in mind!

These wins would not have been possible without a community of partners, experts, mobilizers, and members. Thank you for taking part in this critical work to create a prosperous, sustainable future for all Idahoans.

To sustain this vital work, please consider becoming a member of ICL today by clicking the donate button below. Already a member? Please consider giving an extra year-end gift to celebrate a special 50th year full of achievements!