Dick L. Baker*
Dick Baker of Clayton is being inducted into the 2012 Eastern Idaho Agriculture Hall of Fame for his contributions to outstanding environmental stewardship for private and public lands. He has proven that raising cattle and environmental stewardship go hand in hand.
Baker grew up on the East Fork of the Salmon River just a few miles upriver from where he and his wife Betty live today. Born in 1922, Dick grew up on his family ranch helping from a very young age feeding and milking cows, irrigating, harvesting and stacking hay. As a young man, Baker served in the military and was honorably discharged after being called home to help run the ranch following a horse and wagon accident that left his father crippled. Along with his older brother, Baker took over management of the ranch at an early age. The original homestead, which has been in the family for six generations, remains in the Baker family today.
Baker’s ranch is located in the middle of Custer County which is comprised of 97% public land. As a result, the use of public lands is essential to the survival of his family’s ranch. Without the ability to graze his cattle on federal allotments, the ranch would not be able to sustain his operations and family. To help ensure the future of agriculture, Baker has been a long-term, active member of the Challis Experimental Stewardship Program, one of three in the country established under the Public Rangeland Improvement Act in 1978. This action led to the development of allotment management plans, mitigation of stocking reductions, range improvements providing better livestock distribution, and development of irrigated early spring use pastures to relieve pressures on lower range and privately owned hay land and pastures.
Working alongside numerous state and federal agencies, Baker’s commitment to environmental stewardship has included long hours in the saddle, ensuring his cattle were utilizing uplands and not disturbing riparian watersheds, packing salt, fixing fence and improving watering sites. His management techniques not only increased the productivity of his cattle and rangelands, but also increased wildlife habitat on thousands of acres of rangelands in the Custer County area.
Due to the hard work of six generations of Bakers, including Dick, the public is able to enjoy wide, open spaces. The true grit, perseverance, determination and hard work of Dick Baker and his family has made the East Fork what it is today, including the green, lush fields, abundance of wildlife and clear water full of fish.