Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Building hope for a beloved spot

Internship at Silver Creek honors late Sun Valley visitor

Express Staff Writer

Conner Hunihan

Each summer, Silver Creek Preserve hires a Colorado College student interested in environmental preservation to work on the preserve for the summer.

This year, Silver Creek Preserve—near Picabo—welcomes intern Conner Hunihan, a junior at Colorado College who is majoring in environmental science.

Hunihan's internship, which is officially known as the Silver Creek Water and Wildlife Conservation Internship, started in 2004 in honor of Charlie Blumenstein.

Blumenstein graduated from Colorado College in 1996 where he majored in biology before getting his master's degree in environmental science from Stanford University.

He was a longtime Sun Valley visitor who, like many, spent countless hours fishing along the Wood River Valley's rivers.

In his 20s, Blumenstein was diagnosed with stomach cancer and after a tough fight he succumbed to the disease in the spring of 2003.

To honor their son and the place he loved, Sarah and Jack Blumenstein, along with Blumenstein's widow, Chantal Forfota, created the Silver Creek Water and Wildlife Conservation Internship through Charlie's alma mater, Colorado College.

"The idea is to honor his memory by helping to care for the Idaho rivers, streams, wildlife and natural environment that he loved," Forfota said. "And also to encourage young people to get excited about environmental work as well, and give them a way to put their enthusiasm into practice and yield tangible results. Our hope is that it will continue to be a positive legacy."

For Hunihan, this internship is the perfect fit. Hunihan became interested in environmental science his freshman year when he took an introductory environmental science course.

"I took a lot of field trips and got a good overview of the subject," Hunihan said. "I had always liked science, but I could never just pick one. Environmental science has a little bit of everything, like biology, chemistry, physics, which makes it great."

A native of Weston, Conn., Hunihan isn't entirely used to life in the West. While he has lived in Colorado for a number of years, he finds Idaho to be entirely different.

"Here you really are in the West, with the mountains surrounding you on all sides," he said. "It is pretty incredible."

With a fractured collarbone, he hasn't been able to do much around the Wood River Valley or at Silver Creek.

"I've been working at the visitors' center, talking with the local fishermen, and more or less learning from them," said Hunihan. "I'm not the most skilled fisherman, so I'm learning a lot."

As for his future, Hunihan is still undecided. His experience spending a semester abroad in Norway has made him more interested in the political side of environmental protection, but summers like this remind him that he loves doing fieldwork.

"What I do know is that my heart is in the mountains," Hunihan said.

But he's not so sure the mountains have returned the sentiment: He broke his collarbone while skiing.

"It's a bit of a catch-22," Hunihan said. "I love the mountains, but they don't always seem to love me."

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