Landscape Stewardship Certificates of Appreciation - 2020

Wesley  Hipke
L-R, Mike Courtney, BLM Twin Falls District Manager, Jenna Whitlock, Public Lands Foundation, Wesley Hipke, Aquifer Recharge Program Manager, Idaho Water Resource Board, Codie Martin, BLM Shoshone Field Office Manager

The Public Lands Foundation (PLF) presents Wesley Hipke with its 2020 Landscape Stewardship Certificate of Appreciation and this Citation. The PLF grants this recognition to honor private citizens and organizations that work to advance and sustain community-based stewardship on landscapes that include, in whole or in part, public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management.

Since the 1950s, Idaho’s leaders have recognized that aquifer levels have been declining, especially the massive aquifer sitting beneath the Snake River Plain, the agricultural breadbasket of Idaho. As water is the lifeblood of Idaho’s people, her economy and culture, it was paramount to address the deficit to the 10,800 square-mile Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer (ESRPA). In 1965, the Idaho Legislature created the Idaho Water Resources Board (IWRB) and charged it with the formulation and implementation of a state water plan, financing of water projects, and the operation of programs that support sustainable management of Idaho’s water resources.

Early coordination efforts focused on gathering support for identifying ideal locations for aquifer recharge (pumping or percolating water back into an aquifer) sites and using BLM-managed lands as recharge sites. Over the next several decades Idaho accomplished some key steps, but overall aquifer recharge efforts languished. Up to 2016, the ESRPA was being over-drafted by about 200,000 acre-feet of water annually. Since then, the IWRB and a key Idaho Department of Water Resources employee, Wesley Hipke, have steadily worked to restore the 10,800 square miles of the ESRPA by adding capacity and flexibility to divert Snake River surface water to multiple aquifer recharge sites. Today, many recharge sites are on BLM­ managed public lands. The addition of water recharge sites on public land has enabled the Board to significantly increase its water recharge efforts. The importance of this effort cannot be overstated for the future of Idahoans. The Board recharged approximately 447,950 acre-feet of water into the ESRPA in the winter of2019-2020. It was the fourth year in a row that the Board has exceeded its goal to recharge 250,000- acre feet annually.

The health of the aquifer has tremendous implications for the BLM’s multiple-use mission and resources as well, including wildlife habitat, ecosystem health and vigor, livestock grazing, outdoor recreation, wildland fire, and wild horse herds.

The key to this effort has been the work of Wesley Hipke, who is an employee of the Idaho Department of Water Resources. Mr. Hipke has consistently worked on the nuts and bolts necessary to enable the IWRB to add capacity and flexibility to divert Snake River surface water to multiple ESRPA recharge sites.

The Public Lands Foundation is pleased to present Wesley Hipke with its 2020 Landscape Stewardship Certificate of Appreciation and this Citation for invaluable contributions to the stewardship of America’s public landscapes.

Edward Shepard
September 18, 2020