In the middle of a Steve Stuebner profile , one of Idaho’s most beloved ranchers, Bud Purdy, explains in one paragraph the joy of ranching.
“Every morning, you get up and do something different,” Purdy tells writer, producer and author Stuebner. “You turn out on the range and ride a horse every day. Even now, I go out and make sure the water is OK, check the fences and make sure the gates are closed.
“It's just a constant going out there and doing it,” Purdy said. “I was never a cowboy, but I've ridden a million miles.”
Purdy, 94, is one of the rare Idaho ranchers respected for his skills raising livestock, his business acumen and for his environmental values. His shift to rest-rotation grazing on public grazing lands and other innovations became a model for the industry that improved the quality of the land and productivity of the beef.
His private conservation values led him to donate a 3,500-acre conservation easement on all of the ranch along Silver Creek in the 1990s. This priceless contribution to the Nature Conservancy helps it to protect its own Silver Creek Preserve, a place visited and loved by tens of thousands of anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts.
Purdy didn't even take the tax break on the easement valued at $7 million.
I remember when Bud joined Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt in Laidlaw Park, a lush sagebrush rangeland next to Crater of the Moon National Monument in 2000. Purdy and the other ranchers had been such good stewards to the land that Babbitt wanted to convince President Bill Clinton to expand the national monument to include the area.
Purdy told me later he was skeptical of Babbitt’s intentions and wanted to be sure that grazing would continue in the new monument. But the former president of the Idaho Cattle Association didn’t fight it and Clinton expanded the monument just before he left office.
The Pioneers landscape where he and his family, and now his son Nick ranch, remains one of Idaho’s most intact ecosystems.
Purdy duck hunted and skied with Ernest Hemingway, hosted Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper at his Picabo Ranch, and climbed 12,009-foot Hyndman Peak in the Pioneers while camping out with sheepherders, Stuebner tells in his profile.
Purdy also was a founder of the Idaho Rangeland Resource Commission, which seeks to educate Idahoans about the importance of rangelands and the ranchers who lives remain tied to them. Purdy also was chairman of the University of Idaho Foundation, and chairman of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry.
The Commission funds Stuebner’s writing and video about Purdy. The former Idaho Statesman environmental writer is an Idaho institution himself and you can see his own respect for Purdy in his presentation.
With all of the stories about conflicts over sage grouse, wolves and water quality, and the economic challenges facing many traditional public lands ranchers, the Purdy history offers optimism. Ranchers like Purdy are the best ambassadors for a lifestyle and culture Idaho and the West hope to preserve.
“Once you get started in it, and get in it, you're hooked,” Purdy said.