Latah Soil and Water Conservation District

Frank Walker
Meet the District Supervisors: Frank Walker
Reprinted from The Working Conservationist, Winter 2008

By Ken Preston

For almost three decades, Frank Walker has donated his time to serving Latah County as a member of the Latah Soil and Water Conservation District (Latah SWCD). Since joining the Board of Supervisors in 1979, Frank has served as Treasurer, Vice-Chairman, and Chairman. As a lifelong resident of the county, Frank brings wisdom, experience, and a farming heritage to the monthly Board Meetings.

Born in 1943, Frank has spent his entire life in Latah County. He attended Potlatch schools in his youth, after which he worked for a local farmer for 12 years. Frank then ventured out on his own farming operation, and for 20 years he grew wheat, barley, peas, and lentils, and raised cattle. He eventually left his farming operation and went to work for the University of Idaho. There he served as Farm Assistant on the Veterinary Sciences Farm operations. Today he is retired, but keeps busy working part-time at Junction Lumber in Potlatch, and working on various other projects in his shop. He also still raises a few head of cows, "Just to make me get out and do something everyday", Frank says.

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Latah SWCD board supervisor Frank Walker in his shop. Photo by Patrick Adams.

Frank states he first became interested in joining Latah SWCD while working with a technician from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly Soil Conservation Service). While working with the technician to install divided slopes on Frank's fields for erosion control, it was suggested to Frank that he might be a good candidate to join Latah SWCD's Board of Supervisors. Believing that his area of the county was not sufficiently represented, Frank pursued the suggestion, and joined Latah SWCD. It turned out to be a good fit, and one that continues after nearly 30 years.

When asked why he keeps returning to Latah SWCD, Frank paused for a moment before answering. He then went on to state that he has had concerns that Latah SWCD might drift " too far to the left", and in the process, disrespect or dishonor the local agricultural heritage-one that was pursuing conservation long before it became trendy and vogue amongst those of a more urbanized ilk. Quick to point out that he respects many of the left-leaning ideals, he also states, with a wry grin, "I think it's good to question motives sometimes, and to play devil's advocate once in a while."

Frank explains that Latah SWCD has changed greatly since the time he joined. Today's budget is infinitely more complex, and Latah SWCD has to be active in many more areas than it once did. "It's much less about preserving farming as a livelihood, and geared a lot more toward environmental issues", Frank explains, "When I began serving Latah SWCD, our main focus at that time was soil erosion. We wanted to save the soil so future generations would be able to continue farming. Concerns about water quality were in the early stages, and we kind of linked the two together and worked on things that would help both." Frank states, "Nowadays we deal with all the natural resources, and our focus is more and more on the environ­ment as a whole, and not as much about farming anymore."

When asked what he envisioned as the future for Latah County, Frank stated, simply, "More of the same. More population. More urban and suburban issues. More development. And more of those danged ranchettes," he said, twisting his face a bit as if the word itself left a bad taste in his mouth. When asked what his greatest concern was, he indicated that, for him, it would be the continuing loss of the aesthetics, land­scape, and rural agricultural lifestyle. All the things that have endeared this area to him throughout his lifetime are changing; and changing rapidly. Frank says, flatly, "Too much, too fast." He became slightly animated when he said he questions the wisdom of some of the county's leadership, citing incidents with the Latah Care Center, and various decisions made by Latah Planning and Zoning. He wondered aloud if there was a "real plan for the future of this county." His tone was an undeniable indicator of his concern and devotion to the place through which his entire life is woven.

When queried as to what he would like his legacy with Latah SWCD to be, Frank gave a slight blush of modesty, and said, "Ah, heck, I don't know...I guess just that I offered my honest opin­ions, and for better or worse, I did the best I could."

Ken Preston is a Resource Conservation Planner for the Latah Soil and Water Conservation District.

Editor's note: Frank, for what it's worth, we think your best has been very, very good for Latah County. Thank you for all your years of dedicated service.

Latah Soil and Water Conservation District
Gritman Medical Park (Federal Building)
220 East 5th Street, Suite 208
Moscow, Idaho 83843
blog.latahsoil.org