The Clearwater region is known for its scenic beauty, wicked mountain terrain, and virtually the wildest and most expansive primitive public land in the lower 48. As such, this region has provided an unparalleled experience for even the most seasoned big game hunters, and a partnership has raised about $400,000 to improve the area's habitat to benefit elk and other wildlife.
Historically, wildfire had a recurrent natural presence on the landscape, removing infected and diseased forest, and rejuvenating vegetation to its earliest and most nutritious stage. Over the last century, however, fire suppression has nearly eliminated this natural disturbance, and removed several important elk forage species (such as aspen) that require fire to persist on the landscape. Many factors influence elk populations, but habitat is one of the most important.
Idaho Department of Fish and Game has partnered with the Forest Service and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to put some disturbance on the ground. Approximately $400,000 was generated to implement these projects:
North Fork Aspen Regeneration
Aspen clones are being treated in the Lolo to improve elk calving and summer habitat. Declining or encroached clones will be released by hand felling 150 acres of mature aspen across 10-20 clones. Management objectives are to remove competing conifer vegetation, and return the aspen to an early seral stage. Restoration will provide increased volume and nutritional quality of elk preferred summer browse.
North Fork Ponderosa Pine Restoration
2,185 acres of mature ponderosa pine within primary elk winter range along the North Fork of the Clearwater River will be treated using non-commercial thinning and prescribed fire. This will ensure the long-term persistence of the ponderosa pine community by reducing the risk of loss to wildfire. Over-mature shrub components of the stands will be reset to an early seral stage, providing increased volume and nutritional quality of preferred winter browse.
Noxious Weed Control
Members of Back Country Horsemen North Central Idaho have been hard at work and will continue their treatment of noxious weeds on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest. The recent proposed project area will be trails leading to the Selway-Bitteroot Wilderness (SBW); as well as trails, campgrounds and Forest Service roads in the Lochsa/Powell Ranger Districts (Lochsa River drainage) and Moose Creek Ranger District (Selway River drainage). The proposal includes portions of the Selway River and Lochsa River designated as Wild and Scenic Rivers. Over the last four years the Elk Foundation, Fish and Game and the Nez Perce Biological Control Center have partnered to release biocontrol agents for spotted knapweed in Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness with hopes to continue this effort into the future.
Forest Wide Aspen Restoration
Aspen is arguably the most important habitat-type for a variety of wildlife species, but it is believed to constitute considerably less than 1% (40,000 acres) of the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest. Due to the rare occurrence and general inaccessibility of aspen on the forest, management activities have yet to utilize aspen as a resource target. This fall, Fish and Game planned and implemented aerial flights across the forest. Over 400 aspen stands were recorded. Efforts are underway to digitize stands, develop stand assessments, and assign appropriate treatment prescriptions to reset or expand current aspen clones. Long-term restoration across the forest will be a primary objective of Fish and Game and Forest Service partnership.
For more information, contact:
Tara Ball Regional Wildlife Biologist firstname.lastname@example.org
Brandi Felts Regional Wildlife Biologist email@example.com