The National Forest Management Act requires each national forest management office to adopt a plan for the conservation of natural resources. These plans are to national forests as comprehensive plans are to your cities and counties. Forest management plans are revised only once every 20 to 30 years and provide overarching guidance that all forest projects must adhere to, so they are crucial to get right. As part of the forest management plan revision process, the U.S. Forest Service evaluates potential areas for protection under both the Wilderness Act and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. These plans also include direction for fish and wildlife habitat management.
The Nez Perce-Clearwater and Salmon-Challis National Forests
Protecting the Best of Idaho
The Nez Perce-Clearwater and Salmon-Challis National Forests of Idaho are among the largest national forests in the western U.S. These forests are national treasures that provide outstanding recreational opportunities. Salmon and steelhead return from the Pacific Ocean to spawn in the rivers and streams within their boundaries. Mountain goats and wolverines traverse the High Divide and Bitterroot Crest along the Idaho-Montana border, and grizzly bears are appearing in areas where they have not been seen in decades. Existing Forest Plans for the Nez Perce-Clearwater and Salmon-Challis National Forests are severely outdated, both approved in the late 1980s.
Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest
The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest released a Draft Forest Plan for public comment in December 2019. ICL is working to convince the Forest Service to identify approximately 350,000 acres of roadless lands as potential additions to the National Wilderness Preservation System and 14 new additions to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Wildlands and waters such as the proposed Great Burn, Mallard-Larkins, and Meadow Creek Wilderness Areas and the North Fork and South Fork Clearwater rivers are key priorities for protection. ICL believes that the new plan must also increase protections for grizzly bears, wolverines, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, old-growth trees, and riparian areas.
Salmon-Challis National Forest
The Salmon-Challis National Forest is similarly bestowed with incredible, rugged scenery, vast roadless areas, and two of the nation’s iconic rivers — the Middle Fork and Main Salmon. In this area, we’ve been involved for several years with the Central Idaho Public Lands Collaborative, a group of diverse stakeholders whose mission is to develop recommendations for the management of public lands that reflect the needs and desires of the general public. Unfortunately, progress on the revision of the Salmon-Challis Forest Plan is currently far behind schedule. Nevertheless, a new Forest Plan for this special part of Central Idaho is inevitable. When Forest Plan revision resumes in the Salmon-Challis, we will work to protect large, connected landscapes in the Pioneer Mountains, Lemhi Range, and around Idaho’s tallest peak–Mt. Borah. ICL will also work to convince the Forest Service to identify potential additions to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, including the headwaters and key tributaries of the Middle Fork Salmon River. We would also like the Forest Service to protect habitat for wolverine, bighorn sheep, and grizzly bears across the region.