For the first watershed assessment of the Community Planning Process, we focused on Upper Joseph Creek watershed. The upper section encompasses 174,000 acres of federal and private land. Crow, Elk and Chesnimnus Creek are the main drainages, which provide critical habitat to steelhead. The watershed contains open prairies, dense forest, and lush creek sides. Opportunities abound to see elk grazing, hear songbirds singing, wonder at wildflowers blooming, and see raptors soaring.
It is also a working landscape, with century-old ranches and livestock operations, small-scale logging and fuel reduction, and habitat work. This land has been used continuously for 8,000 years, starting with the Nez Perce.
The Benefits of Collaborating in Upper Joseph CreekOpened 32 miles of instream habitat for all life stages of steelheadRemoved 28 culverts for fish passage and natural channel flowImproved 11.6 miles of road to slow erosion and increase water infiltrationReplaced 3 bridges on Peavine and O'Brien RoadRehabilitated 25 upland water sitesThinned, harvested, and/or burned 14,312 acresExceeded $5 million in local economic benefit
A diverse group of organizations and individuals worked together to assess the condition of Upper Joseph Creek in four aspects: riparian, rangeland, forest & fuels, and roads & recreation. Based on this updated information, the group made recommendations for improving habitat conditions and natural functions. The projects to implement these recommendations created jobs.
Flaws in past restoration projects and poorly maintained roads and culverts combined to block steelhead and salmon access to upstream habitat. Alongside local partners, Wallowa Resources removed fish barriers and restored natural channel flow to over 32 miles of the Doe, Elk, and Chesnimnus creeks.
A majority of the watershed is working rangeland. The range group created maps to classify and assess fences, water developments, and invasive plants.
Based on these conditions, the group implemented projects that improved animal production and distribution and relieved livestock pressure on riparian areas.
Our forests evolved with disturbance such as fire, which maintains diversity and favors trees like Ponderosa Pine, Douglas Fir, and Western Larch. Past management practices, such as overstory logging and fire suppression, have altered natural forest variation. Today, dense stands of Grand Fir increase the risk of frequent and intense wildfire. By combining prescribed burns and tree thinning/harvesting, we can improve our forest habitats.
Over 815 miles of road crisscross the Upper Joseph Creek Watershed at a density of over 2.5 miles of road per square mile, which exceeds the US Forest Service's standards. Due to budget decreases, the Forest Service is struggling to maintain this vast road network. However, this road access is valuable to ranchers, recreationists, firewood cutters, loggers, and the Nez Perce. After an assessment of the entire road network, initial restoration work repaired bridges and roads, and installed gates for seasonal road closures. More recently, 7 miles of marginal road was decommissioned. The biggest project removed 28 culverts, which improved road conditions and fish habitat.