Working Together for Land Management
For the first project of the Collaborative, we focused on Upper Joseph Creek. This section covers 174,000 acres of federal and private land. Crow, Elk and Chesnimnus Creek are the main drainages, which provide critical habitat to steelhead. Upper Joseph Creek 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 land, 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.
Improving the Land & Water Together
A diverse group worked together to assess Upper Joseph Creek in four aspects: riparian (the area around lakes & rivers), rangeland, forest & fuels, and roads & recreation. Based on this information, the group made recommendations for improving habitat and natural functions. These improvement projects created jobs as well.
Flaws in past projects and poorly maintained roads and culverts combined to block steelhead and salmon access to upstream habitat. Alongside local partners, we removed fish barriers and restored natural channel flow to over 32 miles of the Doe, Elk, and Chesnimnus creeks.
A majority of Upper Joseph Creek is working rangeland. Maps were created to classify and assess fences, water developments, and invasive plants. Based on this work, we carried out projects that improved animal production and distribution and relieved livestock pressure around lakes and rivers.
Forest & Fuels
Our forests evolved with disturbance such as fire, which maintains diversity and favors trees like Ponderosa Pine, Douglas Fir, and Western Larch. Past practices, such as overstory logging and fire suppression, have altered our forest. Today, we have dense stands of Grand Fir. Dense stand increase wildfire risk - both the frequency and intensity. By combining prescribed burns and tree thinning/harvesting, we improved habitat in Upper Joseph Creek.
Roads & Recreation
Over 815 miles of road crisscross Upper Joseph Creek 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 US Forest Service is struggling to maintain this vast road network. However, this road access is valuable to ranchers, hikers, hunters, campers, firewood cutters, loggers, and the Nez Perce. After reviewing the entire road network, we repaired bridges and roads, and installed gates for seasonal road closures. The biggest project removed 28 culverts, which improved road conditions and fish habitat.