Lightning Creek on the Idaho Panhandle National Forest
In North Idaho, the sprawling Idaho Panhandle National Forest features phenomenal fishing, spectacular wilderness, and pristine water. Idaho’s Lightning Creek collects water from the sharp peaks of the glacially sculpted Cabinet Mountains, said to be one of the wildest mountain ranges in the lower 48. The wettest area in Idaho, Lightning Creek receives an average of 90 inches of precipitation a year. Floods are a common occurrence in the watershed due to the steep slopes and amount of snow and rain.
In 2006, devastating flooding severely damaged access to popular trails, wildlife habitat, and the overall health of the watershed. Past logging practices exacerbated effects from the flooding, leading to loss of aquatic and riparian habitats throughout the lower watershed. The decline of whitebark pine and high road densities threatens wildlife security, particularly for grizzly bears, and user-created trails have damaged the natural vegetation.
Together with local partners and the Forest Service, we have completed surveys for whiteback pine restoration - an important food for grizzly bears and Clark's nutcracker. We have reduced sedimentation and added large woody debris to support high-quality fish habitat.
We also surveyed and removed of weeds along roads and trails. We are repairing popular hiking trails and are building a warming hut for winter recreation that will be designed by architecture students at the University of Idaho. We are also facilitating for the Panhandle Forest Collaborative to build local capacity for long-term stewardship and community engagement in the National Forest.