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 whitebark pine restoration - an important food for grizzly bears and Clark's nutcracker. We have invested in culvert repair, conversion of a road into a trail to reduce sedimentation, and the addition of large woody debris to Lightning Creek to support high-quality fish habitat.
We also surveyed and removed weeds along roads and trails. We worked with the Idaho Conservation Corps and Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness to establish a new public access trailhead and repair popular hiking trails, and built a warming hut for winter recreation that was designed and constructed by architecture students at the University of Idaho. We are also facilitating the Panhandle Forest Collaborative to build local capacity for long-term stewardship and community engagement in the National Forest.