Forest Service partners with Fish & Game to improve hunter and angler access

An expanding new partnership with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests is increasing hunter and angler access on National Forest System lands in north-central Idaho. Staff from both agencies work together to prioritize trail work in popular hunting and fishing destinations, discussing their priorities for work projects and matching those up to areas that are in the highest demand for hunter and angler access. Funding from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and other partner agencies makes these projects possible, and state and federal agency employees work together with partners and volunteers to accomplish the work on the ground to benefit hunters, anglers, and other recreationists across the forest.

“We continually hear from sportsmen that access is a huge concern for them,” said Don Jenkins, Regional Wildlife Habitat Manager with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. “Partnering with the Forest Service to address deferred maintenance on trails, using funding secured through fees associated with license sales, has helped open miles of access for sportsmen.”

“We are so grateful to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for providing access funding to make this trail restoration work possible, and for helping prioritize work areas based on their knowledge of hunter and angler use of National Forest System lands,” said Carol Hennessey, Program Manager for Recreation, Wilderness, Trails, Rivers, and Outfitters and Guides on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests. “The Forest Service is looking forward to future years accomplishing this important work on the ground, and the possibilities for continuing to expand this collaboration.”

Keep reading to learn about what work has been done through this partnership to date, and what the agencies are still planning to work together on in the future.

 

2017

This partnership began in 2017, when the Idaho Department of Fish and Game approached the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests interested in an opportunity to improve access for elk hunters in Unit 18 of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. Elk populations were abundant in the area, but hunters had cited concerns about difficulty of access due to a lack of consistent trail maintenance. Fish and Game called upon the Forest Service for help in finding trail crews to improve access and offered $15,000 of available funding to support the initiative.

The Forest Service already had a Montana Conservation Corps crew working on other projects in the area, so the agency used the funding offered by Fish and Game to extend the crew’s tour. By the end of the season, the crew had cleared Klopton Creek Trail #304, greatly improving access in Unit 18 for elk hunters and other public lands users.

“Part of the Montana Conservation Corps’ mission is to open up trails for the recreating public,” said Bobby Grillo, Regional Director for the Montana Conservation Corps. “Improving access into a premiere elk hunting unit in Idaho, in spectacular country, is a great project to be part of. We were thankful for the opportunity.”

 

2018

A section of newly created trail tread on the Cayuse Creek Trail.

A section of newly maintained trail tread on the Cayuse Creek Trail following work conducted in 2018. USDA Forest Service photo by Tim Lewis.

In 2018, Fish and Game and the Forest Service selected Cayuse Creek Trail, which provides access to a blue–ribbon trout stream in the North Fork Clearwater River drainage, for an additional $15,000 of Fish and Game access funding targeted to non-motorized trail restoration. The agencies then worked together to stretch the funding even further by involving the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. Fish and Game funding matched Parks and Recreation Trail Program funds on a successful grant proposal that brought over $13,000 of additional funding to the trail restoration project. This allowed for trail segments to be cleared and restored, improving the experience for anglers coming to this popular location.

The Forest Service trail crew stationed at Pierce partnered with crew members from the Great Burn Conservation Alliance and the Clearwater Basin Youth Conservation Corps to clear and re–align trail tread along a three mile stretch of old trail downstream from Cayuse Landing Strip. Packed in by mule to a remote spike camp, the Forest Service trail crew spent two eight–day hitches on the trail. Anglers can now hike down this section of trail to Cayuse Creek and fish back to the landing strip, or vice versa, and the agencies and partners plan to complete the remaining sections of trail over the next few years.

In this Before photo, a portion of Cayuse Creek Trail is completely covered in brush and impassable.

In this After photo, a portion of Cayuse Creek Trail is now clear and passable after trail work.

Before work was conducted along this section of Cayuse Creek Trail, the trail had been completely lost under brush and fallen trees (above). Following work completed in 2018, visitors can once again hike between Cayuse Creek and the Cayuse Landing Strip (below). USDA Forest Service photos by Tim Lewis.

 

2020

The Sherman Creek, Holly Creek, and Skookum Creek trails in the Highway 12 corridor in the vicinity of the Lochsa Historical Ranger Station were selected for work in 2020, with an emphasis on single–track motorized access. These trails provide easy access to a segment of Hunt Unit 12 that lies between U.S. Highway 12 and Forest Service Road #500, commonly known as the Lolo Motorway. The Sherman Creek Trail joins Highway 12 to the Lolo Motorway and is a segment of the Idaho Centennial Trail. This trail has also been designated for use by the Appaloosa Horse Club on the Chief Joseph Trail Ride along the Nez Perce National Historic Trail route.

“This has been a great partnership to work together with our sister agency for the benefit of sportsmen,” said Don Jenkins, IDFG. “We anticipate that this trail work will once again make these trails popular destinations for our sportsmen and other recreationists. We are proud of our accomplishments together and hope to continue this partnership well into the future.”





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